What Stands in the Way of Compelling Content?

Nasheen Liu, VP of marketing at The  IT Media Group,  discusses hindrances marketers face in creating compelling marketing content and and recommends three strategies to overcome them.  Two key problems she identifies are:

  1. Lack of control over the subject-matter.
  2. Feeling too removed from their audience.

She shares some approaches for overcoming those  challenges that allows markerters to more effectively create and repurpose compelling content.

Three Strategies

Strategy 1: Be an avid journalist to your internal  audience

In brief, there is no substitute for interaction with your field organization and customers.  Your notes from these interactions should include insights  from customers that can be summarized in a report and communicated to  your stakeholders.

Liu’s recommendation is to repurpose these valuable insights as “Industry Newsflashes,”  “Customer Insights,” and “Opportunity Analysis” for your internal audiences.  Why is this important?

Marketers often fail to realize that their most important audience is the  internal one. To market anything successfully, one must first and foremost  create as much visibility as possible internally. Every employee is your message  carrier. You will not become a rock star marketer if you don’t have the support  of your internal stakeholders.

Strategy 2: Insource your content, but control the  output

To get a good handle on your subject matter, it’s important to identify the domain experts  – at least one person in each cross-functional area who can serve as your go-to resource. This will give you a ready supply of content.

Getting subject experts to be responsive is a key challenge. You’ll need to schedule some time interviewing them in person. The conversation should be targeted to extracting content from them in 30 minutes or less.  One way to set this process in motion is to create an editiorial calendar.

If you promote your experts and give them visibility, you can gain you loyal sponsors and  support for your endeavors.

Strategy 3: Outsource your topics to industry  experts

One of the most common failures that I see marketers make in trying to promote themselves as thought leaders or impress audiences with their products and services is the mistake of “singing your own praises.”  To gain the attention and trust of the customer, it’s much better to get someone else to do the praising in an indirect way.

In the technology space, I engage industry experts, media personalities, and  well-known bloggers. The kind of perception you are trying to create is this:  “Wow, these guys are associated with her? Impressive.”

To build on this,  you can build  an onging campaign in which your expert can help you in various activities. Some ideas:

An initial article can turn into a moderated customer forum. The  findings from the forum become a whitepaper. The whitepaper can be used to  develop a video case study. And so on. Such linkages can continue to develop and  mature over the life of the catmpaign.

As Liu points out, “content is the bread and butter of what we do in the world of marketing.” Yet it often seems to get lost in the flurry of planning and execution, and becomes an afterthought. A successful marketing organization exists as part of a larger context of consistent messaging accross all touch points, internal and external. Nothing promotes an organization’s brand value more effectvely than shared messaging.


HubSpot’s Inbound Internet Marketing Blog’s 30 Amazing Marketing Tools, Tips & Tricks We’re Thankful For, by  Amanda Sibley lists some of the tools, tricks, and tips that marketers say help them do their jobs better. Here are a few:

Social Media Tools

Facebook Global Pages – This newly developed tool tool allows marketers to create one central maintenance location with better targeting options instead of having to choose between a single Facebook page for an entire global audience, or multiple pages to target specific audiences.

Audience Targeting in Facebook Advertisements – Facebook’s ad platform audience targeting allows marketers to create ads for a specific target audience. This makes your ads more relevant and allows you to target custom audiences from email addresses in your database

Content Creation Tools

Evernote – Note-taking apps are helpful for writing or brainstorming content on the go.

Factbrowser  helps you find compelling stats or data points as you create content. It breaks down data by topic, source, format, region, and/or demographic.

CreativeCommons – This gives you another option for finding images for your marketing content. Instead of using stock photography or creating the images yourself, you can use CreativeCommons to search for free photos that are that are allowed to be used commercially, provided you give credit to the artist.

PowerPoint for Design – Marketers can create professional looking calls-to-action, ebooks, and infographics without hiring the services of a designer by using PowerPoint as a design tool.

Snipping Tool – This Windows tool lets you easily take screen captures. Hubspot provides an  overview.

Hubspot’s free template to help you easily create infographics.

SEO Tools

Free Site Crawl Tools – Free tools like Xenu and Screaming Frog crawl your entire site, and provide you a spreadsheet of all the pages, URLs, and broken links on your site.

Analytics Tools

VLOOKUP – You can use VLOOKUP in Excel to search for and identify particular sets of data, allowing you to analyze data quickly.

Statistical Significance Calculator – When you’re running tests in your marketing, statistical significance calculators can tell you when your test’s results are actually meaningful.

Collaboration & Planning Tools

Google Drive (Google Docs) – This tool helps everyone on a team to see and update information in real time.

Sales & Nurturing Tools

Landing Page Creation Tool – It can take a long time to get landing pages created working with IT.  to get landing pages created. Easy landing page creation tools like HubSpot allow you to create a landing page in minutes, making it easier to launch offers and lead generation.

Love? Money? Honesty? Freedom?

The core challenge of Marketing is to engage with content that the consumer relates to personally.

As described in my blog article, The Stroop Effect in Marketing:

The brain, at least under the influence of its educational conditioning, is wired to respond to words on a page more significantly than to any other factor about a product. A concept that is rich in associations is more significant to the average person than its broader context. Advertisers need to use words or phrases that powerfully and simply evoke a rich array of mental and emotional associations.

The core challenge of financial marketing, is to be able to break through the lackluster appeal of product features and benefits to the compelling appeal to the beliefs and values of the customer.

Related Post

 of The Fourth Source highlights these findings from Adform’s Quarterly Media Barometer: rich media ads are 3X more effective than standard formats.

What Are Rich Media Ads Anyway? 

Text ads consist entirely of text.

Standard display ads add a visual element such as a logo or graphic that can be static or animated with tools like Flash, and typically have only one interaction, meaning that when you click on them, you’ll be taken to a destination site.

Rich media ads can expand when users click or roll over, and can have extensive possibilities for interactive content, such as HD video or even the ability to click to make a phone call.

They’re More Complex and Costly
But making a rich media ad possible requires much more complex technology to ensure that all of the ad behaviors function properly, that all of the interactions can be measured, and to serve the ads onto web pages. Every piece of the canvas, from the video play button to the button that allows for expansion, requires coding in Flash that’s made possible by a rich media technology provider. With all of this complexity, there’s also a lot of room for error. So in addition to enabling the development of the ads, you need quality analysis and preview functionalities to make sure that the ads work the way they should.
Is Rich Media Worth the Investment?Display advertising spend continues to increase, driven by bigger, more interactive and richer ads. Adform’s Quarterly Media Barometer – which measures consumer trends and engagement with online display advertising – shows as of September, 2012, that audiences are becoming desensitized to standard display advertising:

  • Consumers are spending 74% more time engaging with rich media ads than they did in the previous quarter.
  • There is a 6% increase in online video advertising playtime.

This means that audiences are three times more likely to click on a rich media ad than a traditional banner format. Interactive banners, which enable integration to different channels including Twitter feeds, retailers’ catalogues and YouTube videos are paving the way forward for online display.

The increase in online video advertising playtime also confirms that consumers are demanding a far more stimulating online experience than a standard static banner ad can deliver.

Marketing Meets Social Meets R&D

 of Mindjumpers Social Media Group in her post, Case of Creative Crowdsourcing: Let Your Fans Guide Your Brand, highlights how crowdsourcing gives a voice to your fans to inspire brand loyalty.

“Do Us a Flavor” 

PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay division launched it’s “Do Us a Flavor” campaign launched in July, 2012. Lay’s is asking its US website, fans to “come up with the next great Lay’s flavor.” They invite users to name their flavor, pick out what ingredients will go into it and share their inspiration online or by text message. The payoff? The person who submits the winning flavor can win $1 million dollars or 1% of the chips’ 2013 net sales (the greater).

This campaign,  first launched in the UK in 2008 and then in several other countries across Europe, Asia, Africa and South America.  The campaign was successful in more than 14 countries, generating more than 8 million chips flavor ideas globally. It resulted in the creation of numerous new flavors, including: Chili & Chocolate, Caesar Salad, Late Night Kebob,  Thailand’s hot and spicy crab, Turkey’s haydari and India’s mastana mango.  Salman Amin, Executive Vice President Sales and Marketing, PepsiCo says he decided to launch the campaign in the U.S. because:

Judging from the success of these contests worldwide, we feel confident that the response will be incredibly enthusiastic here in the U.S. Consumers love to create new products and fervently support brands and companies that demonstrate they truly value their opinions. Moreover, everyone loves potato chips—each of us has a favorite taste that came from years of experimentation, and we all like contests with big prizes that reward our creativity.


  • Engagement People like to have their voices and opinions heard. By asking fans to submit a flavor, Lay’s makes them feel special, while an incentive to participate can generate even more engagement.
  • Attention News spreads fast among engaged fans as their participation shows in their Facebook newsfeeds.
  • Personal relationship You build a stronger relationship with customers by making them feel part of the company’s core processes. Guillaume Jesel, a Senior Vice President for global marketing at MAC describes the strategy as letting “the consumers take the steering wheel for a while.”
  • Problem solving Crowdsourcing provides you a quicker and lower cost way to decide on your next product, inspired by consumers’ needs and wishes.
  • Replicate success A winning idea in one market may work in many other markets as well with similar preferences.

Other successful crowdsourcing campaigns that have helped brands design their new products include:

Several have led to incredible levels of consumer engagement:

How Crowdsourcing Works

  1. You identify a problem
  2. You broadcast the problem
  3. The “crowd” (fans) submit solutions
  4. You and the crowd vet the solutions
  5. You reward winning solvers.
  6. Everybody profits

Dion Hinchcliffe of ebiz explains that internet startups that have had considerable success with crowdsourcing over the last few years, including with its more serious cousin peer production, have recently focused on creating the tools and communities for enterprises. They include the online design service Crowdspring, and other early providers such as Amazon’s excellent Mechanical Turk and Innocentive. The economics and results of crowdsourcing are often compelling. LG recently designed a new phone this way for just $20,000 (details and submissions here). Crowdsourcing services include idea generation, design work, execution of business processes, testing services, and even customer support, all of which can now be connected, often programmatically, directly to a company’s supply chain. While companies such as Netflix (the Netflix Prize) and Emporis have built their own internal crowdsourcing capabilities internally, most companies rely on commercial services  for the necessary ingredients of effective crowdsourcing, including configurablearchitectures of participation, legal constructs, customer support, and communities of users ready to contribute.  Crowdsourcing campaigns typically pay by the unit of work (such as a successfully completed task) or for a successful solution to a problem, usually in the form of a prize.

Why Use Crowdsourcing?

The reasons for a business to use crowdsourcing are varied:

  • The ability to offload peak demand
  • Access to cheaper business inputs
  • Generating better results
  • Tackling problems that would have been too difficult to do otherwise.

A challenge is the swamping of inputs – the richness and variety of contributions, while wonderful, can require considerable review to find the best ones.  Crowdsourcing services now address this with filters and controls, such as Kluster’s ability to more readily tune the “relative influence” of various types of participants.

Five Functional Business Areas Suitable for Crowdsourcing

Here are examples of some of the business uses of crowdsourcing today:

1. Problem Solving

Innocentive, the leading open innovation service, has over 180,000 contributors who can work on problems in science, manufacturing, biotech, medicine and many other fields. They offer rewards ranging from $5,000 up to $1 million for solutions to submitted problems.  An article in The Economist reports a 74% ROI for crowdsourcing over central production methods. Other options include GuruStormsPhiloptima and PlanetEureka.

2. Design

Crowdsourced design services like Crowdspring provide marketplaces to allows for crowdsourcing Web designs cheaply and quickly. Others, like Denook, offer design for other things like apparel. BootB, can help companies crowdsource marketing and creative work. General purpose tools like Kluster can help companies strategically farm specific design decisions across their own private or public community. Services such as Elance provide on-demand design work, but are not structured to create multiple competing inputs.

3. Work

For many kinds of simple tasks, there are highly granular on-demand work marketplaces. Mechanical Turk and CrowdFlower are two of the top solutions in this area. A good example is CastingWords, one of the best audio transacription web services, which breaks up recordings into tiny pieces and distributes them across the world to Mechanical Turk workers for conversion to text. For IT shops TopCoder offers crowdsourcing for software development from , the “world’s largest competitive software development community with 220,326 developers representing over 200 countries.

4. Testing. “Users as testers” assures broadbased and thorough user input from customers. Services such as uTest are bringing crowdsourcing to testing of software and other services.

5. Support. Online customer communities are a growing source of crowdsourced customer service and support for companies that understand how to grow and nurture them. Services such as FixyaGetSatisfaction and CrossLoop crowdsource customer support to get the answers to questions companies have that are often more accurate than what the companies can generate internally by themselves.

Like many aspects of digital business, crowdsourcing is a very recent development that is still in its early stages. Creative companies have an opportunity to use it to link marketing more closely to research, development, design and customer service, forging competitive marketplace advantages.

An excellent article by Forbes explains how Apple built a loyal, energized customer base: they defined themselves by defining their competitors.

Of course, distinctive design, original products, a great user experience and other product attributes were all key drivers of loyalty, but Roger Dooley, the author of Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing, points out that one of Apple’s marketing coups was “creating an enemy, the PC and its users.”

Social Identity Theory

According to the social identity theory developed by social psychologists Henri Tajfel and John Turner, one’s self image is defined in part by the social group or groups one considers oneself part of. Tajfel’s experiments found that placing people into one or another group by such meaningless criteria as a coin toss was enough to make group members increasingly loyal to their own group and cause them to discriminate against the members of the other group.

The effect is used extensively in politics, of course. But Apple used it to attacked the competition in a brilliant way: rather than attack competitors on the basis of product characteristics, they attacked the PC users themselves, drawing a sharp distinction between Mac users and PC users.

The “1984” Introduction of the Mac

The 1984 ad that introduced the Apple Macintosh personal computer, conceived by Steve Hayden, Brent Thomas and Lee Clow at Chiat/Day,Venice, and directed by Ridley Scott is judged to be one of the most iconic ads ever produced. It was televised  only twice: on January 22, 1984 during the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII, and in December 1983 right before the 1:00 am sign-off on KMVT in Twin Falls, Idaho, so that the advertisement could be submitted to award ceremonies for that year. Starting on January 17, 1984 it was screened prior to previews in movie theaters for a few weeks.

In one interpretation of the commercial, “1984” used the  heroine to represent the coming of the Macintosh  as a means of saving humanity from the conformity of Big Brother) in an allusion to George Orwell‘s dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four. According to Wikipedia:

Originally a subject of contention within Apple, it has nevertheless consistently been lauded as a classic, winning critical acclaim over time. It is now considered a watershed event and a masterpiece in advertising, and is widely regarded as one of the most memorable and successful American television commercials of all time.

Mac vs. PC

Presenting PC users as mindless drones became a less viable strategy once most of the market had a computer, of course. To avoid insulting their potential customers, Apple subsequently adopted a softer approach with a “Get a Mac” campaign from 2006 to 2009, featured in Ad Week here.

The “PC” was portrayed by a stiff  John Hodgman as a bumbling nerd in a suit, contrasted against Justin Long’s casual, cool “Mac.” Each of the 66 spots called attention  to an area where the PC had issues, such as computer viruses, long boot times, and occasional crashes. The innovation was to focus on traditional features and benefits while still sublimating them to the issue of social identity. 

Consistant Template: The Get a Mac campaign created by advertising agency TBWA\Media Arts Lab and directed by Phil Morrison, become easily recognizable because the ads all follows a standard simple template: against a minimalist all-white background, a man dressed in casual clothes introduces himself as a Mac (“Hello, I’m a Mac.”), while a man in a more formal suit-and-tie combination introduces himself as a Windows personal computer (“And I’m a PC.”). The two then act out a brief vignette in which the capabilities and attributes of Mac and PC are compared.

The campaign also coincided with a change of signage and employee apparel at Apple retail stores detailing reasons to switch to Macs.

Cultural Adaptations: American produced ads also air on Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand television, and at least 24 of them were dubbed into Spanish, French, German, and Italian.

Although several of the British and Japanese ads originated in the American campaign, they are generally slightly altered to suit local sensibilities. The British campaign stars comedic duo Robert Webb as Mac and David Mitchell as PC while the Japanese campaign features the comedic duo Rahmens and feature several original ads not seen in the American campaign.

The Get a Mac campaign received the Grand Effie Award in 2007.

T-Mobile Takes a Shot At the iPhone

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. T-Mobile cloned the Apple formula with it’s ads hitting the iphone, AT&T & Verizon to distinguish itself as the largest 4G network.

This time the hip, casual young user was a more gender-inclusive Carly, a bubbly spokeswoman in a pink sundress shown against the same white backdrop and contrasted to 3 virtually indistinguishable suited men.  Since her debut promoting T-Mobile’s myTouch 4G in 2010, Carly Foulkes —  “the T-Mobile girl” — became one of the most recognizable spokespeople in advertising. In addition to the female-friendly branding, the pink sundress is consistent with T-Mobile’s pink-themed retail stores.

“No More Mr. Nice Girl”

Recently, Carly traded in her pink sundress for a black leather with pink trim look and an ultra-fast Ducati superbike to focus more on the speeds of its 4G network.  As she climbs onto the bike and puts on her helmet, the words “No More Mr. Nice Girl” flash across the screen. The commercial spends the next 15 seconds dedicated to video of Foulkes speeding through city streets. “It’s time to set the record straight,” the ad states. “Test drive America’s largest 4G network.” T-Mobile’s commercial depicts a 180-degree shift away from Foulkes’ former girl-next-door persona, with a complete lack of dialog and skintight suit. The new commercial’s “dark” motif also stands in stark contrast to the traditional female-friendly branding.

The new angle,  the product of ad agency Publicis Seattle, which the company is called an “Alter Ego” approach is featured as a bigger part of the company’s greater rebranding efforts. Peter DeLuca, T-Mobile’s SVP for brand, advertising and communications, said that:

[the ad is about]challenging the status quo and taking bold steps in the marketplace as a challenger brand. The makeover from the girl-next-door to an edgier, more tech-savvy and spirited Carly is synonymous with the evolution of the T-Mobile brand.

Broadening the Gender Appeal

T-Mobile had received some flak for its magenta-focused theme being too girly and appears to have made a switch to the more familiar “sex sells” strategy consistent with the race models at technology trade shows dressed in tight or skimpy clothing to appeal to the male-dominated tech industry and bring more men on board. Brad Scott, senior director at branding firm Landor Associates says:

“I think they’re trying to universally appeal to the people looking for performance, whether that’s going to appeal more to men or not. Does the image make it more sexy, more evocative? Does it grab your attention? I think so.

Wired’s Alexandra Chang agrees:

While T-Mobile’s ad certainly has sex appeal, it doesn’t target any gender in particular. While watching the ad, I could see how tech-savvy women would find Foulkes’ new edge especially attractive. It depicts a confident woman who’s ready to stand up to a tech challenge — and you don’t see that much in advertising. The gender-bending “No More Mr. Nice Girl” slogan makes the ad even more inclusive.

The challenge for T-Mobile is to leverage this ad campaign with its upcoming brand relaunch and $4 billion investment in network infrastructure,  to convince consumers that T-Mobile, which has been relegated as a second-tier brand, is in fact a premium network. The company is also running a parallel “Test Drive” site, which will feature videos of T-Mobile devices tested against other carrier devices.

Use in Financial Services

Progressive adopts obvious elements of the Mac vs. PC formula in its Flo commercials with their stark white background, and the contrasting of the affable Flo (actress Stephanie Courtney) against two stereotypically stiff, suited, bumbling “pants on fire” lying auto insurance salesmen.

Charles Schwab’s Talk to Chuck campaign has also adopted the principle. It used retroscoping to simplify the image while featuring angry investors – the ones who are most likely to switch – complaining about brokers who are talking about abstract concepts like “a vineyard” instead of giving them “straight talk.” These ads coopted customer sentiment to draw a sharp distinction between Charles Schwab’s straight talking discount services and smooth talking traditional financial planners.

The Euro RSCG New York campaign coopting the frustration of fed-up investors who are the customers most likely to be lured from  competitors successfully tapped their resentment. As of September, 2006, Schwab was number 1 in consideration, up from third, for the first time since 1978, 7% higher than the nearest competitor. Creative recall and persuasion for print and TV were also number one. New assets were up 36% over the prior year.

The campaign won numerous industry awards. In 2007, it won the Grand Ogilvy Award in the ARF David Ogilvy Awards. Schwab was cited as “the best of the best” for successfully utilizing research to produce an ad campaign that achieves exceptional business results.

Build a Tribe, Build a Brand

As Seth Godin says in Tribe Management,

What people really want is the ability to connect to each other, not to companies. People form tribes with or without us. The challenge is to work for the tribe and make it something even better.

As Roger Dooley points out, building a social identity is about making your customers feel different than the people who use a competing brand, and he points out that Apple’s use of pre-existing stereotypes of Mac and PC users was brilliant:

Even though these stereotypes may not have been accurate, their existence made Apple’s job easier.

, Advertising Team Lead at SocialCode, who is responsible for the development, implementation, management, and optimization of ad campaigns for leading global brands on  Facebook and Twitter says she’s seen great variance in performance across different text elements. In her article in Marketing Land, titled Writing Effective Facebook Copy, she points out that Standard Click and Like Facebook Ads offer great opportunities for creative control consistent with the unique creative approach required by the medium.

1. Keep The Objectives In Mind

  • Since creative should be tailored for each unique campaign to solicit a specific desired response, Emily says that the the plainer you can be about exactly what you need him/her to do, the better.
  • Also consider what kind of data you hope to gain from the campaign, and write creative that allows you to do that.
    • For example, a campaign around a new product should include multiple creatives, each focusing on one of its major features, so you can determine exactly what aspects are driving the most interaction.
  • Be sure to incorporate any existing messaging about the product or brand to create copy that is both relevant and brand-appropriate to tie your Facebook campaign into other marketing initiatives.

Best Practice: One effective way is to create copy categories and work from them out. Working with categories allows for more specific headlines and text, focuses efforts on the specific campaign goals, and enables testing both across categories and different campaigns.

4 Copy Strategy Examples  

i. Direct: Here is the simple creative for a campaign designed to drive “likes: to a well-known brand. It is as succinct and clear as possible, telling the user exactly what to do with a strong call to action. Direct copy tends to be extremely successful when targeting users who recognize the brand advertised.

ii. Incentive: Coupons and offers can be used to encourage people to “like” your page if you are clear about what benefit the user is getting and deliver on what you are promising.

iii. Question: Asking users a question can be a good way to involve them in the campaign by reaching out to them directly and soliciting their responses.

iv. Product Innovation: Highlighting a new product or feature gives the user a reason to like the page. It’s also a good way to leverage the brand’s existing reputation.

2. Incorporate Headline Strategies

For a fan campaign, the headline is already incorporated in the name of the page. However, for Standard Click ads, a category headline is needed.
  • Headlines can be categorized in the same way as body copy: categories are informed by the campaign’s objectives, and are specific to an applicable campaign.
  • You can create a variety of headline treatments, to help you evaluate exactly what drives performance.
  • There’s also need for variety within those categories.
    • Changing elements like length or word count, call to action, capitalization, and punctuation can make a difference.

3. Use A Variety of Copy Element Approaches

Copy element impacts can vary for different types of campaign objectives:  The graph below showing the results of a fan campaign.

  • Click-based Action Rate measures conversions
  • CTR (Clickthrough rate) measures number of clicks divided by the times an ad is shown (impressions), as a percentage.
  • Impression-Based Action Rate measures number of times an ad is shown and “liked.”

The results show that:

  • Campaigns with the goal of driving Page Likes benefit from shorter, more concise creative.
  • Conversion-focused campaigns tend to do better with longer text that spell out exactly what action needs to be taken.

Different copy can affect results: Different calls-to-action can yield differing degrees of success. For instance, you can write: “Click ‘Like’” or “’Like’ us.” Placement of the call-to-action, punctuation and capitalization can all affect conversion rates.  The strict limits of Facebook ads (90 characters for the body, 25 for the headline) means that every character counts, so misspellings, wasted space, and bad formatting can all impact results.

Tailor and Test: Part of what makes successful Facebook advertisers is the ability to tailor their creative approach for every unique campaign, and the willingness to test a variety of different things. Not only will copy impact the campaign’s results,  but it can be used to inform future media buys on other channels as well.

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