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Avoiding the Content Crap Trap

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Unless your content marketing speaks to people and links back to a big idea which in turn meets key business objectives, then it’s a waste of money, writes Clodagh Hynes.

Content marketing has been around for hundreds of years, the mediums have changed, because the channels people use have changed. The same marketing principles in terms of delivering and landing a message by understanding people still applies regardless of the channels through which it’s delivered.

“Previously, the most important thing was to solve a business problem. Then to work out what contribution marketing could make to that. Then have advertising deliver that solution in the most impactful way. That was the big idea that would change behaviour. The delivery system facilitated getting the idea in front of the right people. But the important thing was the idea.”

(Campaign, October 2015)

In the above quote, the well-known creative director and author Dave Trott is addressing how the way we use the word ‘content’ nowadays has shifted the focus away from the big idea coming first to the delivery method being given priority. We’ve all seen this in adland, cases where content is deemed the solution before the problem we need to solve has even been identified resulting in vast amounts of meaningless branded videos or ‘influencer’ content filling our newsfeeds that at best deliver no benefit to the brand and at worst can even harm it.

‘Content’ Is Not New

According to the Content Marketing Institute Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

The term ‘content’ surged in 2010 with the growth of online however there are plenty of offline examples throughout the history of advertising that fit under the same definition that would put some modern content marketing strategies to shame. Why? Because technology changes but fundamentally we as humans don’t.

In 1900, when French company Michelin started producing tyres for automobiles, they needed a way to promote their brand and importantly, given there were only 3,000 cars in France at the time, increase demand for their product. The thinking behind the Michelin Guide was that if they could promote driving this would in turn increase demand for their tires. In the guide, they provided information such as maps, how to change a tyre, where to fill up on petrol, listings of restaurants and hotels. The focus was on the consumer and how they use their car, to build long term relationships. A key part of the success of the Michelin Guide was this approach, this focus on people and adding value to them in a credible way that ultimately linked with their overall business objectives.

The “Content Crap Trap”

The “content crap trap” is a term used by Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer at Proctor and Gamble to describe using vast amounts of meaningless ads, posts, tweets, videos as a way to cut through the clutter which new technologies have helped fuel. Pritchard’s approach is to raise the bar of creativity through elevating the craft and the mastery of advertising skill, technique and imagination to make brand ideas more meaningful and memorable. Less is more.

The resulting work speaks for itself – Always’s #LikeAGirl and Ariel’s #ShareTheLoad to name a few, at the centre is an authentic and persuasive brand idea which feeds through all touch points. Sometimes, the online content associated with a campaign is completely separate from the big idea, media partners and influencers produce content with no creative filter, by doing this we are diminishing the impact a fully integrated campaign, driven by genuine human insight, can have. Online analytics allows us to tap into trends and identify insights as part of the research process through combining both quantitative and qualitative data. The creative part of the process is what differentiates.

What does this all mean today?

For a number of years now, organic traffic has been diminishing considerably, due to this content advertising is probably a more reflective term to describe how brands now use content, the next logical step of content marketing. At the end of the day whether it’s a TV ad, out of home, native advertising, branded content, vertical video Snapchat stories or working with media partners and influencers, it is all advertising.

The principle of delivering and landing a consistent message through a creative solution are even more important now given the fragmentation of media. Our job is firstly to develop ideas that can genuinely tap into culture and play a credible role in people’s lives, that flex and adapt to the different nuances across channels needed to reach the right audience.

Understanding behaviour online through data just opens up new opportunities and allows for a data driven creative approach in terms of gaining insights as part of the research process. However, data can’t make an idea, creativity does. We can use all of the new exciting channels and produce vast amounts of ‘content’ but if what we do doesn’t speak to people and link back to a big idea that in turn meets overall business objectives, then we won’t succeed.

Clodagh Hynes is Social & Content Campaign Director at Target McConnells.

First published in Irish Marketing Journal (IMJ September 2017)© to order back issues please call 016611660