SXSW: Superficial Sparkles Just Won’t Cut It In Content Marketing

Never one to shy away from an inflammatory opinion, Mark Ritson called bullshit on ‘content marketing’ in his Marketing Week column back in 2016. At the time there was, as is often the case with such articles, a division of opinion.

Two years on and I can say first-hand that content marketing was more than simple common parlance at SXSW this year; it’s well established as a discipline in its own right.

Tech big hitters including Visa and HP joined the likes of Slack and MailChimp in their move towards content-driven marketing strategies. These brands have jumped in with both feet and the title ‘Head of Content’ was by no means uncommon on name badges. So, like it or not, Content Marketing feels is here to stay.

On the surface, the discipline feels like a very natural fit for the industry, there’s no shortage of sparkly innovations for these brands to talk about and fill feeds with. Beware. This is the biggest content marketing trap and it is one that tech companies are particularly guilty of falling into. Sparkly stuff alone doesn’t cut through when it comes to content (except maybe unicorns!)

At SXSW I heard time and time again that, unsurprisingly, the content that has the most organic reach and drives the most leads into the sales funnel is also the content that is most emotive and culturally relevant. This content delivers ‘value’ for the audience and goes beyond the functionality of a product or service to actually address a more valuable consumer need.

Visa is a great showcase for this. As a component brand they needed to find a greater purpose from which to build their content marketing strategy around. Putting consumers at front of mind, they laddered their proposition up; life flows better with Visa. This message resonates far better with consumers as it focuses on why their service adds value.

Let’s use broadband as another example. Having super-fast broadband is not a need in itself. It is a functionality. What is the need and why is that a need: the answers to those questions will lead to a strong content-driven marketing strategy.

The rise of content marketing is highlighting the broader challenge that tech industries face when communicating propositions. It is easy to tell consumers what they have created and how it works, but it is harder to connect at a more emotive level.

Tech industries, whether it’s hardware, connectivity, or another category, need to reframe their propositions, and move from ‘what’ and ‘how’, to a more meaningful ‘why’.

By: Fleur Horner

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