What’s ‘new’ in content is ever-changing and evolving so quickly that even the best marketer has to stay on their toes. The pandemic accelerated this - so how do you keep up & stay relevant?
When I was at university studying to become a journalist, the big ‘exciting’ thing was the emergence of ‘citizen journalism’ and ‘vox pops’. Despite sounding cutting edge in lectures, this really just meant journalists getting tips, inputs and even live news coverage from the average person on the street.
As I moved my career into content marketing this changed to User Generated Content (UGC) - something I was a passionate advocate of for many years. But the pandemic sparked a rush of UGC and it’s fair to say that it's less an exciting option than a standard requirement.
It's time to take content to the next level to drive difference. But what does that look like?
You might now have started to hear talk of the “The Creator Economy.”; a ‘democratisation’ of high-quality content creation, taken away from big advertising houses to individual creators — writers, filmmakers, YouTube and TikTok stars, etc.— who are building self-sustaining, small, agile content businesses and getting big coverage without the need to lean on the media companies.
The new edge in comparison with the past is that it’s now easier than ever for these creators to monetise their craft, allowing more freedom of expression. Platforms like Substack, Fiverr, Patreon, Revue - even OnlyFans - allow people to get direct subscribers or clients for their work, managing a B2C model without needing a robust account management team.
“We are now seeing the distribution of individual creativity at an unprecedented scale. Under this new model, no single entity wields absolute control.” - Forbes, Kian Bakhtiari
When I stop to think about it, we shouldn’t be surprised that there’s a content revolution going on right now. History shows numerous periods of creative outpouring following crises. Golden ages of creativity. From the Italian Renaissance which followed the Plague, to the jazz age in the roaring 1920s. Now, with our current digital and social tools, content is taking the reins and driving forward this new golden age.
As brands strive for an ‘authentic feel’ for their content, individual creators are finding this authenticity naturally, putting their own voice into their work, helping it hit the right spot straight away. Their content is landing with the Gen-Z naturally, building fan bases and genuine communities, while big brands struggle to resonate with this audience.
How then, do you compete in this content-rich environment and cut through the noise to deliver content that relates, excites and drives conversion?:
You don't compete, you collaborate
There are some amazing individual content creators out there. Don't see them as competition, collaborate with them to create something unique and special, and if they already have a following there’s a PR and social amplification benefit to this.
The best collaborations have a purpose or clear reason to them - other than just ‘I like their stuff’. Last year shortly after the George Floyd murder, running shoe brand KOIO partnered with Young Chicago Authors on a trainer featuring an expressive poem. The proceeds of which went to charity. Not only did this give a fresh look for their product, but it was steeped in purpose.
Another collaboration that has only recently been released is ethical clothing brand Lucy & Yak collaboration with drag performer and recording artist Ginny Lemon for the release of their new ‘Zest’ line, which accents Ginny’s signature style. By featuring Ginny in their social and PR they will certainly have reached a wider audience, and by bringing their style and even catchphrase ‘Fancy a slice’ into the design they achieved a fresh look.
Mix it up
Mix things up to create something new. It’s the central thought behind all art, cooking and creativity. Mix mediums to make your content stand out.
Can your photography incorporate digital portraits? Can your video incorporate spoken word or poetry? Can you take a journalistic stance in your video interviews? Can you perhaps mix animation and live video?
Animation especially has had a real surge in the last year for obvious reasons. It's the obvious way to story tell without the needs for complex shoots, but there are still many directions in which this format can be taken to feel new. I’ve seen recent examples of blending animation with live-action that look really exciting. Crown Royale - Canadian Whiskey - did a TV ad that gave a really cool blend of the two mediums.
At Tonic, we’re always thinking of how we can weave things together to create something that feels new and fresh - and these tend to be my favourite creative ideas.
Kill the ‘what we’ve always done’ thinking
This is where individual content creators can hold an upper hand - they’re not been trapped by any formula. And for your content to compete you need to take the same mindset. What the pandemic has taught us is that there’s no one way to create content, and when necessity pushes you can make all sorts of things work.
Certainly, at Tonic, we’ve seen content production turn on its head. A suite of global videos used to involve a substantial multi-country shoot (admittedly I do miss the travel), but now we’ve proven it can be delivered by visually directing trusted in-country crews. We’ve interviewed people via Zoom, directing their responses while the camera crew in the room with them picks up the response. We’ve shipped out microphones for high-quality audio. We’ve worked with on-the-ground photographers around the world to capture brilliant shots. And we’ve taken animation on to new heights.