The solution for many brands should lie in utility. If I’m a beer company, it seems highly sensible to me to have an app to find the most interesting bars in my area. Entertaining is so hard now because there is so much stuff. We should be looking to help people, to provide value, and offer them some sort of service.
Tom Goodwin writing in NewsCred
I would agree that entertaining is hard, but when it works it will really make an impact. You just have to go into it with your eyes open. Utility, as Goodwin says, is a great way to harness content to provide value to people.
Content as Product
So the idea of creating value, at its core, has led me to settle on content as product. Traditional advertising is promoting a product. What if we treat content simply as another product from that company, rather than the promotion of another product?
In marketing, a Product is anything that can be offered to a market that might satisfy a want or need. Wikipedia
So what if we approach content to satisfy a want or need of real people? It certainly places it in the frame of thinking audience first doesn’t it?
Some of the worst content produced (outside of general quality and executional issues) can be exposed with one simple question: “Who is this for?” When it is seemingly impossible to say so, from just watching it, it’s safe to say it’s just stuff made for the company producing it - whether to satisfy their product team, CEO, board or even the agency that made it.
A (good) company would have a very clear idea about who the market is for their product or service. They would then develop, test, iterate and release the product to the public, and if the product created value in the eyes of the market it would sell and be a success. Content has to do the same thing, it’s out there in the wild and the value it creates determines its success. Like a product, a positive outcome will benefit the company that created it.
Agencies should embody that approach when creating content for their clients, and of course they do when promoting the products of the client, but when it comes down to creating something original that still embodies the client’s values, it’s no wonder the industry has collectively scratched their head at delivering on this.
Building your own little production factory as the content arm of the agency does nothing to solve this either. It’s not about making stuff cheaply or even efficiently. You have to make something that resonates with a particular audience.
Another interesting parallel with product, is the idea of generating revenue. Most advertising is obviously not designed to generate revenue for the company selling the product. But some companies have been able to do this with their advertising. The LEGO Movie is probably the ultimate example of content as product, with gross revenue currently at $468 million. Guinness World Records is also a company using content as product. They sell licenses to TV companies globally to produce locally relevant TV shows featuring the abundance of records featured in the book. Both these examples have treated content with as much respect as their core product.