Your Content Needs to Shake It Up, Baby

Content is only king when it rocks.

by Barry Feldman |

No doubt you’ve seen those folks on street corners waving around signs and giant arrows attempting to entice you to patronize a nearby store. I have to believe they earn minimum wage. The job doesn’t demand a lot of skill. These human ads often have some shtick. Costumes are common. Maybe they wear a sandwich board or have a prop of some sort. It’s dreadfully dull stuff.

Meet a rock star of the street corner advertising business.

Her job is to generate traffic to the Verizon Wireless store. She has no props. Nor does she hawk an offer you haven’t seen a million times. Sounds, pretty ho-hum, I know. But day after day, she’s doing her thing on the well-traveled corner of Green Valley and Francisco and she calls a ton of attention to herself and the store. I bet my humble farm she actually does generate traffic and is paid several shillings more than minimum wage. Why?

She dances. Enthusiastically. Relentlessly. Oddly, actually.

She has an iPod in her pocket, ear buds in place, music in her heart, and she never stops dancing. She doesn’t dress or move like a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader and if you’re wondering if she were to audition on one of TV’s slew of talent content shows, she definitely wouldn’t snag a ticket to Hollywood.

She doesn’t bring amazing talent to her extremely unusual profession. She brings originality and passion.

Let’s talk about content marketing now.

A copywriter handles your content marketing, maybe even a specialist, an online marketing copywriter. Assuming, of course, you take your online marketing communications seriously.

Now, in this age of inbound marketing, content marketing, online marketing, whatever-you-want-to-call-it marketing, some truths have become self-evident. One of them is there’s a huge call for publishing stuff. When you get it right and create compelling content, it gets noticed. Your website attracts traffic and the stuff gets shared across all things social.

A “nontent” revolution is going on.

As a serious marketer, you hunt for talented professionals capable of producing engaging stuff.

However, and sadly, many wanna-be’s settle for the factory approach to content creation. Given the need to deliver a steady stream of stuff, some companies settle for some pretty low-quality, low-cost stuff. It consists of words—keywords—not much more—not ideas—not opinions—nothing original or memorable.

This brand of crap doesn’t work. Far too much of it is unoriginal and the same old, uninspired content. It’s better described as “nontent” than content.

All shook up.

Ann Handley of Marketing Profs talks about creating “epic content.” In her presentation at last year’s Content Marketing World, she challenged everyone in the packed room to find a distinct voice, take risks and take a stand.

Being the rock and roll junkie I am, Elvis immediately came to mind. Distinct voice? Oh yeah. Risk taker? Yes, ma’am. And, of course, Elvis took a stand and then some with his greasy hair, the leather, the sneer, and the provocative below the belt gyrations.

Not everyone liked the way Elvis shook things up (there’s an understatement if there ever was one). But blessa’ my soul, that audience that’s always out there somewhere, the renegades that crave something different, well, they fell in love with this new thing called rock and roll—and its  king.

When you turn some people off, you turn some people on.

I started my career in copywriting in 1988 as a rabid fan of the legendary, sometimes controversial, ad copywriter, Tom McElligot. Tom insisted his agency’s clients deliver messages that would cut through the clutter or none at all. Here’s an excerpt from an interview he did with Inc. in 1988:

“If you break the rules, you’re going to stand a better chance of breaking through the clutter than if you don’t. If you try to live with the rules, in all likelihood the work will be derivative. It won’t be fresh. It won’t have the necessary ingredients to disarm the consumer, who increasingly has got his defenses up against all sorts of advertising messages coming his way.”

(He continues…)

“We like to say that when everybody else is zigging, that’s when it’s time for you to zag. And the smaller the company is, and the bigger the competition, the more crucial that advice becomes.”

Amen Tom. My version is “When you turn some people off, you turn some people on.” Whether we’re talking about advertising campaigns or modern content marketing tactics, the lesson remains undeniably valid.

Say “no” to merlot.

I love the way Tom Stein of Stein Partners Brand Activation put it in his Content Marketing World presentation.

“Content – is it the new merlot, or the new black?  There’s lots of conversation about content being the new black.

Wine consumption increased by 66% percent after ’60 Minutes’ did a show on the health benefits of wine.  Casual drinkers went with merlot.  Demand went up, supply went up, and the quality went down.  It became synonymous with crappy wine.

Today we’re seeing a glut of content.  And quality looks like it may be on the decline.  It’s incumbent on content marketers to ensure the quality stays high. Let’s make sure content doesn’t become merlot.”

Step in your blue suede shoes.

Do your online marketing efforts evoke any emotion? Do you have a voice? A point of view?

Or is your stuff calculated and careful and anonymously swimming the same direction as the minions of minnows?

Ask yourself:

  • Would I read, listen to, or watch that?
  • Would I buy that?
  • Will I remember that? 

3 yeses =  rocking content.

What do you say? Can you muster the nerve to touch a nerve? I challenge you. When you see a crowd, be bold. Don’t follow it.

And when the majority of the crowd is just standing there, shake it up baby—and dance.

About the Author

Barry Feldman

Barry Feldman creates compelling content by telling stories. He's a freelance copywriter, creative director, content marketing consultant, and an alright guy. He specializes in persuasion and engagement and has authored the eBooks "21 Pointers to Sharpen Your Website" and "The Plan to Grow Your Business with Effective Online Marketing" to help improve your online marketing. If you would like a piece of his mind, visit Feldman Creative and his blog,  The Point.