If you work in advertising, you’ve seen the headlines heralding the end of the traditional model. “Advertising is dead, long live content.” In reality, they’re not that different. But what most people mean when they say we’re moving to a world of content is that we’re moving to a world that doesn’t have time for long productions and drawn out campaigns.
There’s a simple truth about a world that moves at the speed of instant: things just don’t have the shelf life they used to. Do you remember the last 4 Instagram photos you liked? You’ve probably seen dozens of pieces of content since then, which means each one is more quickly diminished in your mind.
With all the channels at our disposal, and the constant stream of content in front of us every day, it can feel overwhelming. It can feel like you’ll never create enough. It can feel like a drain on your resources – including your energy. It can feel like the job will never end.
The good news and the bad news is: the job will never end.
The better news is, this means you have nothing but opportunity. Opportunity to create inspiring, engaging, brand-building content over and over again. It means you can constantly find new ways to articulate your message and new ways to connect with your audience. This is undeniably a great thing for brands.
But from a practical sense, how do you keep up? Here are a few tips to help you feed the always hungry ad content beast.
Identify and grow your content pillars
Content strategists often suggest that the first step in developing a sound content strategy is developing your content pillars. Pillars are the specific content areas or themes that you’ll focus on. For example, a children’s clothing company might focus on the pillars of design, playtime, product releases and families.
Creating pillars is a great starting point – it gives your team direction and can lead to a tight strategy for developing future content. But many brands make the mistake of assuming these pillars are set in stone. Your brand and the world around it evolves, so why shouldn’t your content evolve too?
It’s good practice to take stock of your advertising strategy every few weeks, and your approach to content is no different. Take a step back and look at what’s working. Is it time to expand your pillars? Maybe even remove some? Don’t be afraid of stretching yourself to create content that’s outside your area of expertise by getting external help.
Going through this process regularly helps ensure that your content is fresh – for your brand and for your customers. In a world where people are exposed to thousands of pieces of content every week, fresh can go a long way.
Look beyond internal resources
Some days it might feel like you have no energy to create more content. Most days it will feel like you don’t have the resources to constantly produce. And often you’ll feel like you’re absolutely out of new ideas and the creative pool has run dry.
Part of the secret is to keep your head down and keep working. The other part of the secret is that you don’t have to do it all by yourself.
There are thousands of freelance creative professionals looking for the chance to put their stamp on something. When you lean on them, you’re bringing an entirely new perspective to your project. That’s where things get really creative – when you have a number of diverse perspectives informing your advertising.
There are so many options when it comes to getting help. You can engage freelancers or creatively collaborate with partners. Either way, you’re sure to increase your bandwidth and come up with ideas that you never would have conceived on your own.
Repurpose content for different channels
For years, marketers have chased ‘big ideas.’ Something to hang their hat on and something they can use to guide their communications. But maybe it’s time we take those big ideas and smash them into a million pieces.
What we mean by this is that there’s power in taking a big idea and seeing how it can extend across different channels in micro-executions. Brands have done this in different ways in recent years: Nike has created short films out of a larger content platform. Lowe’s has created short animations around the idea of quickly fixing things around the home. The list goes on and on.
Landing on a big idea that pushes your brand forward will always be important. But remember it’s only half of the equation. Execution is everything, and in today’s marketing landscape you need to follow that big idea with the right executions to get it in front of your target consumer, where they’re spending their time, and at the moment they’re looking for you. This is where data can help you break apart your content so it’s working efficiently at a micro-level while still paying off your big marketing idea.
Scale and test
Technology is the great equalizer: it’s made content creators of all of us. Although it’s created more noise, it’s also created more opportunities. For brands, it means producing more creative instead of relying on the merits of a single campaign to reach customers.
Still, big ships turn slowly, and many brands are falling back on an old-school ad campaign mentality. They create two versions of the same ad and do some testing. Don’t get us wrong, testing in any form is helpful and can lead to great insights. But two versions gives you two inputs, and you could be getting hundreds more.
Creating a large enough volume of different ads and pieces of content is a great way to build up your marketing library. It allows you to test not only versions, but concepts, colors, messages, and images. It gives you a solid foundation to work from, and also a wealth of options to deploy after you have solid insights and actionable data. Most importantly, ad fatigue - the number 1 killer of campaign success, is avoided.