By Brianna Valleskey
Yesterday, I launched a rather sizable content-driven campaign celebrating National Dog Day (the Boston Terrier to the left was part of said campaign).
The content piece in question was a video of dogs reading our product reviews. Think of a lighthearted version of Jimmy Kimmel's “Mean Tweets” mixed with dogs running around offices accompanied by voiceovers of the amazing things our customers have said about us. People loved it.
The relevance to a national holiday, charitable aspect of the posts, and (of course) the dogs, no doubt all played a role in the success of the campaign. But even more than that it’s good content.
Why? Because this video both provided value by sharing people’s experiences with our software and tapped into our audience’s emotions by making them laugh at dogs typing on laptops, hosting meetings, etc.
I think that matters more than ever in the ocean of (largely mediocre) content that is thrust upon consumers every day. And calling it “mediocre” is my way of being nice.
According to Content Marketing Institute, “content” is defined as relevant and valuable. Most companies seem to understand that the media they create needs to be somewhere in the same universe as the product they sell. But I cannot believe the number of blogs I’ve read that felt like a literal waste of my time—meaning, they provided me with zero value.
On the flip side, some content I’ve seen is so incredible that I would (and will) dare to call it “art.” The lovely people over at Oxford’s free English dictionary classify art as works primarily appreciated for their beauty or emotional power.
Everything else, in my humble opinion, is just crap.
Let me share some examples.
Great (Sometimes Awesome) Content
Ok, so content = value, right? That means your reader should walk away with something they didn’t have before engaging with your content.
Perhaps you teach them something brand new (or a newer/better/faster/unique way of doing something they already know). You could also offer them a new way to look at something or spark their imagination to come up with new ideas on their own. Or simply outline actionable strategies or specific tactics they can implement almost immediately. No high-level stuff here. Your audience is offering their time to absorb your content, so give ‘em the goods kids.
One great—and potentially obvious—example: the HubSpot Academy. HubSpot offers robust educational courses (including videos and quizzes) all about inbound marketing for free. When you finish, you’re granted the “Inbound Certification” badge to proudly display on social media or add to your resume. They teach you about an entire marketing strategy and then enable you to show off your new chops. That’s value.
Grammarly, an online grammar checker targeted at writers such as myself, also offers exceptionally valuable content. A quick Google search of “affect vs effect” (a common grammar question for any non-language-obsessed readers out there) shows a Grammarly blog as the first result. You don’t need to read any further than the first paragraph to answer the question, but you can continue reading for a deeper understanding if you wish. That’s value AND efficiency.
And in my current role at Sendoso, we even turned a direct mail piece into content marketing by sending out a dimensional slider with pop-up boxes featuring ideas for direct mail campaigns.
Once again, we provided value and hopefully got their wheels turning so they could craft their own amazing offline marketing campaigns.
Content That Transcends to Art
A piece that taps into your emotions becomes more than content. It may not be the Sistine Chapel, but I think there’s a case to be made for it to be (at least on some level) considered art.
The first way I’ve seen the emotional aspect come into play is with humor. Remember the Dollar Shave Club video? The minute-and-a-half video starts with a guy sitting at a desk and slowly descends into obscurity, all while informing you about the product. Brilliant. Bold, cheeky, and hilarious to boot. Impossible not to share.
Another format that’s impressed me comes from Sigstr, an email signature marketing tool. They have an entire section of their website titled “Sigstr Comedy” that’s simply a collection of articles sharing how pop culture characters would use the product. Some of my favorites include “If Star Wars Characters Had Email Signatures” and “If the Founding Fathers Had Email Signatures.” The blogs both make you chuckle with their creativity and demonstrate the many different ways their technology can be used.
What’s more powerful than making people laugh is making them feel valued, motivated, and maybe even inspired. Dove and Nike are two brands that immediately come to mind. One of Dove’s most popular films (note that they are called “films” and not “ads” — we see your angle here Dove), “Dove Real Beauty Sketches,” still gives me chills.
The video taps into a common insecurity (self-perception) among their target audience (women), then shows them that they’re more beautiful than they think. Feels all around. Nike is also all-aboard the women’s empowerment train with ads like “What will they say about you?” This one, in particular, shows women around the world kicking ass and owning their story.
Watching that video makes me want to go conquer the world. I have a positive emotional and aesthetic reaction to the media, making it more than just content and worlds away from much of what else is out there.
This is Just Meh
Let me start by saying that producing high-quality content is no cheap or easy task. You need the right amount of time, money, and people—something that many organizations understandably cannot pull off.
So I’ll highlight the severity of this issue by picking on a company with more than enough of those resources who will be absolutely unaffected by my scrutiny: Salesforce. I recently stumbled upon this piece from their site Quotable, which is marketed as a “regularly updated destination for exclusive, helpful, thought-provoking, and entertaining articles that benefit sales leaders, managers, and reps.” The second article under their recommended section is titled “3 Tips for Building an Inside Sales Team.” Generic. But sure, I’ll bite.
The three tips in this piece are to …
These are not “tips.” This is the standard formula for building an inside sales team. The article doesn’t have a publish date so there’s no way of telling if this piece is many (MANY) years old considering what’s being sold as “thought-provoking.” Even if that’s the case, it certainly has not aged well and should not be one of the second-most recommended pieces on the site.
I gave Salesforce the benefit of the doubt. Maybe this website is old and hasn’t been updated in forever? So I hop on over to their regular blog. There’s a blog titled “4 Steps to Develop Engaging New Customer Experience Strategies.” Cool. I’m all about the CX.
But this blog is even worse. The four steps are …
This article was published today. Today! And it is certainly not about customer experience. Those are vague steps for improving … anything, really. I learned nothing about what I should ACTUALLY be doing to create new customer experiences. What kinds of questions should I be asking about our current experience? What obstacles should I look to tackle or areas that generally need improvement? Yes, deployment means “bringing something to life” and there’s literally nothing about “optimization” other than the subhead, itself.
Where are the brainstorming exercises? Where are the CX metrics I should measure? How do I solicit feedback and buy-in from our team on what the new initiatives should be? What’s the best process for optimizing? I’ve finished this article with more questions than when I started. And now I’m mad because I wasted my time on something that literally brought me nothing, creating such an awful customer experience that I had to write 1,500 words about it.
If Salesforce can bring 100,000+ people to San Francisco every year for their annual user conference and build an entire ecosystem of companies that only sell to their customers, then they can certainly invest in value-added content. But they’re not. And this is the problem.
Content can and should be better. Not every organization may be able to produce a Cannes Lions-winning advertisement, but they can at least offer some sort of value.
Our readers deserve something for giving us their time and attention, especially in this world of ever-increasing noise. I hope other marketers feel the same.
Fearless Thoughts are my insights on marketing, entrepreneurship, startups, business growth, creativity and whatever else comes to mind on any given day. Writing is how I make sense of the world.