The Content Crash

Posted by

At what point do consumers push back, unfriend, unfollow, unplus and whatever else?

This does not spell the end for social media, but there is a common thought in the digital universe that goes like this: create relevant content and consumers will continue to connect with your brand. It’s not a zero-sum game and it’s not an all-encompassing strategy. It may be in marketers vested interest to adjust that theory to this: create relevant content and your heavy users may continue to connect with your brand. If brands do that last part better, those people (call them advocates, brand evangelists or whatever) may help make your idea spread. That being said, don’t kid yourself into thinking that this content marketing strategy alone will reap the same rewards that traditional advertising has done in helping a message reach a much broader audience with a significantly higher level of repetition. The two models are not interchangeable and one cannot replace the other.

It’s all a little much, isn’t it?

How many branded connections points do consumers need with a brand. You buy a product and the expectation from the brand is that you follow them on Twitter, like them on Facebook, watch their videos on YouTube, and so on and so on and so on and so on. It’s a major commitment from consumers, and brands are pushing for this direct relationship on a constant basis. Of course, this is a prime directive and, of course, having that direct relationship is the most important thing a brand can do in this day and age, but understand what the exchange of value is from the consumer’s side. What are they truly getting out of the relationship? Yesterday, MediaPost posted a news item titled, Forrester: Marketers Should Talk Less, Design More, that states: "A new report from Forrester says that while marketers may be increasingly proficient at reaching out to consumers through new technologies including social and mobile, they need to figure out how to talk less and design more. While overwhelming consumers with chatter is already a problem, with 53% of online adults already saying they’re annoyed by the amount of advertising they see and 37% saying that they would rather not be contacted frequently by brands, marketer blabbing is about to explode."

Beyond the marketing message.

I am often asked why I wrote the book CTRL ALT Delete (which comes out on May 21st, 2013) as if the book is some kind of follow-up to Six Pixels of Separation or another book on social media. It’s not. The book (and the crux of what the MediaPost news item and Forrester report is screaming) is about how much businesses will have to reboot how they think about consumers and the engagements that they truly want to have with a brand. Right now, the vast majority of brands are simply using all of these amazing channels to connect with consumers, but they have become a pumping ground for a marketing message. Very few of them are thinking about utilitarianism marketing and even fewer are thinking about the overall experience of the products and services (or, as the news item calls it, the "design"). Marketers create messaging around campaigns. Few marketers elevate their thinking to a macro brand play and how it engenders the overall economic value to the business strategy. 

It’s more than content.

If you look at the larger shifts in consumer behavior (everything from how they shop, socialize, connect, share and inform themselves), it seems somewhat simplistic to shift ad dollars to content marketing dollars. While it’s not as dramatic as shuffling the chairs on the Titanic, that strategy does not embody a better sense of building loyalty through value, credibility, trust and a true care about how to make the consumer’s lives better. Brands used to blog because it was cheap, easy and fast to do. Blogs never replaced any other form of media, did it? For the majority of brands it was a tool of augmentation and not replacement. In fact, they just replaced their blogs with Twitter feeds and Facebook pages.

Going forward.

It is my belief, that content is the new advertising. It is my belief that content is media for many brands. All of that is still a small component of the bigger marketing picture. Defining the true design of the brand, the value it brings beyond the actual sale of a product or service, how it contextually adds utility to the consumer and how it operates in a world where consumers are getting ever-better at regulating, monitoring and throttling these messages. This will be the true marketing imperative going forward.

What’s your take?


  1. Not everything is marketing. It can’t be. Not everyone wants to be bombarded constantly. We keep talking about how to manage the bombardment of message and engagement and loyalty and…. what about silence? People want to disconnect. They crave that stuff. What is luxury but the ability to say no and disconnect. The Age of Marketing is going to be the shortest lived age ever. Not everything is a sell job. Of course the public is going to push back. They want to live, too. Marketers seem to forget that if they constantly market products to make life better there is no life to make better in the first place. I’m a content person. A marketing person. And I often say “enough already.”

  2. Congrats on the book and looking forward to it!
    I guess in my own opinion content to me means something relevant and useful that I can take away and engage with others who have similar interests, no doubt then content will be king and agree with you it will be necessary.
    Also, in general I think people are just looking for an outlet to express themselves since daily work cannot satisfy their desires and believe this to be the reason facebook and twitter became popular in the first place. ( I believe these are temporary platforms for marketers).
    My personal belief is that companies will want a more intimate relationship with customers and might actually bypass these platforms altogether especially if they are a known brand. I say this because I see one example in with Nike and its fuelband. This product has an app and very useful one in which you connect with your smartphone to view your personal results. At some point nike could create even more useful content to engage all those with fuelbands and bypass twitter and facebook, so I would say that your book is very fitting.

  3. It reminds me of buying a simple Casio watch with a stopwatch feature and a light for my morning jog routine. It came with a 200 page booklet that “I didn’t read”! I’m not going to read all the online bombardment either.

  4. I’ve been saying for a number of years that social media is going to undergo a “crash”, or rather a huge change in how people use it. It’s always evolving, of course, but the cracks are starting to show re: social media fatigue, and people pulling back from participating. Note the declining interactions on many social media platforms, where typically you’ll see hundred or thousands of visits, and sometimes zero comments, and a few “likes”.
    One reason is the absolute prevalence of marketing, and content as transparent marketing.
    There’s a lot more reasons why social media is going to undergo severe contraction, and I’ve been writing about it for a few years, but it’s not possible to get traction, or to warn companies they need to prepare for consumer behavior change. So, I’m slowly closing down the site I created for that purpose,
    Anyone wanna buy a used contrarian domain?

  5. Good piece. Too many companies putting out too much marketing disguised as content, and not offering real value.
    I think you’re describing the B2C world more than B2B or B2G, in which I live. We’re dealing with much smaller, defined audiences which (hopefully) are predisposed to care about the product or service of the client. We just have to make sure we’re sharing high quality content on a regular basis that builds audience and can be shown to move prospects through the sales process.

  6. You can invite or bombard/pressure/bribe/trick/confuse customers to joining in your community. OR you can be invited to join theirs! Much harder I’ll admit, but once you’re in, you can then contribute content based on what you are hearing, seeing and participating in. And if you go too far you will be kicked out and then you will know.
    Tricky part is to be invited…
    Mitch, thanks for the posts, would love some thoughts on how you can start to take some steps to play where customers are playing.

  7. Outstanding Post! Mitch Joel you have a gift to step back from the noise and evaluate not only the here and now but where we are likely heading! Cannot wait for Ctl alt del.

  8. Excellent post Mitch! Bombardment been pretty much the advertising strategy for anyone with a budget. Digital media has lowered the cost of access and now smaller and savvy organizations can achieve similar digital footprints as larger ones increasing the volume of info out there, but good marketing has always been about more than communication.

  9. for start-up businesses who are striving (heroically) toward profitability — and trying to stay ahead of operating costs until they arrive there — it eventually becomes a great temptation to sacrifice design in order to keep budgets under control. But I have discovered that great design does more than just imprint your brand into the customer’s awareness, it actually unites and reinvigorates your team, lending them a sense of pride, purpose and cohesion. I have literally seen this happen.

  10. I feel like content in the form of videos and images is the most compelling to watch, especially these days when consumers are fed up and impatient. In the future consumers will read less and “observe” more.

  11. A number of blogs I follow are starting to comment on the future of content creation – longer, relevant, rich posts will be the future. Transparent marketing might not be so successful in the coming years.

  12. I agree that few marketers think about the big picture, the “macro brand play”. Those few that do not only garner attention this way but are much more successful.

  13. For me, the key line in this post is “a true care about how to make the consumer’s lives better.” Once the focus of the content (or whatever the delivery vehicle or medium is) shifts to be more about others than self-serving, that is when the entire exchange, relationship, and interaction that goes along with it changes as well. This applies to government and financial institutions, too.

  14. I think this is just the same balance correction that seems to happen when things become dysfunctional for the Supposed Customer. These are old clichés but as relevant now as they were 20 years ago, “More can be Less” and “A conversation requires both parties to listen”

  15. I finally hired someone to write blogs for our website. I thought the old fashion way of advertising or getting was the way to go. I think that the consumers are younger today, living in a faster pace and they do not have the time to be sold. Give them the facts, something that is useful so content is key and live on for now. Most people skim over articles so something real has to grab them. It is tough to walk into this new world as I am 66 years and run a business and I have had to rethink my strategies if I want continued success.

Comments are closed.