PUBLICITY AND CONTENT may go hand in hand, but unlike publicity, there is such a thing as bad content. Even with the best of intentions, a cleverly thought out and well researched content campaign can miss the mark if you also try to follow what’s ‘cool’ too.
It’s tempting to take the road most travelled on – isn’t it? Cialdini’s principle of social proof is a pretty solid one: the more people who tread a path, the more certain people are that this path leads the right way, because all those people can’t be wrong, right?
Before we address this, let’s first look to that huge, lumbering, grey mass in the room: there is no such thing as an original thought, and there’s a very good chance there never has been.
As Mark Twain famously said:
“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of coloured glass that have been in use through all the ages.”
Ideas cannot be formed in a vacuum. They are formed by inspiration, experience and preference, alongside a whole host of other things. However, they are also frequently formed by social proof and that cascade of footprints running towards one door. Surely there must be something amazing on the other side, if so many people have used it?
So, then we get the problem of the Trend Bandwagon – brands jumping on trends that work well for other things… but don’t quite align with their own products, services or values.
Take, for instance, the makeup tutorial. Since the culture of makeup reached a whole new apex in recent years, and a generation of beauty bloggers was born, the accompanying content was ramped up. After 1,992 women were surveyed, by The Express, it was estimated that nearly half of UK women use video makeup tutorials.
While the makeup brands themselves have created their own similar beauty-blogger-style tutorials, it’s the amateur DIY ones that people tend to gravitate towards. The rise of the YouTube tutorial has revolutionised the beauty industry – changing consumer and brand habits beyond recognition.
Naturally, the marketers of the world have cottoned onto this and have tried to use the extraordinary popularity of the makeup tutorial to showcase their own products. Most of these have been makeup related, but a few have also used the makeup tutorial format to showcase non-makeup products. Somewhat tenuously, in some instances.
Format aside, a recent trend amongst certain brands, such as Reese’s and Kellogg’s, is to plaster ads with “millennial” buzzwords and phrases, with accompanying hashtags – much to the chagrin of the very people they’re trying to appeal to: the millennials.
Take Reese’s, for example. Their ‘#sorrynotsorry’ campaign – the first UK specific campaign from the American brand Hershey’s – was aimed at millennials. It featured millennials doing millennial things, and saying millennial things. At least, that was the Reese’s interpretation of it.
Needless to say, watching millennials doing and saying millennial things didn’t particularly resonate with the millennials themselves. The campaign sank like a stone, and of course Twitter reacted accordingly.
Kellogg’s tried a similar thing with their campaign ‘#becauseyum’, this time jumping on the recipe video trend, as well as the millennial language thing.
Aside from some of the ‘recipe’ ideas being considered a bit of a stretch (Coco Pops in hot chocolate could only lead to a soggy, undrinkable mush – surely?) the overly buzzy language mostly fell on deaf ears.
All marketers want to be – and be seen to be – with “it”, of course. Although, it doesn’t particularly matter what “it” is as, and even if it did matter, it’ll likely change before you can do anything about it. By shoehorning a product or service into a trendy format, or by using language with such a short use-by-date, you risk sounding disjointed, or like a parody. This could be bad for business; however small the campaign is.
That’s another kicker: by squeezing your product into a makeup tutorial or a recipe video – another popular format prone to this kind of thing – or caking your videos and social media campaign in #sorrynotsorry and #goals, you risk sounding out of date within the first instance; or worse yet: mocking.
If it’s already a trend, it’s already too late.
By all means, keep a close, watchful eye on content trends and draw inspiration whenever it strikes. As before: ideas cannot be born in a vacuum.
But, beware of the trend bandwagon. Always remember who you’re trying to appeal to, and what you want to appeal to them with. The main problem with jumping on the bandwagon is that you probably don’t know where it’s going, which means you could end up anywhere… and with anyone.
Instead of trying to keep up, simply take matters into your own hands. Do something fresh and unusual, which will still appeal to the sentiments of those you’re trying to teach.
Content, and the abject creativity it requires, can be a daunting concept. Frankly, it’s no wonder some marketers panic and blindly scramble for what seems to be working for everyone else… but that doesn’t mean it should happen. As with all things: quality over quantity.
Never forget the golden question of content: what would my customer like to see? A very different question from: what would I like my customer to see?
Or, better yet, ask your customer.
Raven Brookes – Content Marketer at drp
To avoid making your own bandwagon content faux pas while keeping the engaging content coming, talk to drp.