Blog : content

Content, Distribution and the Chuckle Brothers

Content, Distribution and the Chuckle Brothers

I have read the headline ‘Content is King’ many times since lockdown and I roll my eyes every time I see it. It is such a cheap, throwaway statement. Essentially, it’s only driven by the notion that right now, people have no option but to sit at home and watch it, because they have nothing better to do whilst on lockdown. A captive audience (not in the good way).

Content is like a good joke. You probably remember 1 out of a 1000. Anyone can make a respectable piece of content that has the core elements to make it digestible. But using my lockdown weight gain as a source for inspiration, who wants a dull, digestible and waistline diminishing rice cake, when you can have an enjoyable, indulgent ‘I need my fat trousers’, memorable, doughnut.

Content can appear in your social feed like getting unwanted attention from a stranger on the bus, peering over your shoulder and commenting on what you’re reading. You don’t welcome the intrusion and the contents of such an intrusion is usually arbitrary and irrelevant. So how do doughnuts and creepy people on the bus shape our thoughts on content?

For the past two years we’ve been developing a feature length documentary that started life as a pitch concept. The film is called David vs Goliath and is currently on Amazon Prime (soon to be appearing on iTunes, Google Play and others.) In the first month it was trending in the most popular movies in the UK and sustained in the top 10 documentaries for three weeks. It was brand funded. The premise of the story was: we take David Haye (David) a man who had never played a hand of poker in his life and challenge him to take on Grosvenor Casinos’ ‘Goliath’ (the biggest poker tournament outside of Vegas) and we follow his journey over 18 months, in a fly on the wall documentary. That was it. Simple.

David vs Goliath Film Poster

We protected the story and the narrative arc of the documentary like a drunken 20 year old would protect their kebab, staggering home at the end of the night. We knew that the brand would not only flourish when not forced in to the conversation, but facilitate the story and be seen by customers as a means to potentially facilitate both a perception change in their view of poker, but also the environment in which it’s played.

We live in an era where we obsess over short form content, with limited attention spans, with draconian social media platform restrictions with which we wrestle vociferously to shoehorn in key messages, etc. But there is an exciting opportunity in long form story telling. The art is finding the story, the author, the principal characters, the book and shop in which you’re going to sell it (if you follow the analogy) – but most importantly an interesting reason for existing in the first place. A lack of focus on any one part and you’ll never make it on to Richard and Judy’s illustrious book club. In the case of David vs Goliath, distribution was critical. In the case of long form content, the right distributor holds the key to unlock access to platforms to reach your consumers and create a subsequent, desired behaviour change among them.

Grosvenor Casinos, who were the client for this project, understood (here comes another analogy) that if they didn’t come across as the desperate tinder date, obsessively texting, sending selfies, and talking about themselves, but appeared as discreet, intelligent and discerning in their presence, then they would be lucky in love. Not endlessly waving their brand in the face of would be suitors (no associated analogy please note) was the way to earn respect, credibility and meaningful engagement.

If you’re a client, don’t be intoxicated by your own brand and its story. Listen to objectivity and the challenge of your agency consultants to help shape and craft your story for consumers. If you’re an agency, don’t kid your clients or waste their money on puff content that the you ‘at home in your pyjamas, eating your indulgent doughnuts’ wouldn’t give a moment’s attention. Obsess over the craft of the story.

Finally, think about distribution. Think about your content, short form or long form. Think about the journey and the emotional connection you are attempting to make and the natural role the brand can play in that equation. If a natural role does not exist, start again.

So Content isn’t King. A final analogy to leave you with. Content is ‘Barry’ to Distribution’s ‘Paul’ Chuckle. And we all know with only one chuckle brother forming the all important partnership, all you’re left with is a sad ‘to me…’

Halloween brand watch

Halloween brand watch

Whether you’re the person that puts on a pair of mouse ears and calls it a costume, or goes all out to hand-make a 3D cupcake costume that looks great but means you can’t sit down all night (yes, I am the latter), we can all appreciate good Halloween jesting.

It’s the one night a year when every brand, no matter what they’re selling, can show their creative and personable side by giving a nod to All Hallows Eve. Social media is the perfect platform for pushing these out and driving traffic, and Twitter in particular has been rife with spooky videos, pictures and hashtags.

These are some of my favourite contenders from this year.

Google
Google Halloween 2015
Always a fan of a Google Doodle, in the name of research this morning I spent a solid five minutes playing their Halloween flying game. Aimed at either children or bored office workers, it’s an interactive winner. I racked up a high score of 350. Beat that.


Cadbury Chocolate
Cadbury Halloween 2015
For excellent use of a hashtag and for uniting the nation over some of our favourite fallen (confectionery) heroes, Cadbury have made the list for #CadburyCraveyard. This social competition features cute stop-motion and animated videos and gives people the chance to win a limited edition rerun bar of Fuse or Marble. But what about Creme Egg Twisted, Cadbury?! When will it be making comeback? That’s the real question.


Tesco
Tesco Halloween 2015
Up next it’s Tesco’s social campaign – ‘Introducing Spookermarket’. Torn between wanted to see this in my local branch and knowing that I would definitely be the person who loses the plot, mows down fellow shoppers with my trolley and bolts after even the tamest of scares. It’s a great, family friendly one and the hidden cameras capture the hilarity.


Chipotle
Chipotle Halloween 2015
Americans generally put us to shame when it comes to all things Halloween and this is no different. Purveyors of fine Mexican food, Chipotle have expanded on their usual #Boorito costume competition to create the Endless Line video. This is tongue-in-cheek, Halloween with a heart. Poking fun at tasteless, processed fast food, it’s dry, hilarious and well worth a watch.


Adobe
Adobe Halloween 2015
Hands down winner of Halloween from now and until the end of time is Adobe for their #ScaredSheetless campaign. As a company that I get weekly updates from on my laptop, but aren’t entirely sure what they do, I am so impressed by this camp and hilarious video. It’s a great take on their mission to rid the work-place of paper. Love!

Just for good measure here’s a video of a pug dressed as a ghost. You’re welcome.

Happy Halloween!

A Round Up of 360D: Insights from the Digital Community

A Round Up of 360D: Insights from the Digital Community

On Thursday 3rd September, a few of the Stripes journeyed to the 36OD digital conference at the SECC in Glasgow. Hosted by some of the biggest thought leaders in the digital and tech landscape, the all-day event promised to make our heads hurt with information overload. From learning about the BBC’s commitment to facilitating a coding education for the next generation to the insights and advice from some of Scotland’s newest and most ambitious digital start-ups, the day did not disappoint.

Kicking off with a Buzz

The morning started with the Director for Brand Strategy Europe at Buzzfeed, David Pugh-Jones talking about what great content looks like and what it should achieve. Given that 75% of Buzzfeed’s content is found via social media, it’s clear that while great content is paramount for the content publishers, distribution is also at the forefront of the business success. One of the key differentiations David made was the distinction between creating content that is to be consumed versus content that they want to communicate and start a conversation with. Does this fit in to his approach of content being optimised for the share rather than the like? Well, it’s certainly demonstrating where he feels his priorities are which is in getting people talking and engaging with their content, not just resonating with it and hitting “like”.

One key aspect Buzzfeed is building upon is the move to talking about and creating content on a more serious tone e.g. breaking news. We have probably begun to see content from Buzzfeed in the wake of tragedies such as the recent Virginia journalist shootings. The question was asked, can Buzzfeed really have an authoritative voice on serious breaking news when its rise to fame is associated with posts about the 10 cutest cats? Interestingly, David claimed that it is easier for someone like Buzzfeed to go from funny to serious than it is for other well established news publications to do it the other way round.

Making it digital with the BBC

Jessica Cecil from the BBC gave an insight into the changes in digital behaviour for the next generation. The BBC is working to ensure children in the UK are receiving the support they need to take on a digital role in future employment. One way they’re hoping to achieve this is by gifting first year pupils across the country with a micro:bit – which is in short, a pocket-sized code-able computer. More children are not just playing games but they are also creating them, showcasing the intuitive learning behaviours young people are demonstrating today. The hope is to create a lasting impact on the future of digital in the UK and really ensure that we are at the forefront of the industry worldwide. With the BBC committed to helping children become efficient in coding, I would anticipate the future digital talent pool to get bigger and better – something all organisations should be excited about.

Money on the mind with Visa Europe Collab

On to the world of finance, Steve Perry, founder of Visa Europe Collab, spoke about the new international innovation hub that he is leading. Visa Europe Collab has been built in order to find the most promising ideas in financial technology and to make them a reality. Steve is passionate about working with promising start ups who offer valuable and innovative payment solutions. The way he sees it, making a payment should be as easy as breathing, so if don’t notice payment technology or a solution from Visa in the checkout process, Perry doesn’t care that you don’t notice it’s Visa that made your life easier. In his view, Visa are doing their job well if you don’t know you are using one of their solutions or technology.

But that’s not all…

The afternoon saw us treated to a pitch/advice session from some of Scotland’s emerging digital entrepreneurs, including Cally Russell, the 27 year old founder of “tinder for fashion” app Mallzee who also featured on Dragon’s Den. What all these innovators have in common, is an opportunity to disrupt the current digital landscape, dictate the direction and lead from their point of view. Whether it be changing the way people shop or utilising online returns data to provide actionable insights for businesses, the panel provided great insight into their individual journeys’ towards success.

The conference demonstrated just how ambitious Scotland is in shaping and disrupting the digital landscape. One key comment from the Jon Bradford of Techstars was his belief that it is companies and start-ups who look to “what’s next” that will flourish ahead of copying what’s trending in the digital world. With well-established digital powerhouses such as Sky Scanner and Fan Duel headquartered here in Edinburgh, and the entrepreneurial spirit coming to fruition in the form of emerging and innovative tech start-ups, Scotland’s role in defining what’s next in digital looks promising.

Turing Festival 2015: full stack marketing

Turing Festival 2015: full stack marketing

“As a general rule, everyone wants to be liked. Brands are no different because they’re created, represented and employed by people.” That was my Friday night take-away from the Turing Festival 2015, Edinburgh’s international technology festival.

For one weekend in Edinburgh, big hitters from across the technology industry share their inspirations, pet hates and hot tips on a range of topics. Friday was ‘full stack marketing’ day – from SEO to audience analysis and online behaviours. Headliners included Cyrus Shepard from Moz, Oli Gardner from Unbounce and Phil Nottingham from Wistia. The audience went wild when Rand Fishkin presented a ‘Whiteboard Friday’ especially for the festival.

With hundreds of tech-heads in one room, my expectation was impenetrable jargon and hours of discussion about algorithms and the merits of SEO. I was right – there was jargon, algorithm chat and SEO celebration, but dominating it all was the idea that the biggest challenge facing the communications industry is the need to ‘humanise’ brands and their digital presence. Sound familiar? “We humanise brands” has been Cello Signal’s tagline since 2014.

It’s not a new topic. Since computers started infiltrating customer services in the 1960s there’s been theorising that faceless industry puts off consumers. With every brand now competing for their piece of ‘digital space’, it’s never been more important to come across as honest, trustworthy and ‘real’ to customers.

The problem (and opportunity) for the comms industry is that so many businesses are doing it badly. Atrociously. Abominably. Unforgivably boringly. How often do you pointedly ignore Facebook posts from a sponsored brand that does nothing but switch you off?

Mark Johnstone from Distilled summed it up when he questioned “why will anyone care?” As communications consultants, it’s our job to take a step back, stop, play devil’s advocate and assess the psychology behind consumers’ experiences and perceptions of a brand and its messages. Without that research and assessment, there’s nothing to base a strategy on.

The inconvenience is that there isn’t a silver bullet. It takes time, effort and (usually) money to understand your customers; their likes, dislikes, behaviour, mood swings, passions, schedule and tolerance. It’s like they’re real people… because they are real people. To get a real person on your side takes time, effort and (usually) a bit of money.

It’s heart-warming to think that even in the most advanced technological age, we can still say the easiest way to build trust in a brand is by making people feel special and understood.

As a complete aside… thanks to the speakers at Turing Fest for an inspiring event. And to the guys at Codebase and Stipso for organising it.