How Content Marketers are Rejecting the Golden Rule

Angel statue in a gardenMarket unto others as you would have them market unto you.

That’s it.  As with the actual golden rule, if even a slightly higher percentage of us lived by it, the world we live in would look noticeably different.

But we don’t.  For all the talk of customer centricity, user experience and consumer-obsession, the end user of content usually winds up as the neglected middle child of marketing.  They jump up and down and try to get the parents to notice what they do, what they like, who they are, what they want, what they hate; and it’s all the parents can do to remember their names.

The middle child has been in figure skating for years and has done very well in area competitions.  But what does she get for Christmas?  A baseball mitt.  A freaking baseball mitt, because the people she desperately wants to care about her haven’t felt that paying relatively close attention to her warranted their time or effort.  She’ll be fine, we have more urgent matters to address!

Content should be getting made that speaks to what’s present in the viewer’s heart and inspires them emotionally to take an action

Whether its B2C or B2B or P2P or R2-D2, content should be getting made that speaks to what’s present in the viewer’s heart and inspires them emotionally to take an action that leads to a better life…for them.  But that’s not what they’re getting.  They’re getting the uber-compromised, watered down content that’s left over after multiple levels of internal egos have been stroked and appeased.  They’re getting content that exudes with breathless desperation what the brand wants and needs, what’s important to it.  They’re getting content birthed out of reservation, double-clutching and outright fear.

Which would be fine if your prospects were under some authoritarian obligation to read under penalty of being set adrift on a raft all that content about you and what you want them to do for you.  But not only are they not obligated, they have plenty of other things they can spend their content consumption time on.

  • They have your competition’s content. Microsoft research says consumers are getting hit with up to 600 brand messages a day.
  • 100 million hours per day of Netflix viewing were happening…and that was back in April of 2015. It probably hasn’t gone down.
  • The average American watches 5 hours a day of TV, that’s not counting time-shifted viewing.
  • Remember that dying technology of broadcast radio? Its listeners listen an average 12 hours a week.

Okay, so now that we’ve established the content from your brand has to go up against texts, YouTube cat videos, snaps and Instagrams from friends, Red Bull stunts, Marc Maron’s podcast, “Orange is the New Black,” “This is Us,” and Ed Sheeran…how’s your stuff holding up?

Well, let’s look at how marketers are coping in this incredibly competitive content scenario.  Marketing and analytics software company Beckon did a survey and found clients tripled the pieces of marketing content they churned out in the past year.  Tripled!  This intense pumping out of content had to have raised engagement, right?  Nah.  That stayed flat.  Triple the content, exact same level of non-interest.  That’s right, companies increased spending on content production by 50% so that they could absolutely submerge the target in badly done content that wasn’t wanted or liked.  Beckon reckons the problem was lack of quality control.  Ya think?

Sorry middle child, we’re giving you what we want to give you and what our executives think we should give you, not what you actually want to consume, much less think so highly of that you share it with friends and colleagues.  Which brings us back to the golden rule.

Do we feel warm & fuzzy when a brand we’ve been using 10 years proves they have no clue who we are?

We’re all content consumers.  Every one of us, even marketers.  We know how many entertainment, information and educational options we have.  We also know how much time we have to devote to reading, listening and watching stuff.  Do we like having our time wasted?  Do we feel cheated or foolish after watching a video that sucked?  Do we like having a :30 ad forced on us to watch a clip that’s only 1:30?  Do we love having something we’re reading suddenly covered by a massive pop-up?  Do we like getting targeted for weeks with ads for something we already bought?  Do we like getting pitched something we’d never buy, like ever?  Do we feel warm & fuzzy when a brand we’ve been using 10 years proves they have no clue who we are…even after we’ve volunteered a great deal of personal information to them?

Marketing is necessary and is here forever.  But given that, think a minute about how you yourself would like to be marketed to.  Think about what content you’d value or enjoy.  Think about how you’d prefer to get it.  Think about what would make you respond.  We know the answer; it’s not a hard question.  Yet here we are NOT marketing unto others as we would have them market unto us.  We don’t value their time, we underestimate their options, we don’t respect them enough to make quality content based on a prospect-obsessed content strategy, we act like they owe us something, and we don’t think their needs are even remotely as important as our internal hunger games and organizational pretzels.

If all we did was start running our content practices through the filter of “is this the kind of experience that I would appreciate?” our marketing world would indeed start looking noticeably different.

Carefully curated stuff for you @valverdestiles

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