I opened a carton of eggs yesterday and one of them was gold. Solid gold.
Picture it. Eleven plain egg shells and one glorious dome of gold, glinting on my kitchen counter. I picked it up and, sure enough, it weighed a ton.
I called the supermarket. Apparently, there was some mix-up with the department that supplies golden goose eggs to Jack and Beanstalk land or something.
Anyway, I won’t bore you with the details. The point is, this got me thinking …
Why do most blogs look like boring, identical, everyday eggs?
Everyone’s a thought leader these days, regurgitating the same tedious content like a gaggle of vomiting geese. The online community of every industry is oversaturated, it seems.The online community of every industry is oversaturated it seems, says @KonradSanders. Click To Tweet
And yet, every now and then, one of them shines.
Only 5% of content creators get loyal followers, traffic, and dominating positions at the top of Google. (I made the 5% figure up, but it’s a small percentage all the same.)
They are the golden eggs of content. They differentiate themselves in the right way. In a way that customers love. In a way that makes them gleam with value. In a way that makes them the go-to resource for the topics they delve into because they stick like heavy duty contact adhesive in the minds of their readers (or listeners or viewers).
Can your brand be a golden egg of content?
Yes, it can!
The key is: to truly be unique.
Now I know you’ve heard this time and time before, but marketers rarely explain how to make your brand content unique. And that’s exactly what this article is going to reveal.
But as you soak up these tangible tips to content differentiation, please remember: EVERY golden egg content creator got to the top over time, with careful tests, tweaks, and attention to their audience. Differentiation is just one part of the content marketing equation; but an important part nonetheless.Differentiation is just one part of the #contentmarketing equation; but an important part, says @KonradSanders. Click To Tweet
Here are five practical ways to make your content zig while your industry zags.
HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:
1. Talk differently
Creating a unique (and consistently unique) brand voice should be your first port of call.
Thug Kitchen is a great, albeit very extreme, example.
In the heavily saturated world of food and cooking blogs, most content creators adopt a gentle, sophisticated brand voice with descriptive language and long, detail-heavy sentences. And yes, an air of pretentiousness often floats around the foodie arena.
But Thug Kitchen took a different route.In a pretentious, gentle world of food blogs, @thugkitchen’s voice stands out. @KonradSanders Read more> Click To Tweet
It offers no-nonsense vegan recipes and “bad ass” cooking tips in the voice of a rapper or “gangsta.” Seasoned with profanities, short punchy sentences, and a tongue-in-cheek twist to the culture of veganism, this brand content REALLY stands out.
The target audience? Probably not a 60-something grandma. But millennials with a sense of humor who just want to cook some nice grub fast and forget the fluff eat up this content for breakfast (and lunch and dinner). Oh – and apparently celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow do too.
In the B2B world, Copyhackers is a prime example of a brand voice that perks up ears.
Joanna Wiebe and her band of merry copywriters keep their marketing tips extremely down-to-earth, jargon-free, funny, and personal. They throw in some tongue-in-cheek street talk for good measure.
At the end of a Copyhackers article, you feel like you’ve been chatting with a mate in the pub (yes, I’m British). And it’s a refreshing change to this land of B2B corporate speak and dullness.
Joanna discusses swearing, euphemisms, and writing something that actually sounds like you (plus the controversy that might come with it) in this post.
How to do it
- Do some competitor analysis. Find the top 10 to 20 brand blogs (or vlogs or podcasts, etc.) in your industry and pop them on a spreadsheet. This step helps with the practical differentiation techniques I’ll delve into.
- Write down three to five adjectives that best describe the tone of voice of each brand. Is it hip? Playful? Sophisticated? Cheeky? Authoritative? Sassy? This list of adjectives will help.
- Describe the “person” speaking – gender, age, job title, and personality traits. Personify your competitors’ brands before you create your own.
- Note the commonalities across the group.
- Create a brand personality and voice that makes you stand out. If everybody in your industry speaks stiffly and corporately, be the chilled one your audience can relate to. Or if every brand talks like they’re your best friend, be the consummate pro. Or talking in a natural way might be all you need given its rarity these days.
Define your brand personality as you did with your competitors, and then choose five adjectives to describe your unique voice. To do things even more thoroughly, create a tone of voice axis, as explained in this Buffer post.
TIP: Your brand voice should be authentic and relevant to your audience as well as consistent across content and touchpoints. (I will explain in depth at the end of this post.)Your brand voice should be authentic & consistent across #content & touchpoints. @KonradSanders Click To Tweet
HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:
2. Format and structure your content uniquely
Is everyone in your industry writing 500-word listicles? Then why not consistently create 2,500-word value-packed pieces? Or 200-word nuggets? Or reveal your lessons in the form of gripping stories, not lists? Or include a Buzzfeed-style interactive quiz in every post?
Differentiating the structure and formatting style of your content (i.e., the way it is organized) is another opportunity to lay that golden egg.
Bernadette Jiwa’s blog about brand storytelling, The Story of Telling, is a perfect example.
In an industry chock-full of long, heavy, often jargon-filled content, Bernadette gives us short, thought-provoking, story-led posts of 50 to 300 words each. How fittingly unique and memorable for a blog that belongs to a branding specialist.
Or look at Design Clever, an utterly word-free blog composed of carefully curated imagery that graphic designers have grown to love.A #blog free of words stands out, notes @KonradSanders. Check out @DesignClever_. Click To Tweet
How to do it
- Go to your spreadsheet of competitor blogs. Insert a new column for notes about their structure and formatting style.
- Make notes. Identify commonalities. You know the drill.
- Draw on inspiration from other industries and content creators. Is there anything unique and powerful you’ve seen that you could pull into your content and industry? Do a ton of research. Jot down ideas.
- Be creative. Come up with your distinct formatting style and structure. Your bottom line will thank you.
3. Go niche – real niche
If you want to compete with all the big businesses and blogs, then honing a niche or micro-niche is not to be sneezed at.
Why? Because without a niche you compete with everybody in your industry, which is no mean feat. Narrowing your focus offers you a greater chance of becoming an authority, building a real readership, making a stamp in your industry, and becoming a go-to thought leader for that niche.
Nerd Fitness, a brand that sells subscription fitness and training courses, focuses its blog on – you guessed it – helping “nerds” level-up their fitness.
Trade Knowledge Exchange, an economic and trade consultancy, helps readers understand the shifting landscape of the post-Brexit trade environment. Very niche. Very important. And hardly anyone else covers it in such depth.
How to do it
- Ask your customers what one area of business or life (that relates to your service or product) they have the most trouble with.
- Hone in on that one problem area and make it the core focus of your blog.
- Research that area extensively, build relationships with other influencers in the sphere (if there are any), practice what you preach (i.e., work in that niche field that you’re talking about), and really master the subject. Then share that mastery.
4. Design your blog and images uniquely
You need a good designer or at least a good design eye to create a unique look for your brand’s content.You need a good designer or a good design eye to create a unique look for your brand’s content. @KonradSanders Click To Tweet
Or go big, beautiful, and colorful like Brit+Co.
Or perhaps minimal and super-stylish like ETQ.
Or adopt some vintage vibes like The Creative Copywriter (shameless plug).
How to do it
- Think of the blogs you love to peruse because of how they look and feel. Understand why they resonated visually – and flick through all the content to see how it’s done consistently. Is there a blog that makes your mind go “aaah” in relaxation every time you visit? Or “oooh” because it’s refreshingly different? What color scheme does it use? What types of graphics or illustrations? How is the negative space being used?
Think of a #blog’s design you like. Appreciate its consistent look and feel, says @KonradSanders. Click To Tweet
- Go back to the spreadsheet and jot down the design style of your industry competitors. Use three to five adjectives to describe their visual style.
- Work with a designer – preferably a conceptual branding designer – to create your blog and content’s unique visual identity. Be in tune with your overall brand identity because it all comes together as one full package … consistency is key, remember?
5. Choose a different medium
A superb way to differentiate is to see what types (i.e., mediums) of content everyone else in your industry is creating, and then fire in another direction.
Wow. Ground-breaking idea, isn’t it?
Sorry if that sounds too obvious. But it has to be said given all the copycat content creators I see. Over and over. That’s because our natural inclination as humans is to go with the tide, not against it.
But this might be a fantastic way for you to claim your unique position.
While most travel companies stick to standard blog posts, Orbitz laid a golden egg in the form of this super-personalized, creative quiz:
Prospects needed to enter their name and email address to get the much-sought results. Which means? It was a unique, powerful, and memorable lead magnet that created a lot of buzz and pushed a ton of leads down the funnel. Here’s the full story.
In a different industry, I recently helped Arun Estates – one of the U.K.’s largest real estate brands – with their content marketing strategy. We decided to break the mold with value-driven articles and fairytale-esque case stories sent to their prospects in the form of hard-copy letters. Or “content marketing through the letter box” as we like to call it.
How to do it
- Remember that trusty spreadsheet? It’s time to do your research again, add a new column and take some more notes. What are the most common content mediums/types/formats in your industry?
- Have a good old look around for different forms of content you could create, using lists like this one, this one, and this one for inspiration.
Just adopting this experimental zig-not-zag attitude will put you in the “top 5%” and make you a golden egg in the making.
But to raise your chances of success even further, follow these 20 Tips to Brand Your Blog by content marketing queen, Heidi Cohen.
And, as you’re creating a golden egg, please bear in mind the golden rules below.
Golden rules to differentiation
Always stay relevant to YOUR people
Your audience is the only one that matters. If you’re selling food to egg eaters, know them and make them happy. Don’t suddenly offer them taco, when they came to you for an omelet.
Define your audience better than anyone else and listen carefully to them. Use what they tell you (through words and actions) to shape your content following the five practical ideas in this article.
Your goal must be to differentiate while remaining relevant to your audience.
An authentic voice speaks the brand’s values. Clearly know and state your core brand values. Hold to them in everything you create. You will find and form strong bonds with an audience who shares your values. Your loyal, loving fans will sell your brand for you.
Inauthenticity reeks of untrustworthiness. And your audience will smell it from a mile off.
You want to be the golden egg, not the rotten one.
Your goal must be to differentiate while remaining authentic to you and your brand.
Imagine if your favorite podcaster or blogger suddenly changed in character, content, or accent – with no reason or explanation. Not a pretty thought. You must stay consistent in your brand voice, image, and every aspect.
At the beginning, it may take experimentation to find your form. But once you do, stay the same every time – a reliable consistent voice your audience can return to again and again.
There you have it. All you need to truly be unique – the right way. Try out these tips and start laying those golden eggs.
Leave the goose gaggle and you’ll soon be leading it.
Got some wisdom to add? Some extra differentiation techniques? Or blog branding know-how to throw in the mix? Let me know in the comments.
Stand out among your fellow marketers. Attend the world’s content marketing event and learn a lot about how to elevate your brand’s content. Register today for Content Marketing World Sept. 4-7 in Cleveland, Ohio. Early-bird rates expire May 31. Plus, use code BLOG100 to save $100.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute