February 27, 2013

The Content Con

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to recognize that this year's online magical marketing word is "content."

All the hustlers who were selling us "the conversation" a few years ago and "social media marketing" for the past two years have suddenly all become "content" experts. The great thing about content is, it's anything you want it to be. If you can upload it to the web, it's content.

It may be "content" in the digital world. In the real world it's mostly garbage. 99% of it will go unnoticed and will live and die anonymously.

Like all the online wonder drugs, there will be a few winners. They will be the same really smart people and the really smart agencies who know how to do things right. They will be a tiny, tiny minority.

As usual, the 99% talent-free mediocrities will attach themselves to these winners as proof of the magical powers of "content." And, also as usual, the vast majority of content "providers" will produce nothing but drivel that no one will pay a moment's attention to.
A growing number of marketers and agencies have already quietly given up on over-hyped online marketing marvels. Websites that aren't transactional lay around like a lox waiting to be upgraded "next year."

Between 2010 and 2011 over 25% of "fast-growing" companies identified by Inc magazine who had blogs dropped them. And according to USA Today, only 23% of Fortune 500 companies have a blog anymore. A far cry from the days when websites and blogs and podcasts were going to be the fast track to marketing stardom.

Now, of course, everyone has a Facebook page and a Twitter feed. Why? Because everyone else has one.

They're the lazy mans' blogs. It's just so much easier to write a tweet or an update than a blog post. And you get the same credit for "doing social media."  In fact, you are not doing social media. For the most part you are doing nothing. But it's masquerading as social media.

Plus you don't need brains to Tweet or update a Facebook page. Here is Coke's last tweet, as of this writing:
For your to-do list today: “pay a compliment to one friend and one stranger” #HappyMonday
This abominable idiocy could have been written by a half-bright 9-year-old. In fact, it probably was. Pepsi's latest Facebook update (again, as of this writing)
One way to make this the best week EVER is to ____. (With a picture of a Pepsi can.)
This pathetic nonsense drew over 4,000 likes.

The essence of social media is democracy. Everyone has something to say. Unfortunately, everyone doesn't have something interesting to say. Or intelligent to say. As a matter of fact, almost no one has anything interesting or intelligent to say.

As user-generated-content has become the standard, and as marketers' content tries to emulate and imitate user-generated-content, it is being relentlessly dumbed down. It is devolving into empty platitudes and boosterism.

We are in for a period of truly vapid online marketing in 2013. It will be the year of content without content.



Ball Girl said...

I find it hard to explain to clients and even some colleagues that being retarded on the internet (or anywhere else) does not "build your brand". But many of them buy this like-crap that lesser PR-agencies and lazy creatives throw at them.

Anonymous said...
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The Czar Dictates said...

So can we call all this useless online noise "malcontent"?

The BLEND Agency said...

Sir, well said. There is soooo much crap out there. AND, our issue with the entire "content marketing" term is it all bullshit. Hasn't marketing always been about content? Isn't this what agencies have always done? Made "content" that makes consumers feel like the brand suits them? It's all bollocks, and so happy you called it out. Cheers.

Sean Peake said...

You seem to have an Asian bot infestation.



I've had worse.


Chris S. said...

The trouble from the agency side of the wall is that, even if we don't believe that "content" is the answer – even if we KNOW it's not – suckered clients demand it. There are two ways we could respond. "No," comes to mind, but there is also the challenge of finding a way to make it work.

I'm stuck in the latter. I keep thinking of Dave Trott's mantra to think upstream and see if I can find the solution inside the problem. Harder than it sounds, sometimes.

Anonymous said...

You sound upset and angry... I love that. 100% agree

Anonymous said...

If the content mirrored the best of TV advertising (a not completely unpleasant distraction), then it would be worth something. But like TV advertising, most content is garbage. So they do have that in common.

marketing that sells said...

No post ON Harlem Shake yet? C'mon!!!!!

David Burn said...

As always, so much truth here. Yet, I will take a moment to poke one hole. Content in a marketing context is absolutely definable and defined. As is advertising and editorial.

Content is one-part advertising, given that it shares a common goal -- to build the brand and grow the company. Content is also one-part editorial, in that it pulls people in, thanks to the entertainment value or utility.

Yes, I know lots of people want to make up their own definitions for content, and we can't stop them. What we can do is stop ourselves from further muddying the waters.

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