Winning in the Face of Information Overload

– from “The Content Code” by Mark Schaefer


Let’s take a look at how a content ignition strategy can work in even the most desperate marketing situations. I was asked to provide a marketing strategy for a client in an extraordinarily difficult situation. The well-known global brand was entering a new market with high content saturation dominated by three established competitors. In terms of content marketing, one leading competitor had dominated every platform, every subject, and every content style to the point where trying to compete seemed hopeless.

The client called me in to do content marketing triage, and after a few months of intense research and deliberation, I presented three tactics to provide this company some room to maneuver.

  1. Focus on sub-categories.

The competitor had overlooked new demographic subsets who were coming into the market and eager to use their products. When I did research on these segments, I found a wide open opportunity. The competitor had no content targeted to these personas. We set about dominating the under-served channels with amazing new content served up especially for them.

  1. Explore different types of content.

YouTube first floated the idea that different types of content, when combined together in an ideal mix, are extremely successful in building an engaged audience for the long-term. The three types of content are:

  • Hygiene content: This is the content that serves the daily health of your audience. This content makes them aware of your brand and helps them connect to you when they need you most. This is the specific, short-form content that is most likely to turn up in organic search results. An example of hygiene content is a series of how-to videos from a do-it-yourself store like Home Depot.
  • Hub content: While hygiene content might get somebody to your site, hub content is intended to keep them there. This could be a series of articles about a more in-depth topic, or perhaps a serialized story, that makes people want to go down the rabbit hole and stay on your site. This could also be “evergreen” content that people seem to love and read month after month. An example of hub content is the addictive and thrilling adventure videos produced by Adidas Outdoor featuring daredevil athletes using their gear. Hub content lifts subscriptions to your content, spurs engagement, builds brand interest, and may even lead to brand loyalty.
  • Hero content: Hero content is something brilliant, dramatic, and bold that transcends the normal day-today Internet offerings. This is the content that creates viral buzz. A famous example is the epic videos Nike created to celebrate the World Cup. The most recent one, “Winner Stays,” playfully captures the schoolyard fantasy of young soccer players who morph into their favorite global stars. This type of content is difficult to produce. Nike was intentional in spending millions to create this hero content with the goal of creating massive brand awareness and dominating the conversation around the world’s biggest sporting event. The video received 100 million views.

It’s important to understand that each type of content plays a role in the overall brand-building plan. One way to carve a place for yourself is to create content in a category your competitors might be missing. In the specific case of my client battling three big competitors, we learned that there was an opening in the hygiene content category that would allow us to capture a niche that leads to search engine traffic.

  1. Focus on social transmission.

Here’s the mistake most companies make: They check the box on content and then forget about ignition. Content isn’t effective if it doesn’t move. People have to see it, engage with it, share it—or you’re wasting your money. By putting the emphasis on exposing your content instead of simply producing more, more, more, you create a powerful new marketing competency in the information era.


– from “The Content Code” by Mark Schaefer