The Noun Project on Building a Global Visual Language – something I’ve been known to speak and write about over the years…
What’s the quickest way to deliver your content to a multinational audience? – This maybe one of the most efficient ways I’ve seen.
While monitoring the Twitter stream this morning from various motor-sports journalists covering the build up to this weekend’s Formula One Spanish Grand Prix there were several enthusiastic posts about a little piece of plastic.
This piece of plastic, distributed by Porsche.
Journalist Jon Noble immediately tweeted,
“I remember the era of 100-page media guides. Look at this slick modern version from Porsche.”
While NBC Sports’s Will Buxton added a few more details.
“Very cool media kit from Porsche Supercup. A simple plastic card featuring a BeeTag. Open the document in 5 languages on phone/tablet. Ace.”
Globalized, smart, slick, and in keeping with the brand. Delivering content to a well-defined community in the way that works best for them. – Brilliant piece of content marketing.
From a marketing perspective it’s also interesting to note that Porsche aren’t even competing in the main GP event. They don’t have an F1 team, nor do they supply engines anymore. They do however have supply all the cars for one of the, normally ignored, supporting events – yet they got a sizable share of the journalists’ attention and social media buzz this morning.
And I found out that the British refer to QR Codes as BeeTags – apparently named after a popular QR Code generation software. – This plays to a conversation I had at the STC Conference in Atlanta last week discussing the fact that just because something is written in English, it doesn’t mean it is equally understood in all English speaking markets. – Maybe that’s a subject for another blog post.
I may have been the only one in the room who noticed, or even cared, but it annoyed me.
During a recent presentation by a top industry analyst they referenced an on-line marketing campaign that had featured The Muppets. On one PowerPoint slide there was a picture of Kermit The Frog.
The analyst proudly said something along the lines of “As you can see this campaign was aimed at children because it uses the characters from Sesame Street.”
My geek-alert radar triggered at the mistake. Kermit is of course not a Sesame Street character, but the leader of The Muppets. It was an innocent enough mistake, even an understandable one. But it was compounded by the fact that I knew a little about the campaign being referenced, which was in fact not aimed at children, but their parents.
The consultant immediately dropped a couple of notches on my internal credibility monitor.
In fact during the day the same consultant made a few pop-culture references, and I could tell that they didn’t really understand the context of what they were saying.
This got me thinking about my own presentations. I’m a self confessed geek, I even have a T-shirt declaring the fact, so I have a tendency to pepper my conversations with pop-culture references. The same applies to a lot of presentations I do, more so in public conferences than during internal meetings. But, I always make sure those references are related to things I know about; I’d never make an on-line gaming or baseball reference as I have no interest, or reference, for either.
If you do make some sort of external reference when presenting to an audience, then make sure it’s factually correct and applies in context, because if you don’t there is bound to be someone in the audience who will spot your error. And that error will undermine everything else you say.
The same applies to the content you produce and deliver to your audience online. The best content is that which engages the audience and provides value. To deliver that sort of value we often produce content that puts our products or services in the context of the customer’s story and experience. We talk about, and reference, their industry, their process, their culture. If we get any part of that wrong, the customer will notice and it will undermine everything else we claim about our products.
Before you put out any sort of content that makes external references make sure you know your Muppets!
Yesterday, while working on my notes for an upcoming webinar on content strategy, I kept using the phrase that the content we wanted to produce was “customer facing.”
That seems fair enough, right? We produce content that we want our customers to find, so it should be facing them.
Later in the evening the phrase “customer facing” kept running around my mind. There was something wrong with it.
Then I realized that referring to our content as “customer facing” is just another way of reinforcing the traditional inside-out broadcast model.
Here’s some content we think you need, but now we’re being clever and modern by putting it somewhere you can find it by using social media, SEO, and good stuff like that.
The “customer facing” channels may be new, but the thought behind the content is the same. This is us telling you something.
So what to do about it?
We need to turn things around.
Instead of being “customer facing,” our content should be CUSTOMER DRIVEN.
Content needs should come from the outside in.
For instance as a car buyer, I’d like to be delivered content that seamlessly, through my ownership, helps me configure, purchase, operate, maintain, and then sell the car. Perhaps along the way helping me socialize (on line, or face-to-face) with other owners of the same model.
Are you listening to what your customers need across every stage of their ownership of your product?
Which way is your content facing?
“Beer is Content” – I saw that quote pop up on my Twitter stream a while back (apologies that I’ve forgotten who exactly posted it), and it made me smile. While it seemed like a cute saying, I couldn’t figure out any relevant context, except maybe as a t-shirt slogan.
Until yesterday morning at Dallas Fort-Worth airport. As I was walking from the nearest Starbucks back to my gate I passed the usual line up of airport eateries including representative samples from various chains. As it was mid-morning most were quiet and the various hosts and hostesses were leaning against the doors looking suitably bored.
All except the host from the branch of TGI Friday’s. He had stepped out into the flow of passengers walking by and was politely trying to engage a few in conversation. As I got closer I saw him zero in on a group of about five guys in their mid-twenties.
“Hey are you guys hungry?” he asked, “Maybe in need of a cold beer?”
They stopped. He had very quickly engaged his potential customers by offering them a solution to their immediate need. Once he had their attention he started to talk to them about various items on the menu.
He was multichannel publishing the content he had to hand. Content that had been originally developed for print was now being used as audio. He was supplementing it by adding a few value statements and pointing out photos of particular items – adding a little graphical content to the mix.
Once he got to the Bacon Burger, he had his new customers hooked, and happily showed them into the restaurant and to a waiting table.
Watching all this it suddenly struck me that in this instance the food and drink, how they were presented, looked, and the promise of how they could solve an immediate need, were as much a part of the content marketing mix as the words on the menu.
Maybe in this case “Beer is content” … and the bacon too.
Do you consider the products you make, or the services you offer, as part of the content mix? How is product design integrated into your Content Strategy (if at all)?
If you’ll pardon the pun – it’s all food for thought.
The on-line world is full of “it’s the end of one year, and I’ll make sure next year is better and different” blog posts. And this is another one – but one that marks a real turning point for both this blog and for me professionally.
The two events being closely related.
On a professional level 2013 will see me joining Caterpillar Inc. as their Content Marketing Manager, leading the team to develop and implement an enterprise-wide Content Marketing Strategy for one of the World’s Top 100 brands. – An amazing opportunity to put into practice many of the ideas, concepts, and methodologies I’ve written and spoken about over the last few years.
The start of a new phase in my career seemed like the perfect opportunity to relaunch this website too. So its been moved over to a new platform, given a new look, and the associated Facebook and Twitter feeds rebranded to consolidate “The Content Pool” brand.
Throughout 2013 I’ll be using this blog as a place to capture notes and observations around what it takes to develop a content marketing strategy for a major corporation. So I hope you will join me on a regular basis as I continue my “adventures in content.”
Have a happy and successful New Year.
Earlier today I was alerted to this video from Carlton Books giving what they term a “Sneaky Peek” at their upcoming book celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Beatles’ first hit record.
As both a Beatles fan and scholar, I knew that this great looking book was destined to join my Fab Four research library (as I’m working on an idea for another Beatles related book proposal).
Then I started thinking about this video from a Publishing and Content Strategy perspective.
Anyone whose heard me speak on digital publishing will know I often repeat the phrase that “pixels and print are not mutually exclusive.” In other words it isn’t an either/or decision between digital and traditional print publishing, in most cases a book can exist equally in both and often help each other. – Which is definitely the case with my own Beatles book where Kindle sales have driven increases in print sales.
However there are some things that each medium does better than the other, and I strongly believe that print will flourish for publishers who figure out how and why print is special. In my view there is one advantage that print has over digital – reading a printed book is a tactile experience that engages the senses of feel and smell as well as sight.
A book like the one in the video above could not be done on a digital platform. Yes the written word and the photos could be reproduced, maybe even the video from the DVD and the sounds included in a multi-media enhanced eBook – But the way it is packaged and presented is as a interactive tactile experience, and that’s what will make it special. You can only do that in print.
The packaging of the book is also a great example of re-purposing existing content to be consumed and experienced new ways. Instead of a photograph of a concert poster or ticket, why not recreate them? Move interaction with the content from a passive one to an interactive one.
As well as the book itself and its refreshing content packaging, there is also the smart way that the content, and the idea of the book, is being promoted via the use of other media such as video and social networks.
Smart move Carlton Books – you’ve got my $$ already – and I just helped you spread awareness a little further.
Book design guru Chip Kidd discusses how designing books is all about using visual design to convey the story contained within. He also makes some great observations about eBooks.
“Much is to be gained by eBooks: ease, convenience, portability. But something is definitely lost: tradition, a sensual experience, the comfort of thingy-ness — a little bit of humanity.” (Chip Kidd)
It is the best of times, it is the worst of times*. Or at least that’s the impression about the state of the content development industry that came across during two different publishing conferences I have attended in the last few weeks. Hosted in two cities that couldn’t have been more diverse, Palm Springs, CA and Austin, TX, the conferences were opposite reflections of their locations.
Palm Springs CA can perhaps be summed up by the fact that the city’s greatest attraction appears to be an aging vaudeville theater that boasts that it is home to the World’s oldest chorus line! This, the city not the theater chorus line, was the venue for the 2012 Intelligent Content Conference (ICC12), a vibrant well programmed exchange of ideas that drew attendees from various aspects of the enterprise content development world, especially from service information, business process, and marketing; along with new technology practitioners, leading consultants, and content strategists. This group understood that the real value of the new publishing model was in the content itself (hence the title of the conference.)
The underlying feeling coming away from this conference was that the attendees thought that this was indeed the “best of times” to be in content development. The biggest revolution in content development and delivery since the invention of the printing press is opening up an incalculable number of opportunities to redefine both the business model, and the way we tell our stories and interact with those who consume them.
Austin, TX on the opening day of the annual SXSW Interactive conference gives off that same vibe of excitement and opportunity as leading thinkers, futurists, innovators, and entrepreneurs descend on the Texas capital to discuss the future of the web. Part of this year’s opening day events included a one-day mini-conference based on O’Reilly’s Tools of Change (TOC) annual publishing industry get together in New York. As expected the majority of attendees where from the worlds of traditional book and magazine publishing. The contrast between this crowd and the attendees at Intelligent Content, and the larger SXSW crowd, couldn’t have been more marked. The underlying vibe that I picked up at the TOC day was one of confusion, and even panic.
The first speaker, mobile designer Josh Clark, provided one of the best summaries on how to approach the new publishing paradigm when he said that “Your product is called content, everything else is a container.” He also went on to say that “Mobile isn’t about Apps. An App isn’t a strategy.” Yet nearly every other speaker, and question from the audience, ignored this great advice. The focus of most conversations was firmly on the delivery process and medium, not about the thing actually being delivered, the content. And during the sessions I was at I never heard a single word about how to add value to the content by making it intelligent
My feeling was that most of the TOC audience this is “the worst of times,” as things are changing too fast to understand, and the traditional business model no longer works.
And that’s where I believe the disconnect between these two groups originates – with the business model.
In the corporate world the development of content is a key part of any business process (In fact in THE CONTENT POOL book I put forward that it is THE key component), and that while it may not always be recognized as such, it is generally developed irrespective of the delivery platform. Yes particular platforms may be specified, but they are more a matter of convenience and familiarity than an integral part of the company’s overall business model. The value to the organization is implicitly in the content, not the delivery model.
In traditional publishing, no matter what lip service is paid to content, it is the delivery mechanism that provides the value. The business model of traditional publishing is built around the infrastructure and process to move pieces of paper from the printer, to the warehouse, to the retail outlet, and eventually into your hands as a consumer. It is only you, as a consumer, who then derives any value from what was on that paper – the content.
While the corporate world sees new delivery models as an opportunity to provide more and more intelligent content, traditional publishing sees it as a disruptive event to a centuries old infrastructure.
The best of times; the worst of times.
* With apologies to Charles Dickens for the paraphrasing. – “A Tale of Two Cities” was originally published concurrently in two separate formats – In the weekly magazine All Year Round without illustrations , and in collected monthly installments with illustrations by regular Dickens artist Halbot Browne (from which the illustration at the top of this post is taken.) Dickens was a master of realizing the value of his content over format often publishing new works in various formats and platforms to reach the widest possible audience, before eventually publishing the full work as a novel.
If he were around today, I’m sure he would be one of the pioneers of digital publishing.
I’m looking forward to the Intelligent Content Conference in Palm Springs next week for several reasons.
And top of that list is the fact that the conference will be the location for the official launch for my latest book, THE CONTENT POOL, which in many ways is based on this blog. (Cover above.)
Today Scott Abel posted an interview with me abut the book, and the ICC12 launch, at his Content Wrangler site.
I mention in the interview that we will be publishing a special limited edition of THE CONTENT POOL for conference attendees. The ICC12 Edition will be limited to just 100 copies and will include an exclusive chapter linked to the panel on “Making a Business Case for Innovation” which I will be participating in at the conference.
If you are heading to Palm Springs next week for ICC12 I look forward to seeing you.
If you can’t make the conference the standard edition of THE CONTENT POOL is available for pre-order.