By Robert Rose published May 16, 2013

Be Remarkable or Fail: Changes Content Creators Must Make

remarkable content stands out in crowdOver the last few weeks, Joe Pulizzi and I have posted a few of our ideas on the importance of planning in a successful approach to content marketing. Joe touched on the importance of strategy in his 4 Truths About Content Marketing Agencies piece, and I followed this with my thoughts on content marketing’s current status in the “Valley of Disillusionment,” and how it is poised to make true progress, moving forward.

As I dig in, I’ve been working on a maturity model for an optimal content marketing approach. While I plan to share those ideas in a future post, one theme I keep coming back to is that, independent of the approach, a successful content marketing strategy requires placing a priority on remarkable content over everything else.

Evolve or fail — there is no “try”

Just like the concept of content marketing itself, the idea of using “information” as an increasingly important way to compete is not new. As far back as 1959, Peter Drucker talked about the importance of “knowledge workers.” As an example of this, consider that the cost to produce an automobile is 40 percent materials and 25 percent labor. On the other hand, the cost to produce a silicon chip is about 1 percent materials, 10 percent labor, and about 70 percent information.

Our access to information has evolved — it’s more readily accessible now than in any previous moment in history. (We’re even wearing access to information as an eyeglass accessory.) And, it’s not just content marketing causing the glut of information — indeed we are all publishing more content and information to the web than ever before. According to EMC’s 2012 Digital Universe study, it’s predicted that we will publish and replicate 40 zettabyes of data by the year 2020, including white papers, infographics, Facebook posts, pictures of food, and on and on. How much is that? It’s 57 times the amount of all the grains of sand on all the beaches on earth.

And that’s the key to what we need to know about content marketing: Whether you believe the discipline is real, hype, or simply a meta tag for something marketers have been doing all along, there is (at this point) no dispute that ALL companies are evolving and creating content to drive business results.

The novelty is wearing off, and as I said in my disillusionment piece:

It is the practice of marketing, on the whole, that is in the process of evolving, and content marketing is but one approach that factors into the entirety of this fundamental change.

So if (and it’s a big IF) we are differentiating in our business by using a combination of owned, earned, and paid content to drive results, our competitors are, too. And as our process of marketing changes, so too must our content creators.

Content creators and the commodity of facts

Yes, it might be important today to create content that answers all the questions that may be brought up when using your products or services. But when all of your competitors have answered those same questions, and all of the “how-to” sites have leached on to your topic to answer them, as well, your giant, informative FAQ becomes nothing more than a bushel of corn, lined up against all the other bushels of corn, battling for relevance in a flat market.

But what can’t be taken away is your distinct point of view; your differentiating story; i.e., the unique way you synthesize myriad facts into meaningful insight. Great content marketing will only come from a distinct and remarkable point of view. In short, if you can take the content in your content marketing approach and put your competitor’s logo on the top, you need to rethink your plan.

The rarity of “remarkable”

Today, CMOs are faced with a huge, disruptive challenge: The promised power of using accumulated information (aka “big data”) has the potential to become an extraordinarily important aspect to creating a competitive advantage for businesses (Drucker lives!). But the value proposition of data has evolved. For the CMO, it isn’t the data itself that will provide the competitive edge, nor is it the technology used to accumulate it. Only the combination of advancing questions, meaningful insight, and applied creativity will derive value from data — big or small.

Success in content marketing — and marketing on the whole — will come from our ability to render meaning. I wrote another post that talked about a new role that I envision being critical for business, called the “Manager of Meaning.” What this means, from a content marketing perspective, is that thoughtful planning and a strong focus on creating differentiating, remarkable content that communicates from a strong point of view will be what separates the rare from the commodity.

What does this mean for content marketing in the short term? It means that as we build the business case for content marketing, we must first ask three basic questions, starting with “why?:

  • Why is this content important to our customers?
  • What value will they derive from it?
  • How will it differentiate us?

That’s how content marketing agencies will add value for clients. That’s how, as content marketers, we will distinguish our brands’ value. And, that’s how we, as an industry, will ultimately continue to use content as a powerful means to drive business results.

Robert will share more of his insight on the future of content creation at Content Marketing World 2013. Register now to attend — early-bird pricing ends May 31.

Cover image via Bigstock

Author: Robert Rose

Robert Rose is the Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory - the education and advisory group of The Content Marketing Institute. As a strategist, Robert has worked with more than 500 companies including global brands such as Capital One, Dell, Ernst & Young, Hewlett Packard, and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Robert is the author of three books. His latest, Killing Marketing, with co-author Joe Pulizzi has just been released. His last book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing, was called a “treatise, and a call to arms for marketers to lead business innovation in the 21st century.” You can hear Robert on his weekly podcast with co-host Joe Pulizzi, "This Old Marketing”. Robert is also an early-stage investor and advisor to a number of technology startups, serving on the advisory boards for a number of companies, such as Akoonu, DivvyHQ and Tint. Follow him on Twitter @Robert_Rose.

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  • OnScene Productions

    Excellent stuff Rob. We preach excellence and authenticity to all of our resources. Find your distinct voice and share it. People care way more about that.

    • Robert Rose

      Glad that it resonated with you…. Authentic is a great word… It’s come to mean “genuine” or “honest” – but actually the source of the word is even more powerful “coming with authority” or “canonical” – the “author”…

  • jaybaer

    I prefer “useful” over remarkable, but yeah! 😉

    • Robert Rose

      Why does that not surprise me 😉 …. Youtility focused content is a beautiful, differentiating thing…

  • Richard Hussey

    Spot on! There’s no point just passing on information and saying what everyone else would say. What’s your viewpoint and how does this reinforce your core values?

    • Robert Rose

      Thanks Richard… I appreciate that… and I do love your tie to the “core values” part of what you’re saying… In many cases it’s the “what business are you really in” question….

  • Yasin Aydin

    The most important question for me is what value does it bring my client’s customers or service users. Sometimes I even challenge my client to answer this question so I can ascertain what their expectation is from Content Marketing and to make sure that they too are focussed on the value element of content.

    I’ve now got those three questions on my desk 🙂

    • Robert Rose

      Awesome…. And I love that image…

  • Sarah Bauer

    Pretty inspiring stuff in regards to innovating ahead of the competition – they may take our content formats, but they can never take our differentiation strategies!

    • Robert Rose

      Love this Sarah…. I picture Mel Gibson riding up and down a line of marketers yelling this 🙂

      • Sarah Bauer

        Ha, ha, yep! That’s what I had in mind, too 🙂

  • Tamarray Cain

    Thanks so much for sharing. Being a freelance social media manager can sometimes make me feel like I’m doing what everyone else is doing. My profession isn’t one of a kind. This article was exactly what I needed. No one else has my point of view! 🙂

  • Craig Badings

    Robert everything about your piece screams thought leading content. To truly differentiate your content you have to identify a thought leadership platform. But the difficulty for most brands is that they don’t approach this in a disciplined, strategic manner with senior executive involvement.

    Far from a faddish term, thought leadership requires a disciplined, planned approach with clear business objectives and an intense, singular focus on the client’s/ customer’s issues not your products or services. Done properly thought leadership is content on steroids – the ultimate lead nurturer and generator.

    And by the way the sooner content marketers stop self-labelling their ordinary, day-to-day content as thought leading content the better for everyone.

  • Glenn Myatt

    Robert, a timely heads up to everyone playing in the social media space. There is a growing realisation that many of the ‘old’ rules of marketing still apply. Your three basic questions essentially ask companies to reconfirm their brand positioning and brand story. The content they produce should be built from these. Too many businesses are playing the game without a fundamental understanding what they stand for and what stories they have the right to tell.

    Your call to “be remarkable” is spot on and, if anything, may be understated looking forward. Considering the ocean of information we’ll have by 2020 it will take exceptional content to cut through the clutter. B2C businesses in particular will probably need to think in terms of unique digital experiences rather than simply information. We are likely to see an evolution (revolution?) in content akin to the shift from the first years of television advertising (typically spokespeople making product claims) to the entertainment based forms used today. Like so many things now, what happened previously over 50 years will happen in probably happen in 10.

  • Arjan Richter

    Thank you very much Robert. The idea of a Manager of Meaning is very inspiring. Have a look at the article that Tim Laberecht wrote in 2009 for Frog’s DesignMind: