Sidewalk crack - tripped up
Creativity Marketing Transformation

Disruption Complete: Is an End to the Marketing Content Industrial Complex Looming?

The manufacture of digital content really is responsible for its own demise. It began dying a gradual, yet accelerated death the moment it became a disruptive marketing tactic. As organizations continue to realize the value of producing content for inbound marketing purposes, they are producing more content than ever. As such, traditional content marketing is becoming irrelevant.

What’s core to the issue is that the brands on the right side of the bell curve are already discovering the creation of content at the wholesale level, where the emphasis is on word count, article count, keyword density, or some other relatively meaningless metric that used to matter but doesn’t now. This wholesale content methodology is simply not sustainable, and the content most brands are producing is not of value to the user because it’s just like other content on the Web already. Think about that for a moment—what sets your collection of 500-word articles apart from all of the other 500-word articles on the exact same topics? If your organization hasn’t made this realization yet, I recommend you regroup shortly before your current content marketing efforts are disrupted into obsoletion.

Digital Storytelling: What Is it, and Who’s Doing it Well?

Digital storytelling isn’t a new concept for most of us in marketing. We’ve been sharing stories in digital mediums for years now. But as content marketing itself continues to be disrupted—by innovative content mediums such as immersive video, animation, data visualization, and many others—the story behind what we produce becomes all that much more important and relevant to the consumer and the purchase process.

Despite the plethora of noise out there in most industries, there are a few organizations that are realizing success in their content marketing efforts through effective digital storytelling. Below are two of my favorites from the past year.

In healthcare: Cleveland Clinic

Healthcare generally lags behind other industries when it comes to technological advancements in areas not related to the delivery of medical care. The Cleveland Clinic has done a great job of embracing content marketing in healthcare by diversifying its efforts.

Its Health Essentials blog still forms the cornerstone, however, Cleveland Clinic invests heavily in other content mediums that offer deeper engagement and storytelling opportunities, such as an extensive library of podcasts, videos, medical quizzes and risk assessment tools, and of course, blog posts. This diversification is imperative given the consumption habits of healthcare consumers. Healthcare is a unique industry, from a marketing perspective, in that its consumer base is both wide and deep (everyone needs health care), and successful organizations understand there is no one-size-fits-all content strategy solution.

In e-commerce: Warby Parker

The online eyeglass retailer witnessed meteoric growth in 2015, due in part to its ability to successfully share its story with those that mattered most to their bottom line, namely the coveted fashion-forward, cost-conscious and tech-savvy Millennial consumer.

Warby Parker’s “Warby Barker” campaign proved to the world that the right combination of storytelling and a sense of humor can form bonds with readers that keyword searches will never accomplish. If you’re unfamiliar with the campaign, a full site was created announcing the brand was launching a new line of eyewear—for pets! The campaign was an April Fools’ joke of sorts, but did exactly what it was intended to do, which is make people laugh and draw positive attention to the brand.

These and other organizations were able to break through the content glut and demonstrate success in content marketing through storytelling, but many organizations that have stuck to their old “wholesale” tactics are beginning to question this choice.

A long and winding road stretches into the distance.

What Happens When a Disruptive Marketing Tactic Is No Longer Disruptive?

What’s next in content marketing? As brands continue to realize that connections trump sheer content volume, we’ll see their efforts begin to shift. The content marketing “churn” just isn’t effective anymore.

For many organizations, the previous content strategy was to produce more. More blog posts, more infographics, more top ten lists. I think we’re seeing a shift in that strategy for many brands, starting now. As brands shift toward more thoughtful, more engaging, more meaningful and more contextual content experiences, the notion of “evergreen” content will no longer be a vanity. All content we look to produce should be relevant beyond the post date. Set it and forget, keyword optimized content just won’t cut it now.

In fact, we’re seeing that shift already as a relentless business transformation occurs in nearly every industry.

Keyword searches through on-page optimization and content volume are evaporating. Connecting the reader to the brand through storytelling and engagement will become a necessity, and we’re seeing the precursors to that already. Search engine results (SERPs) are already greatly impacted by non-content-related signals such as time on page, social shares, click-through rates, publisher reputations, and what I’d call the content’s current momentum.

Content goes beyond the elements on the screen or page. Successful content creation includes the entire content experience.

A tablet and a mobile phone on a solid wood table.

Content Experience Marketing Means the Right Content, to the Right User, at the Right Time

The power of context is upon us, but most organizations still lag behind in this area. Contextual marketing means that you deliver your marketing messages to the right people, at the right time, and in their preferred medium. It’s challenging to do but not impossible, and marketers are asked to walk a fine line between their goals and a consumer’s desire (or right) to privacy.

There are marketing technology tools out there already that make this relatively new but growing importance of context possible—from content management and delivery systems that adjust based on implicit or explicit user behaviors, to analytics and scheduling tools that help to optimize social content delivery and improve social listening and engagement. The tools are out there and are continuing to improve in quality and affordability.

Marketing organizations continue to understand the power and importance of these tools and prioritize their use, and more important (and challenging) still, the cultural shift required to truly get the most out of experience marketing in their paths along the business transformation curve.

The bottom line when it comes to content marketing is that it is no longer a disruption, but is in the process of being disrupted by more targeted, higher quality content delivered in new and engaging formats. Content for the sake of words on a screen or indexed pages in search are losing their value. Connections between brands and their customers through storytelling and engagement will become a necessity to distinguish your content from your competition’s. If the content you’re currently producing isn’t already gaining traction in search, simply producing more content won’t dramatically change that. When it comes down to it, if you’re not relevant and contextual with your content delivery, aren’t you really just spam?

To read more about the evolution of content marketing, subscribe to the Content Standard Newsletter.

  • JD Moore

    Excellent article! I couldn’t agree more. Companies should spend the money needed to hire established and talented writers. It pays off in the end. The internet is becoming saturated with fluff piece marketing and “cookie cutter” articles all for the sake of making a website look busy and productive. But most of those articles are just a twisted recreation of an article on another site. Apparently, there’s just not enough originality and creativity out there. Hollywood movies are suffering the same demise. It is sad.

    Thank you for being a voice to the industry! Hopefully they learn.

    • JD – thank you for your comment and excellent point on creativity and originality. It can be difficult to scale those two elements, but “more” isn’t always better. Better is always better, though. I think quality really needs to become a focus for any content to stand out.

      • JD Moore

        Well said. Keep up the good work and I will keep reading it!

    • Absolutely on the point there, JD. If an organization wants to draw an audience in an organic way, they need to really pique their interest with fascinating stories that are relevant to that audience. As Daniel says, “cookie cutter” content can come off as disingenuous and can have a negative effect. That’s why expert collaborations are essential to produce a successful package. I touched on that aspect in my own piece as well, if you’d like to take a look:

  • Geoffrey Colon

    Daniel, where can I send you my book to provide a blurb? You’re the perfect person because you have stated what I’ve been talking about the past few months and what I note in my upcoming book. I’ve even given it a name: content pollution. Great points you’ve made here that have already become true. Marketers are always behind the curve of customers and that’s another big issue. I’d actually invest as much in distribution and creation because many still use this “build it and they’ll come model.” That only worked in the film “Field of Dreams.” Keep up the insightful writing!

    • Thanks for reaching out, Geoffrey. I’m looking forward to seeing your book!

  • Paddy

    Very well articulated. I work in healthcare technology and I am seeing that firms are beginning to understand the power of context over everything else and are willing to pay a premium for writers who understand the context and the industry issues- especially practitioners in the field who can write as well. I imagine it’s the same in all industries.

    • Thanks for your comment, Paddy. I think your point reaffirms that consumers are increasingly more savvy and that not only the content but the context is important as well. Keyword-driven content alone just won’t cut it.

  • Candy

    An excellent B2B example is Medtronic’s educational content site called Medtronic Academy. I’d be interested in your thoughts on it.

    • A well-executed content portal can be an excellent marketing resource and the epitome of “value-add” for the user as well. I think we’ll see a trend even more toward this type of environment, but I’m hopeful the majority of the content produced doesn’t end up “gated”. I think that’s a fine line brands will have to walk very carefully. Thanks for the comment and suggestion, Candy!