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Why Most Branded Content Is Just Awful

On 20, Dec 2013 | No Comments | In Articles--Open for Discussion | By yoniqua

Why Most Branded Content Is Just Awful

By Joe Pulizzi

Around the world — in North America, the UK, Asia Pacific — approximately nine in 10 organizations produce content like media companies do to attract and retain customers. That’s correct: Everybody’s doing it.

But that doesn’t mean companies are doing it well. Far from it.

Let’s be honest. The majority of content produced by brands through blog posts, enewsletters, social media posts, print magazines and webinars is flat out awful. In many cases, the content is self-serving, not useful and, maybe the worst, pointless. Even when you ask marketers themselves, just one in three believe that the content they develop is effective.

Why is branded content so bad?

Content marketing, as an industry, is hot but by far from new. For example, John Deere started their custom magazine, The Furrow, back in 1895 to solve the specific problems of farmers (and is still produced today). Many call this the formal beginning of the content marketing industry, but brands have been telling stories to acquire and retain customers since there was such a thing as a company.

So you’d think that a 100-year-old industry would be mature, but that is far from the truth. In actuality, if content marketing were a baseball game, we’d just be getting out of the dugout for the first inning.

Even though the art and science of content marketing has been around a long time, developing useful content to create a behavioral change in customers (as opposed to traditional marketing and advertising) is unnatural to most brands. The “storytelling muscle” in organizations has atrophied from lack of use over the years as we basked in the glory of mass media.

Why do we continue to see lackluster, even truly bad content coming from brands today? Here are the top three reasons.

There Is No Strategy

We just finished up our fourth annual content marketing research to over 2,000 brands from around the world. While I can’t get into the specifics (yet), I can tell you that the vast majority of brands do not have a documented content strategy.

Yes, you heard that correctly. While almost all brands are doing content marketing, very few have an actual strategy. How can brands develop valuable, compelling and consistent content for their customers and prospects without knowing where the boat is heading? It’s impossible.

Challenges such as lack of content, lack of resources and lack of budget will never be solved unless you have some kind of a formalized strategy based on marketing objectives, an awareness of the informational needs of the audience, and at least a hypothesis of how you are going to measure the content marketing program.

There Is No Focus

Most brand marketers believe that going wide with content is the answer. Brands want to create and distribute content in and around all the types of products and services they offer.

This strategy could not be more wrong. To go big with content marketing, you have to go small. Don’t try to “boil the ocean” with your content. Instead of one all-encompassing content strategy, a more likely scenario is creating many small, targeted content strategies that focus specifically on the pain points and informational needs of customers and prospects. Get laser focused and work to become the go-to resource in one or a number of smaller content niches.

So start small to go big with content marketing.

There Is No Accountability

Even though I’d love to see every company hire a Chief Content Officer in the organization, let’s be realistic. All you need at this point is someone accountable for the company’s brand story. As Kathy Button-Bell, CMO of Emerson, so eloquently states: “If there is no accountability over something in the organization, it’s not important and doesn’t get measured.”

Whether it’s the director of marketing, VP of public relations or the social media manager, someone needs to be accountable. So no matter where your company is in the life cycle of content marketing maturity, make sure someone in your organization has ultimate responsibility.

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Do you agree? Are these the most critical issues for why branded content isn’t up to snuff (yet)? What are the major reasons in your opinion?

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