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Make Content That Matters: What the Digital Landfill Has Taught Us and How We Can Avoid It



INFLUENCER: 180 Kingsday's Ed Howard says its time to focus on humans, not stats

Make Content That Matters: What the Digital Landfill Has Taught Us and How We Can Avoid It

It wasn't so long ago that content became the shiny new toy of the advertising industry. A way to connect that felt more authentic, less shouty and promised more meaningful and long term relationships with consumers. A buzzword that, unlike many, graduated from a trend to tried and tested. It mattered and became a mainstay on the comms plan of every major brand. Then somewhere along the line, we began to dilute it almost to the point of irrelevance. We took it for granted, making it an add-on or worse, an afterthought. Fast forward, and here we are, half-way through 2020, the year that wasn't - with tightening budgets, production constraints and most of us still working from home, content is being rebooted, given a fresh lick of paint and is taking priority.  

As GM of 180 CONTENT, this renewed focus is bittersweet. The circumstances right now aren't pleasant for any of us, but for brands and their agencies, there's an obvious opportunity that can't be ignored. With the attention economy booming and a captive audience hungry for entertainment, it's seemingly never been a better time to invest. However, laying beneath this revival are a few hurdles waiting to trip brands up.

The first is the fact that many are approaching content as a quick fix to a problem that nobody knows how to solve. The established rules no longer apply; it's unnerving and leaves marketing teams fumbling for hasty remedies that keep their brands relevant in the minds of consumers. The second is that branded content, in its current format that demonstrates nothing but self-interest, isn't welcome. It’s a brutal but vital truth we in the industry have to remember. Branded content has become noise on a timeline, we've seen a proliferation of content for content's sake, a race to the bottom and land grab producing nothing but a digital landfill. 

With a renewed focus on content, creatives and their agency's have a chance to create branded content that does what it was always intended to do. To show up in a way that can add real value, to demonstrate that brands are more than the sum of their business parts and offer something that people actually appreciate. If the appetite is there, then so is the chance to make content that matters, that contributes to culture and becomes a welcome addition to timelines, rather than an irritating intrusion. To do this well, we have to learn from the mistakes of the past: 

Focus on humans not stats 

Not long after the initiation to the comms plan, content became a numbers game. The focus on the human behind the like shifted and instead we became obsessed with click rates, engagement and KPI's. While these things are important, they ultimately led us to forget the reason we were creating and instead prioritised stats at the expense of real connections. Those who will win the content game will be those who put people at the heart of their strategy. This is not about ignoring the stats, but using them in the right way - as a tool for understanding not simply reporting. 

It's about relevance, not real estate

So much of today's content looks as though it's fallen off a production line. It's repetitive, a duplicate of what's gone before and manufactured in such great quantities with the aim of being visible, rather than valuable. We have to stop producing content for content's sake and prioritizing quantity over quality. The way to create content that cuts through the noise is not to make more, but to make better. Content is about relevance which means not only making something that's on-brand, and on topic, that can start a conversation and encourage meaningful engagement, but that shows up in the right place, at the right time. 

Make content that contributes to culture, not adds to the landfill

Content isn't about holding a mirror to society, echoing what's already being said, but being empathetic and original. With every post, every production, the first question should always be 'what can we do for our customers' - only then can we make a valuable contribution. The digital landfill is full of content that’s effectively brands having a conversation with themselves, patting themselves on the back for echoing the zeitgeist. The result is a misguided idea that they're culture makers when at worst, they're talking to a virtual brick wall, at best, themselves. So, add to don't echo - look beyond your own four walls and to culture to understand where you can contribute the most. 

What's happening right now can't quite be described as content rebirth, but it is a brilliant opportunity to fix what we have failed to do in the past. To change our own behaviour and make content that is valuable and relevant. To see it not as it is, but as it could be. 

Ed Howard is GM of content at 180 Kingsday
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180 Amsterdam, Fri, 07 Aug 2020 08:42:04 GMT