By Andrew Davis published August 31, 2014

4 Branded Content Lessons From a Content Cancellation

dog with top hat

Image via Wistia.com

Editor’s note: In his new column for Chief Content Officer Magazine, Andrew Davis is dishing out content marketing guidance to unsuspecting targets… whether they want it or not. This time, Davis serves up unsolicited advice to video hosting company Wistia, which recently canceled its regularly distributed video series called Top Hat Tuesday Tips. 

Alyce Currier
Content Strategist
Wistia.com

Dear Ms. Currier,

Put your top hat back on and bring back Top Hat Tuesday Tips.

Seriously. I want it back.

For 22 weeks, your awesome video production, marketing, and distribution tips arrived like clockwork in my email inbox. Thanks to the Wistia team, I learned how to record better audio, how to frame a nice shot, and where to embed my videos for maximum impact. You taught me how to “circle back,” do a “rip take” and even how to make my own teleprompter with just a laptop and a chair.

I’ve learned so much from your weekly deliveries of video content that I want them back. I’ll even pay for them. (That’s Youtility.)

Not only did Top Hat Tuesday Tips teach me a lot about getting the most out of the video content I produce, but your simple tutorials positioned you as the most knowledgeable, caring, and smart video host on the planet. (Take that, YouTube.)

Here are four reasons why Top Hat Tuesday Tips worked — and why every branded content creator should be following your example:

  1. You owned two minutes of my Tuesday: Making a regularly scheduled appointment with me in my inbox ensured that you owned some of my valuable time. Every marketer should be so smart and so lucky.
  2. You stuck to a reliable format: Every single video followed the very same format. Why is this important? You managed my expectations. Every time your email showed up, I knew exactly what I was going to get. I didn’t fall in love with the tips you sent (at first). I fell in love with the format of your content.
  3. Your video content had a unique hook: As bizarre a choice as the top hat was, it worked. This simple visual hook provided continuity and helped build a real content brand. Your video tutorials were different than everyone else’s on the web for one simple reason: You wore a top hat. Instead of creating branded content, you created a content brand! I wish more marketers did the same.
  4. You invited me to subscribe to something specific: I don’t want the rest of your blog’s mediocre content. I don’t care about the free giveaways, your trip to the farmers market, or your new staff member. That stuff contributes to my information overload, and it’s straight-up junk. I appreciated the fact that I could subscribe to Top Hat Tuesday Tips — and nothing else.

In your final Top Hat Tuesday Tips letter, announcing the end of your “regularly scheduled programming,” you noted that “creating a new tip every week started to feel like a distracting chore, instead of an exciting teaching opportunity.” Here’s the thing: I don’t care if you felt like it was a chore. Top Hat Tuesday Tips was unbelievably valuable, and stopping it because you got tired of producing the branded content series seems completely backwards.

I appreciate the fact that you decided to reevaluate your content strategy. I just hope you take an audience-first approach while you retrench. Ms. Currier, here’s the deal: I’ll sign up for Wistia’s video hosting services if you bring back Top Hat Tuesday. What do you say? Do we have a deal?

Whether you wanted it or not,
Andrew Davis 

This article originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of Chief Content Officer. Sign up to receive your free subscription to our bi-monthly magazine.

Author: Andrew Davis

Andrew Davis’ 20-year career has taken him from local television to "The Today Show". He's worked for The Muppets in New York and marketed for tiny start-ups as well as Fortune 500 brands. In 2001, Andrew Davis co-founded Tippingpoint Labs, where he changed the way publishers think and how brands market their products. For more than a decade, as Tippingpoint’s chief strategy officer, Andrew rallied his team to change the way content creators think, authentic talent is nurtured, and companies market their products. Today, he’s traveling the globe sharing his insight, experience, stories, and optimistic ideals through his wildly fascinating speaking engagements, guest lectures and workshops. His most recent book, "Brandscaping: Unleashing the Power of Partnerships" hit shelves in September, 2012. Andrew is also an instructor for the Content Marketing Institute Online Training and Certification program. Follow Andrew on Twitter @TPLDrew.

Other posts by Andrew Davis

  • http://www.bradattig.com/ Brad Attig

    I love Wistia but I was confused when a company that tells you to engage with your customers got bored engaging with their customers…..As my French teacher would have said, “Tres Bizzare.”

    • http://morekeynote.com/ tpldrew

      Brad,
      I truly wish they had stuck with their Top Hat Tips! They were awesome!
      - Andrew

    • http://www.twitter.com/notalyce Alyce

      It isn’t that we got bored engaging with our customers! We got bored creating a formulaic video every. single. week. that no one seemed to be watching compared to our other content, which is still sent out on a regular basis but lends us more flexibility. We’re now able to invest that time and energy into the bigger pieces that our audience seems to like more (based on both quantitative and qualitative factors). When it comes down it, this decision *was* about pleasing our audience.

  • http://www.irissignals.com/ Kostas Chiotis

    These are some great points Andrew. I think that sticking with that tried and tested format consistently is an important thing. People come to expect it and they look forward to it and that is when you know you have hooked them!

    • http://morekeynote.com/ tpldrew

      Too true Kostas!

  • http://tresnicmedia.com/ Tresnic Media

    We obviously can’t tell from the outside, but what if their metrics just show it wasn’t worth the time/resources investment?

    Do you still recommend a brand continue this kind of engagement/effort even if it is costing them more money than it’s helping them bring in?

    • http://www.bradattig.com/ Brad Attig

      Don’t forget they said “creating a new tip every week started to feel like a distracting chore, instead of an exciting teaching opportunity.”

      If they weren’t getting the engagement numbers they wanted, then they could have stated that was the case and then said we’re going to try something better since our numbers are showing this isn’t what most of you want….That is a teaching moment in itself.

      It’s never good to tell your customers, “It’s not about you, it’s about us.” That was a pretty badly worded message.

    • http://www.twitter.com/notalyce Alyce

      Hi @tresnicmedia:disqus! That’s pretty much right on the mark – the other content we were sending out regularly that was having a much higher impact and receiving much better feedback from our audience, so it didn’t make sense for us to continue with a series that only a very small subset of our audience cared about and that was taking away resources from our other, more useful, more impactful content. We still send out content most weeks, it just isn’t limited to a single format and our team is much more able to work together on these efforts now.

      • http://tresnicmedia.com/ Tresnic Media

        That makes total sense to me. I didn’t personally see the messaging about how it was ending so I can’t speak to the language that was used, but if it’s not justifiable then it’s not…justifiable haha

        I love content [marketing] as much as anyone, so I would love to hear more thoughts from the other side of why a company would continue down the path if it wasn’t producing results. More so, that it’s pulling resources away from other efforts that do produce results.

    • http://morekeynote.com/ tpldrew

      Tresnic,
      It depends how you’re measuring success.

      If you measure it as an ever growing subscriber base with a zero opt out rate, then, yes, I would have kept going.

      If not, I would too have stopped. :)
      - Andrew

      • http://tresnicmedia.com/ Todd

        Thanks for taking the time to reply, Andrew!

        I would measure success by paying customers. Content subscribers are certainly very important and I wholeheartedly believe in building an audience, but those are pieces of the puzzle and steps along the way that are meant to earn paying customers. Of course it’s a somewhat cyclical (lack of a better word off the top of my head) relationship of customers, subscribers, evangelists, and on and on. But in the simplest terms, a business’s success is measured in profitability, no?

        So when you say subscribers do you mean their paid subscribers or subscribers of their content?

        It’s a no-brainer that a growing number of paid subscribers that never opts out warrants being catered to, but as Alyce mentioned, Top Hat Tuesday was not actually a fan-favorite according to their metrics, and was actually pulling resources from other channels that people enjoyed more and delivers profitability.

        • http://morekeynote.com/ tpldrew

          Todd,
          I’m happy to participate in the discussion. Thanks for keeping it going.

          So, two things:
          1) I think we’d have to know what the reinvested the time they were putting into Top Hat Tuesdays into to make this conversation more valuable. (Maybe Alyce would agree to a chat on the phone about this – I could do a follow-up.) So, I really don’t know what I would have done.

          2) If you want to sell more video hosting services you need me (the audience) to create more video. Top Hat Tuesday did this – for me anyway. So when I was referring to subscribers, I meant subscribers to this one piece of content each week.

          Content builds trust. Trust builds relationships. Relationships drive revenue. I assume the subscribers to Top Hat Tuesday weren’t ever converting to Wistia clients – if that’s the case – I think they should have said so and invited me to subscribe to something else that might have helped me convert.

          Anyway, this is a really fun chat.

          Are you going to CMWorld? If so, let’s connect there!

          • http://tresnicmedia.com/ Todd

            “Content builds trust. Trust builds relationships. Relationships drive revenue.” <- That's what I was referring to by the cyclical relationship I didn't have a better word for haha

            So it sounds like you agree that really the specific content effort itself (THT) shouldn't continue without proving ROI. The real problem I think this discussion has uncovered is that

            1. They weren't converting their audience
            2. The messaging of how they discontinued THT could have been done much differently/better.

            I think it's important to highlight that so the message of this open letter isn't confused with "make free content no matter what the cost." Rather the discussion opens up how to make your awesome content provide an experience of value for the audience that will also lead them down a path to becoming a paying customer.

            Secondarily, a PR/communication issue with how to convey a change in your procedure (in this case, the discontinuation of THT).

            Re. CMWorld: No :( Unfortunately I can't get away right now. Fortunately, it's because I just got back from my honeymoon :)

  • http://www.felixcha.com Felix Hyun Jae Cha

    I don’t think discontinuing Top Hat Tuesdays was a move that didn’t put Wistia’s audience first. On the contrary, it may have been the best move for them to focus on many other customer touch points for them.

    Weekly videos, no matter how short each segment is, is a very difficult thing to do. If you take considerations of all the strategies, concepting, scripting, shooting, editing, post effects, you would need a person or two dedicated to do Top Hat Tuesdays only.

    Also, their community (forum) has so much good content and if you actively participate in it, it won’t take long to realize there is so much to learn from the community as well.

    As a Wistia fan myself, I feel your pain. But as a videographer, I also know all their efforts spent on weekly series can be better spent elsewhere.

    • http://morekeynote.com/ tpldrew

      Felix,
      I still miss ‘em. :)

      I’m not really involved in the community. In fact, I’m not a Wistia customer. I used to think of them once a week and recommend them to others often (when I got the e-mails.) But I don’t anymore.

      No doubt you’re right. They realized they should spend their time and energy elsewhere.

      - Andrew