Go back to basics or continue to be irrelevant

Content suddenly has become flavor of the year and content marketing on social platforms is widely discussed. The entire marketing community seems to have suddenly woken up to this a-ha moment and most brands are now want to create custom content.

Agencies are busy developing strategies and ideas to develop and distribute custom brand content. Conference agendas are filled with topics related to power of content and viral marketing. Audience is almost always wanting to know “how to create viral campaigns” and “how can my video become as popular as Gangnam Style.”

Most people are looking for easy answers. Industry experts at these conferences usually throw suggestions like “do a viral video,” “create a flash mob,” “create a brand video and release it on YouTube and Facebook for free,” etc.

Recently I came across a video created by Banco Sabadell on the occasion of 130th anniversary of the bank. The bank wanted to pay homage to its city by means of a campaign: “We are Sabadell.” The video captures the flash mob that the bank organized with participation of 100 odd people creating music. Here is the link to the Banco Sabadell video.

Quite a few of my friends from the advertising industry shared it as a great example of creativity and innovation. They all argued that more and more brands should be bold enough to create and distribute content like the one created by Banco Sabadell.

As much as I enjoyed watching the video, it didn’t make sense from a brand-building angle. In my opinion, it was neither relevant nor did the job of building the brand of Banco Sabadell. I think in our collective enthusiasm of creating content and spreading it virally we seem to be forgetting the raison d’etre of advertising and communications.

I’m reminded of the plain, short story of advertising written by Fairfax Cone of Foote, Cone & Belding. He wrote it in 1956 and most of it is still very relevant.

“Advertising is the business of telling someone something that should be important to him. It is a substitute for talking to someone. It is the primary requirement of good advertising to be clear as to exactly what the proposition is. If it isn’t clear at a glance or a whisper, very few people will take the time or the effort to try to figure it out. The second essential of good advertising is that what must be clear must also be important. The promise must have value. Third, the promise that is both clear and important must also have a personal appeal. Fourth, good advertising expresses the personality of the advertiser, for a promise is only as good as its maker. It should be directed at its logical prospects, no one else matters. Finally, a good advertisement demands action. It asks for an order, or exacts a mental pledge.”

I think we have forgotten the very basic requirement of being relevant and having the clarity in communication. Banco Sabadell’s video was neither about banking nor about its customers. The need of the hour in banking today (specifically in Spain) is to build trust. And unfortunately I didn’t see that happening through a musical video.

I see examples in social media with complicated messages and well-crafted content that is irrelevant. We also lose focus from what is important versus what is available.

I came across a recent Nokia video on YouTube where it is making comparisons to the iPhone 5 and arguing that Nokia has more colors for its outer case than iPhone 5. I don’t think people buy smartphones because there are more colors. So in my opinion, Nokia completely missed the point and created content that is not important. Here is the link to the Nokia video.

I’m also disturbed by the fact that most of the content in the social sphere is impersonal. Digital offers us an opportunity to create personalized conversations but it is still more of a dream than the reality. Additionally it fails in reflecting the actual personality of the brand because most brand marketers have internal silos where social teams are separate from the brand teams.

Focus on content and social will continue to increase. We need to find solutions for making it effective. It is important for us to understand the basic human truths and go back to basics or we will continue to be irrelevant in the eyes of the people who consume our products, advertising, and communications.

(Originally published on ClickZ.Asia on 9th October 2012)

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