Turning content into an asset (rather than an expense)

Many brands are creating a content mess by adopting brand ‘storytelling’ as their main content marketing strategy. Danny Chadburn Head of Content at Ayima, looks at where it all went wrong and says that treating your content more like a product would save both brands and consumers a lot of hassle…

Danny ChadburnHere’s a statement you’re unlikely to see at the beginning of an article about marketing your brand: people don’t care about companies. At least not in the way companies and content marketers would like them to.

Consumers are disloyal, driven by discounts and are considerably more likely to file a complaint than they are to offer a compliment. To non-marketers, brand journalism, native advertising and sponsored content are seen as a devious intrusion and a huge turn-off.

Don’t believe me? Let John Oliver offer a more convincing argument:

Why storytelling fails as a strategy

The reality is, storytelling (for most brands) is a fallacy dreamt up by the content marketing industry.

  • In a randomly selected sample of 100,000 content pages, BuzzSumo found that over 50% had two or less Facebook interactions and over 75% had zero external links (source: Moz.com).
  • Two-thirds of posts on the much heralded Coca-Cola Journey site receive zero comments and negligible social interaction (source: Sparksheet).
  • Less than 25% of people cite content as a reason for following a brand on social media (source: Adweek).

Life-insurance-advertorialWhile there are a few excellent examples of companies producing valuable content that naturally leads people toward their products, there are many, many more that fit into the category of salesy, throwaway clickbait clutter. All these headlines, for example, are recent ‘Promoted Stories’ from major news sites via Taboola or Outbrain plugins:

  • Are These the Best Hair Straighteners Yet? (marksandspencer.com)
  • If You Don’t have Life Insurance You Better Read This… (lifeinsurancesaver.co.uk)
  • Brilliant Trick To Save Up To 50% On Electric Bill (theecoexperts.co.uk)
  • Thinking About Taking in a Lodger? You Should Read This… (barclays.co.uk)

How do you rise above the poor content pandemic?

For content to be successful, you need to approach everything you create with the same meticulousness as product R&D. Between the initial research and final development, there’s competitive analysis, design, prototyping, testing, testing and more testing. Many products are deemed not worthy before the end of this process; it’s better to shelve something that’s not ready rather than plough on with something that’s not right.

Apple-TVTake Apple’s rumored foray into the TV market, for example. WSJ reported earlier this year that plans for an Apple-branded set had been put on indefinite hold. Apparently, “Apple executives didn’t find any compelling features to justify making their own branded television set in the highly competitive television market.”

Replace the word ‘television’ with ‘content’ in that sentence and there’s a message that many people need to heed before they bash out their latest 500-word piece. Unless your product (or content) is markedly better than whatever else is available on the shelf (or the search results) then there’s little point it being there in the eyes of a consumer – regardless of how fancy your branding is.

What can you do if your organisation’s content is failing?

Search data is one of the most reliable indicators of what people want, and an excellent starting point for discussions on what could be created. It provides information that highlights opportunities for you to respond to demand, and build something the web is crying out for.

To help you find the angles on your topic that will drive traffic that’s more likely to convert, we’ve developed a DIY Content Marketing Strategy course, which is a free course for anyone:

  • struggling to see the tangible benefits of content marketing
  • seeing low levels of user interaction with what gets published
  • facing a lack of clarity in terms of who owns ‘content’ in your organisation.

There are five modules, each taking five minutes to read, that give a practical walkthrough of how to produce core pieces of content that are designed to become valuable company assets. You can then scale up this signature content accordingly – whether you’re a one-man-band or a multi-national corporation.

By the end you’ll have a much clearer idea of how to produce and publish content that makes the web a better place.

And yes, we understand the irony of this article being used to promote our course. Sometimes you need to dance with the devil.

You can sign up for the course by clicking on the course icon:


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