Sex Sells…but so do Cats! Content marketing lessons

I wrote recently about the most important thing in content marketing still being reaching and persuading people. Sometimes acknowledging that as a primary focus can make it awkward pitching ideas; for agencies pitching to clients or for clients pitching to their upper management. Why? Because people enjoy and engage with things that are easy to write off as trivial. Because as people we often are trivial. We like silly jokes, we like cute animals, and we’re not averse to looking at someone attractive.

Why embrace the trivial?

The thing is, nobody wants to be the first one to suggest making use of any of these observations, for fear of seeming trivial themselves. However, understanding what content might make your audience tick and how to leverage it isn’t trivial. That phrase, “sex sells”, comes from the advertising industry and Hollywood learning from each other over the years. That made sense – they both had to be able to get an audience’s attention and to get them to part with their hard earned cash.

What’s the digital equivalent? Well, nobody’s saying your brand has to turn into Buzzfeed… but it probably wouldn’t hurt to take a look at what they’re doing right and seeing how your brand could learn from it:

Make your content easy to read – put it in a list

Buzzfeed 1

Buzzfeed blazed a trail for oddly numbered list articles and it’s a trend that’s still being followed today. Why? Because even once the ‘fashionability’ of the approach wore off, it just makes sense – it taps into what are people looking for in content.

  • Value: If somebody’s gone to the trouble of putting together 23 different examples of something, that does represent a certain level of value.
  • Readable: The web is full of weighty tomes written by top academics… but most of us mere mortals would struggle to read them. When information is broken down into small chunks it’s much easier. With lists you know exactly what you’re getting!
  • Relatable: Most of us have worked in retail at some point, and I’m sure we all had things we wished we could say to customers. Even if we’re the rare type who haven’t, we’ve all been customers. Who wouldn’t want to know what retail staff secretly want to say?
  • Entertaining: Let’s face it, there’s nothing we’re going to learn from the example article, but there’s a good chance it’ll make us laugh. Even utility blogs can make readers chuckle!

Have a headline that attracts attention

Buzzfeed 2

Obviously, the particular title above only works if you actually then have a video of a mama rabbit going ‘totally insane’ on a snake that attacked her baby bunnies. However, the principle stands that there’s a way of bringing your title to life, whatever the subject matter.

As the hugely experienced copywriter Dave Trott points out, brands need to stop focusing on the fear of causing a negative reaction. As he says, if they cause a negative reaction, they’ve already been more successful than around 90% of advertising – which fails to even be noticed by its intended audience.

You can produce a piece of content containing information that might be fascinating and valuable to your target audience but if the headline of the piece doesn’t attract their attention then it will still fail.

Have you found a way to make your topic interesting to your audience?

It’s Friday, 4pm. The weekend is almost in sight. Excited by the value of the utility content piece you’ve just produced, you upload it to your company blog, sit back, and await an explosion of shares.

Seriously?

We know what’s in it for you as a brand. We know what’s in it for your audience if they’re behaving as ‘customers’… but engage your human sense for a moment.

What do you click on last thing on a Friday?

Things that catch your eye, are likely to be readable…and are likely to be entertaining. Quite possibly Buzzfeed, right?

Consider your content from the reader’s point of view as well as from your own point of view. Is there a way that you can get your message across but entertain them at the same time? There is? Then go for it.

Stick a cat in it

Don’t worry, we’re not really suggesting that everything comes down to just “sticking a cat in it”. But if you’re left wondering, here are some quick rules of thumb:

  • If it doesn’t make sense, don’t do it.
  • If it’s wildly inappropriate, don’t do it.
  • Would make it funnier/cuter? All we’re saying is… don’t be averse to the notion of sticking a cat in it.

Practice what you preach

Why should clients trust you if you don’t put your own money where your mouth is? Where your brand has a product or service – use it yourselves. Where your brand has an attitude or opinion – act on it. Where you give advice – follow it.

Like we’ve done.

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