Take a quick look at any marketing blog nowadays and you’ll see the phrase, “Content is King” hiding somewhere within. Even further than that, I recently came across a blog post (sorry, I didn’t keep it, mostly because I don’t plan what I’m going to write on here in advance) which listed a number of marketing professionals and asked them what they thought the marketing trends for 2015 were going to be. The recurring theme among them was that content would be even more important than it had been in the past.
Content. It’s not just king, it’s necessary for survival. It’s oxygen. At least if you believe what marketers tell you.
Interestingly enough, the content that’s being produced, or being suggested to be produced, isn’t necessarily about your product. Actually, most suggestions would be that you should spend less than a third of your time producing content that directly relates to your product. Sure, if you sell shoes, you want to create content related to shoes, perhaps things regarding running, or odor removers, or comfy insoles, but the idea is that although you should be producing content constantly (relative term), you should not always be selling within that content.
The idea being, if I may be so frank as to attempt to boil down the mindset of thousands of marketing professionals, is that the requirement for today is to be an expert in your field. Going back to the shoes, if your field involves feet, you need to be the person who knows everything about feet. If people have a question involving feet, you want to make it that you are the first person they think of.
And that’s a great idea, in theory. If you sell shoes, you really do want your face to be the first they think of whenever they’ve got feet on the mind.
But that’s a huge undertaking. Sure, there’s not a giant marketing firm backing the Podiatrists of America or anything, but still, there are a lot of people involved in feet. Like above, you’ve got the runners, the odor removers, the comfy insole producers; add to that the wart removers, the foot spas, those gross egg things that remove all your disgusting skin, and the list can go on and on and on. To be the expert, you have to work hard to get there…and according to the marketing experts of today, the best way to do that is to produce so much content that the idea of you being the king of feet is irrefutable just purely due to the wealth of evidence to back it up.
Of course…I’m not selling shoes. Neither are you. In fact…I’m selling content, if you really want to get down to it. Sure, that content is typically in the form of straightforward entertainment, but consumed in much the same way as most content today. Imagine the difficulties involved in attempting to become the king of content.
I’m not trying to be king. I’m too far away from ruling the mystical land of content for it to even be a dream. I just don’t have enough fingers. But seeing as content production is already what I do, I work hard to do more and more of it every day, focusing as much of my time of supplying folks with little bits of entertainment and, hopefully, putting a bit of a smile on their face, or a thought on their lips.
I work hard at it, but I enjoy it, so what I’m about to tell you shouldn’t be considered some depressing raving of a content producer who has yet to find his fiefdom.
In a world where everyone is working to out-produce everyone else in content, there is, officially, too much content. Even more so than superhero movies, there is just so much content available today that it’s impossible for every single produced piece of content to even be found, much less widely enjoyed. There are content aggregators out there, folks who will go through as much content as they can to work to find you the best, but even they are having difficulty, often times going for the content with the best click-bait headlines instead of the content with the best content.
Content has become a game, much like filmmaking in a lot of respects. No longer is it important to produce worthwhile content. All we need to do, marketers tell us, is ensure that we have clickable content. Do you know why there are so many sites out there which require you to click through a slideshow in order to read through their completely stupid top-ten list? A seemingly simple phrase known as “bounce-back rate”. It’s the way of knowing whether the content on your site causes people to want to read more content on your site.
Of course, when you get to those listicles (another stupid made up word), the only reason you’re there is because you saw an odd image that you want to figure out as part of the original advertisement for it, and then you click through as fast as you can through the opening stupid parts until you get to the page where the picture came in, only to be completely annoyed by the whole process and to receive a simple statement that means absolutely nothing as your reward for so many clicks.
Content, in fact, is becoming more like the jester of the king’s court than it is the king itself. The king, as always, is the consumer, and folks are using the content as a distraction. “Look at me!” screams the jester, knowing that every second you look at him doing a trick that you’ve already seen a billion times and are bored with before you glance in his direction, he gets paid for the banner ads framing his face.
We’re being played by people who are too lazy to produce anything useful or insightful or even actually entertaining, because they’ve recognized that all they really need to do is get you to look at them, even for a second, so they can get their money.
All because other people are too lazy to even do that and put up a crappy banner ad that will never be noticed on those lazily produced non-content pages.
Is reading an article like this more amusing that clicking through 10 stupid questions in order to figure out how you would die if you were a character on Game of Thrones? Probably not, at least for most. And you won’t come out of it knowing that an internet quiz understands you more than most of the rest of the people in your life through ten questions about such important things like, How do your hold your phone against your ear when talking to a hot guy?
Hey, look…I brought myself to my main point. Yeah, that’s right…none of this is new. It just costs the consumer less money (up front anyways). You see, because, these are all tactics that magazines and newspapers have been using for forever. Do a Google search for the covers of Cosmo and you’ll see headlines that look markedly similar to headlines you’ve clicked while going through your facebook feed. This isn’t new, not in the least. This is just a new method to fool people into doing what they’ve been doing for forever. Reading crappy content.
I’m already way over my word count for the day, but I feel that I need to move forward on this concept just a little bit more yet to get to the actual point, instead of just appearing to be complaining about current marketing strategies (which are obviously annoying).
You see, many concepts of marketing are precisely this. You look around at those folks who tell you how to market something and they give you these lazy man, ugly ways of going about it. The car salesman tactic, if you will. There’s no pride or shame left when you’re willing to do whatever it takes to get people to validate you through a click. So many people today are so desperate for attention, whether through you reading their crappy articles or buying their products or in any way focusing on them for any length of time, that they don’t care what they have to do to get in front of your face.
We’re desperate. And marketing has taken on this tone of desperation.
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE buy my product. My kids and family will die at the hands of terrorists if you don’t read my article about how Ben Affleck will be the best Batman ever because there won’t be Bat nipples (look up Batman and Robin (the film) if you don’t get that reference).
But here’s the thing…I don’t believe that these marketing professionals are suggesting to allow yourself to appear to be desperate. I don’t believe the concept is that you need to constantly shill your product to the point where you look like nothing more than a desperate shill.
In fact, I think the point is that we need to appear to be more personable. To appear to have so much confidence in what we do and what we know that we will stand behind it basically saying, “do you have any questions at all about anything? Because I know the answer.”
Marketing today, in many ways, seems to be an insurmountable task. The world of marketing feels almost like walking down the strip in Vegas, where there are people lined up against the main walkways slapping those cards together, hoping you’ll get into their free taxi to go see some strippers while Elmo is over in the corner doing things he shouldn’t ever be seen doing with Homer Simpson, hoping someone will take a picture so they can charge them twelve dollars. The majority of marketing today has become crass and unwanted. And it’s a major money maker…for the people who have the ad space to sell.
Just think about how many ads you had to sit through over the past few months where politicians dragged each other through the mud. I know the days of politicians standing behind their principles are over, now we must make the other person seem as crooked as possible (probably to hide how crooked we ourselves are). But it’s ugly. It doesn’t make anyone actually want to vote for you. It, at best, makes them scared to vote for the other person. It doesn’t build confidence in the product you’re producing, it builds fear.
In a much different world, there would be only one thing you’d want connected to your product. Awesomeness. If people had confidence in their abilities, in their products, we would simply see that glowing through any marketing attempts. They wouldn’t need to use lowbrow tactics to get your attention, they would simply be able to say, “Hey, I’ve made an awesome product, you should buy it. Here’s why.”
But that’s the problem. Producers of today know the failures of their products. They know where they cut corners, they know where things will break down. They don’t have confidence in what they’re producing. But they do have a large group of stockholders to keep happy…
And now that I’ve finished writing all this, I recognize that I could appear to be muckracking on my fellow marketers, in order to make me appear to be the superior marketer.
Ironic…except…I’m not selling marketing. I’m selling books. And I think my books are pretty darn awesome.
You should buy them. 😉
Have fun out there!