You will find no shortage of lists that outline the Top Content Marketing Challenges. From team size to budget and from the lack of tools to the lack of process; everyone has at least one challenge. There’s nothing wrong with these lists. They’re a great start to understanding the challenges being faced by organizations large and small.
That said, I’d encourage you to dig beyond the top 10 lists. When I think about the biggest challenge facing marketers today, in content, it’s much more ambiguous and complex, than the need for a tool to manage content. To me, the biggest challenge is the lack of agreement on what “quality” means. I’m serious. In most organizations there’s a process to generate quality content. It often starts with research, which leads to an insight, that becomes the foundation for a brief, which enables a team/company to develop creative that’s high quality. Simple enough, right? Except, that quality, in traditional marketing channels is generally determined by a combination of research (Eg focus groups, copy testing) and a checklist that governs the usage of colors, fonts, logos, photography, tone and more. In digital/social channels, the checklist still exists, but it’s rare that digital/social creative is placed in front of focus groups.
While, the checklist approach to quality ensures that content is on “brand” it doesn’t mean it’s high quality. The focus groups and copy testing are designed to help predict performance, but clearly, if that research was devoid of flaws, no agencies would ever be fired and everyone would hit their forecasted numbers. The truth is that great content is both art and science. Despite hundreds of years of advertising history, nailing the right blend between art and science, has gotten more difficult, not easier. The number of ad formats, marketing channels and means for consuming content, have contributed to making this tougher for marketers.
In theory, no one wants low quality content. Ask a room of marketers if they want high quality or low quality content and you won’t find a single brave person who raises their hand for low quality content. Think about it, just term “low quality”, sounds bad. When most people think of high quality, they think of high-resolution images that are shot (not stock). They think of a perfectly edited/retouched photo – after all, clearly a crack in a baked cake never happens, unless of course you’re a real person. High quality means professionally produced. It also means expensive. Quality, as you can see, conjures up a lot of thoughts and feelings.
When we think about evaluating marketing initiatives, we often want a defined objective or KPI. But, when one of the KPIs is, “produce high quality content”, we have a challenge, because the definition of quality is often completely ambiguous and arbitrary.
As an example, let’s review the following, widely considered, successful content marketing efforts.
We have to start with the obligatory Oreo, Dunk In The Dark, tweet. If you’re reading this at a conference, drink!
Power out? No problem. pic.twitter.com/dnQ7pOgC
— Oreo Cookie (@Oreo) February 4, 2013
The genesis of the tweet has been covered to death. I won’t rehash that information, but I do want to call out the following:
- The image used, was a reused and recycled image; something that had been used by Oreo earlier in the year.
- It’s overly compressed – you can see the JPG artifacts from over compression
- It was produced in roughly 15 minutes, but if you look at the Cannes Lion submission form and apply a general billable rate to each role, it took $2,000+ to create this recycled image. If you needed 4 tweets like that per day for 365 days a year, you need a $3M a year budget for just twitter content.
I think the most important nugget is #1; it was a recycled image. Blasphemy! Having worked at agencies for 11 years and with them for another 6, I can tell you the idea of recycling a creative asset is usually a no-go. Creative team members never want to do the same thing…even when it clearly works. We don’t really have an on the record anecdote from Modelez, but it’s widely accepted that the Dunk In The Dark tweet was a quality piece of content that was very successful. With Oreo out of the way, let’s talk about Samsung’s efforts during the Oscars. With more than 3.4M retweets of the original image taken by Bradley Cooper, this out of focus (gasp!) photo from a cell phone broke the record for the most retweets ever.
With that type of scale, this had to be a piece of quality content. After-all, if it wasn’t quality, it wouldn’t have been retweeted so many times, right? By, all measures of scale, an out of focus, fuzzy, low detail image bested the White House’s hi-resolution and historic photo. Many people think this was a cheap photo. It was anything but. without Samsung’s $20M + sponsorship of the Oscars, it’s likely that photo never happens. Thus, if you thought $2K for Oreo’s tweet was expensive, there’s no doubt, the “Ellen Selfie” was more than 100X the cost of the Dunk In The Dark tweet. By, the way, I also think it’s fascinating to understand the impact that distribution played in driving the 3.4M retweets. This chart does a great job of showing that despite Brad Pitts, bigger start power, Ellen, herself generated 2.5X more retweets.
Moving away from scale and virality as benchmarks for success, let’s look at interest. Interest leads to intent and intent leads to purchase, right? That’s the model, just about every marketer coming out of school, has been taught. Red Bull’s Stratos project, that had Felix Baumgartner jumping from just outside the Earth’s atmosphere, into the desert in New Mexico.
The jump was historic. It broke all sorts of records and became must see content. As we know, must see content, is high quality content (I mean, there’s a reason people watch The Bachelor and Michael Bay movies). At the time, the Stratos project, broke the record for concurrent youTube streams; with nearly 8M people viewing the jump, in real time. Impressive, right? What I like more is that they turned that stunt, into an ongoing campaign. Footage from the jump was integrated into commercials, end caps, packaging, print ads and more. As someone who worked on BMW Films, the re-usage of the content impresses me more than anything. The more often ways you reuse the same footage, the more efficient that investment into the original piece of content, becomes.
Now, if there’s one thing we all know, it’s that what consumers say, really matters. Last Super Bowl, people, just like you and me, crowned the Budweiser ad that featured a dog and a horse, the best Super Bowl commercial of the bunch.
If you don’t think these polls matter, check out the story about Career Builder essentially firing its agency because their Super Bowl ad, wasn’t voted the best. Yes, I’m serious. If consumers love it and love it enough to vote it the best, it must be high quality, right?
Now, for me, I like to go a bit old school. With no internet, no mobile, no tablet, no streaming and still with the majority of people having black and white televisions, the first moon landing was seen by more than 500M people.
Think about that for a second. There were more people who tuned in to watch grainy footage on their black and white televisions, without the internet, than there were people who watched Felix Jump and retweeted the “Ellen Selfie” and shared the “Dunk In The Dark” image and watched Budweisers’ Puppy Love commercial.
We walked through a lot of examples of “quality” content. Hopefully, what you’ve taken away is that it’s really difficult to determine what quality, really means. Quality is unfortunately, quite subjective. There are people who believe Just Bieber is an amazing musical talent. The millions of records/songs sold would seem to justify that. To his fans, he makes quality music. To me, he is a blight on the music industry. I like Michael Bay movies. Some people don’t. There are even people who think Nickelback makes quality music. You can find out which of your friends on Facbeook like Nickelback and unfriend them, by clicking on this link. You’re welcome.
At Walgreens, we don’t have it all figured out. From the many conversations I’ve had with my peers, across the industry and the globe, I don’t think anyone has it mastered. For me, that’s part of the fun and the excitement. It’s why I love the role I’m in and the company I work for. While we haven’t cracked the code 100%, there are a few elements, that I think are important:
- Have a clear definition of quality. Every company needs their own approach and “formula.”
- Protect the customer experience. Every piece of content, even gasp! content that’s designed to sell (I know, I know, crazy…) should eliminate friction in the actions you’re asking the customer/user to do.
- When creating content, take into account 3 things: Your Brand (the content needs to be on brand), Your Customer (it needs to be relatable to your audience), The Platform Context (content that works great in Facebook, doesn’t necessarily work well, in twitter and etc.).
It’s early days in some respects. In others, as the moon landing shows us, the challenges quality compelling content has been around for a long time. Can you imagine how difficult it must have been to link up a feed from the moon to people’s living rooms in 1969?
Set your bar high and be clear in what you’re willing to accept as quality content. Remember, a perfectly perfect circle, that’s the right color, with the right logo, with the right font, isn’t necessarily quality…even though it checks all the boxes.