Diamonds in the Rough: Understanding the Difference between Good Content and Great Content

We live in an age of content overload. Go online and it doesn’t take long before you’re bombarded by content, whether it be text, images, video or a combination of the three. As a result we have developed filters to sift through all that uninteresting noise and lock onto those sparkly little diamonds in the rough that we might well find entertaining.

What exactly differentiates a diamond from say… a lump of coal?

Well ask any geologist and they’ll tell you that they’re both a form of carbon but with different atomic arrangements. The difference then is not in their constituent parts but in how those parts are arranged. Without wishing to labour a scientific metaphor, the difference between good content marketing and great content marketing can be seen in essentially the same way. There’s plenty of good content out there but most of it is essentially like coal; not particularly enticing and notable only by its abundance. Diamonds by their very nature are rare, precious and therefore desirable.

But how do you elevate your content marketing from good to great? What’s the secret of making diamonds when everyone around you is shovelling coal?

Create a Feeling, Leave an Impression

What makes great content though? What makes us, not just sit up and take notice, but share it, talk about it down the pub, go and seek out more of the same?
The answer is to do with our feelings. Good content entertains. Great content makes us feel something, whether that be sadness, joy, pride, humour, arousal, shock, a sense of wonder, beauty, awe, unease, patriotism, individualism, identity… The list could go on, but at its heart this is about stirring base emotions in people. Using logical reasoning is a tried and tested method of convincing people to buy your product or service but creating an emotional response in someone does something far more; it leaves an impression. And creating impressions is what brand marketing is all about. Impressions last. Impressions can be recalled. Most importantly, impressions can – over a period of time – influence and effect behaviour.

[Hurricane Media‘s video for Airbus Defense and Space creates a sense of concern, paternity and ideas of stewardship on a global level to push a powerful brand message.]

Entertain don’t Sell

John Deere was one of the early pioneers of content marketing. He knew that he would never make his fortune by knocking on people’s doors and trying to sell them things. Deere realised that if he wrote a publication that people enjoyed reading, people would turn to it for entertainment, information and advice. It would educate them about his products and how to use them and solve the difficulties they faced in agriculture. His company was to become a trusted household name due in part to his content marketing strategy.

Although the multitude of channels within which to put your message across has changed beyond all compare at its heart content marketing hasn’t really changed since Deere’s time. Entertain someone and you could be doing so much more than just selling them something; you could be creating a brand advocate, who will go on to spread the word about your company far and wide.

Walking the Fine Line between Irrelevancy and Corporate Alienation

Making original and entertaining content is hard enough but creating content that is this and at the same time somehow chimes with the themes and ideals of your brand, without every putting off your audience is a very careful balancing act to pull off. Content marketers constantly walk the fine line between irrelevancy and corporate alienation. People these days are extremely savvy and can quickly tell when they’re being advertised to and so will switch off if they can. Understanding how to subtly embed messages in the subtext of your content is a tricky skill to master. Go too far, and your message might be lost completely, go too easy and it all becomes too obvious and we’re back to crude salesmanship again.

Follow the Zeitgeist

Understanding your audience, is quoted again and again in countless guides to content marketing for the simple reason that it is one of the hardest things to really do effectively. Brands both big and small like to think they know their audience but this is very rarely the case. It’s inevitable that marketers will become detached to a certain degree and as a result content campaigns can become top down affairs, where content is dreamt up in shut off rooms full of beanbags by marketers convinced they understand what their audience wants, when their audience moved on to the next big thing years ago.

[Guerrilla marketing set piece pranks are nothing new but Turner Broadcasting Systems went bigger and bolder than many before it with their remarkable “A Dramatic Surprise on a Quiet Square” viral video in Belgium, which was also repeated in the Netherlands.]

Great content has an ability to tap into current trends and tropes and present them in a new light or from a new angle. Very rarely do marketers find themselves in a position where they can control the zeitgeist; the trick is to merely respond to it so quickly and in such a way that no one can really tell the difference.

Be the Zeitgeist

All fashions and trends are the product of the social and cultural paradigms from which they emerge and from time to time, brands can find themselves in the driving seat of the next big thing. This doesn’t happen out of the blue. Brands like Volvo and Redbull have become very good at putting together elaborate stunts that at once celebrate the skills and guts of certain adrenaline seeking people, whilst associating their brand with this form of marketing.

Volvo’s now legendary Epic Split video with Van Damme, managed to show off Volvo’s Dynamic Steering technology whilst leaving viewers jaws on the floor at the tenacity of the stunt used to do so.

Through their sponsorship of adrenaline sports like cliff diving, BMX and air racing, Redbull have become synonymous with these kinds of slickly produced videos that regularly attract millions of views.

This attraction we have to watching real life situations where there is real danger, also lies at the heart of guerrilla marketing, which seeks to capture real emotions from real people in (seemingly) real situations. Some brands have spent millions on getting very very good at this and as a result they have earned the ability to be the zeitgeist. When other people are creating content that references or pays homage to your content, you know you’ve created a diamond!

Jon Mowat is a former BBC film maker and now runs British based video production and marketing company, Hurricane Media and has created video marketing campaigns for many well known brands like Canon, Sony, BMW and Peugeot. You can follow Hurricane on Google+, Twitter, Facebook or check out their YouTube Channel.