Opinion

Stop labelling everything 'content' - we don't need more, just smarter content

This month's November issue of Marketing is dedicated to content marketing: understanding what is driving and shaping the best branded content now and into 2015. Here, editor Rachel Barnes gives an overview of what you will find in our content on 'content'.

We don't need more, just smarter content
We don't need more, just smarter content

"If Leonardo da Vinci were alive today would he paint the Mona Lisa or would he create an Oculus Rift experience?" As a journalist you love it when such quotes are dished out, whether you believe it be substantive insight or a nonsense soundbite.

That quote is from Will.i.am. He is the king of such statements, as we discovered when we met him last month. But while his words are those of a celebrity who has built his brand on somewhat absurd pronouncements, he is, undeniably, a shrewd businessman and tech trendspotter. It’s not been for fun that for the past two years he has used public appearances to show off his watch, with the Puls smartwatch eventually unveiled in October. Don’t call it a watch, though; it’s "a new type of communication".

With tongue firmly in cheek, we crown him the world’s ‘dopest’ content creator. Which probably adds to the confusion about what constitutes ‘content’ anyway.

In journalism, content is everything we do. In marketing, and advertising in particular, it is rapidly being mislabelled as almost everything ever produced. At the risk of irritating those who are sick of hearing the word ‘content’ bandied about, we have dedicated this issue to exploring what is driving and shaping content marketing now and into 2015. 

I love the idea of exercising ‘creative constraint’ when it comes to the ever-increasing volume of content; a counter, perhaps, to the trend for branded 30-minute YouTube ‘films’. Look here to the French Oulipo movement of ‘literary bondage’, where, rather than a no-holds-barred approach, limitations are embraced and inspire creativity.

Marketing is changing more fundamentally and faster than ever before. Navigating your way through is hard

The answer is rarely more, more, more. As Cedar’s Clare Broadbent says in our Fourth Wave of Content Marketing feature, we don’t need more content, "we need smarter content".

The ‘attention web’, not the click-driven web, is crucial here. The volume of information might be increasing, but our time to consume it is not. Quoting Chartbeat boss Tony Haile, our TechKnow columnist Mel Exon writes: "You only have 24 hours a day per person. Just like any economy of scarcity, anyone who captures most of it can charge more."

While the point concerns media space, this sums up one of the challenges mark-eters have forever been facing up to - not just competition for eyeballs, but engaged eyeballs. 

This is key to the content equation: you like it, you share it. As Unilever’s Jon Goldstone says in our Forum, many brands think they are more interesting than they are. "When they interrupt, they come across as boring and annoying – two brand attributes best avoided."

None of this is rocket science, but it does add to the complexity of life as a marketer today. As one senior marketer recently said to me, marketing is changing more fundamentally and faster than ever before. Navigating your way through is hard.

During times of great success,  prepare for the crescent moon - the uncertainties of the future

So, with that, I’ll leave you with one final quote, from Thomas Oh, the global chief operating officer of Korean car brand Kia, who features in our leadership column, I Know.

"During times of great success, we should be prepared for the crescent moon - the uncertainties of the future. But when facing difficult times, it is encouraging to know a full moon will come around."