Creating truly shareable content for a brand that will hit all the right spots at the right moment is a tough gig in a world where everyone is vying for our attention.
But as the stakes in the attention economy continue to grow, with gaming and the metaverse just waiting in the wings to pull us all in, there are some basic rules worth considering to make sure your content gets seen and heard.
So we asked Louise Sheeran, Content Director at The Frameworks, to give us her insights into how brands can be seen and heard with the content they produce…
Go viral. Trend. Be of the moment. The pressure is on brands to capture the zeitgeist and create a conversation that’s relevant, reactive and, most importantly, shareable.
This is not so much the digital age as the age of engagement.
Whether splashed across a billboard or tucked into their Instagram feed, people are constantly being bombarded with brand messages.
It can be hard to cut through the noise. Covid-19 dialled up that noise further as it intensified our social media habits and created a captive – bored and anxious – audience.
But as companies flocked online, vying for consumers’ attention got even harder.
It’s a misconception that the problem is frequency. For many brands it’s not necessarily how much, but what they’re saying.
Audiences today are more sensitive to what’s right, what’s wrong and what’s plain ridiculous. And on social media they can – and will – react and take you down, fast.
While controversy guarantees cut-through, getting your brand cancelled is rarely a steppingstone to future success.
On the other hand, consumers are getting tired of the same clichéd messages and of brands piggybacking the latest hot topic to appear relevant, authentic and worthy.
Deep down they just want to know: how is this useful to me?
So what can brands do to ensure their content stands out and captures attention for all the right reasons?
Keep it watertight!
Brands of all stripes, from smoothie makers to energy producers, are falling over themselves to tap into the issues du jour, from climate change to BLM, seeing it as a sure way to build awareness.
And it’s not a bad idea to take a stance. Consumers are likely to choose brands that share their values, with 33% of Brits stating that they will pay more for environmentally friendly products.
But there are risks. Any claim must be watertight. IKEA has been accused of greenwashing for its sustainability messaging; as the largest consumer of wood in the world, the fast-furniture giant has been accused of benefiting from illegal deforestation.
Even if the brand’s track record is squeaky-clean, they must demonstrate how the cause is relevant to their audience or risk falling under the radar.
Remember the Coca Cola Superbowl ad (below) from 2019? Probably not. It had a nice, inclusive message, but didn’t tell consumers what Coca Cola was actually doing to be diverse as a brand – and it wasn’t particularly memorable.
Mixed messages are one thing, but playing it safe can be counterproductive, too.
At The Frameworks, we wanted to understand why B2B marketers, in particular, confine themselves to a creative comfort zone.
Our Be Bold report revealed that lack of investment often leads to “safe” design, with a quarter of respondents allocating just 5% of their total budget to marketing.
And 96% of brand-side B2B marketers said that “pressure to deliver against our marketing challenges stands in the way of boldness and original thinking”.
An easy creative route may be cheaper and less likely to cause offence, but the path of least resistance won’t rack up likes and shares.
Shareable content pushes boundaries and avoids – or, as is often the case in meme culture, cleverly exposes – clichés.
Cut-through is more likely to happen for brands that play up their strengths. Marketers must ask themselves how their brand actually benefits consumers’ lives, and how they can build empathy with their audience.
If there are natural and authentic links with bigger-picture conversations, great. If not, find something else to say.
Once the strategy is agreed, it’s time to invest in a campaign that prioritises bold design, spanning everything from language and graphic design to digital experiences and beyond.
A bold, shareable idea is rarely plucked out of thin air. Our starting point, as content creators, is always to get a thorough understanding of a business so we can build a message that aligns closely with the brand: What’s on offer? What can they promise? Who are they speaking to? What’s the goal?
Nailing the brief demands some to-and-fro. Drilling into the brief pushes the client to really think about what they want from a campaign, reveals nuance and potential hooks, and allows us to sound out creative paths.
Sometimes the client, focused on delivering numbers, will leave gaps in the brief that could lead to a brilliant, bold idea. It’s up to us to interrogate what the client tells us and tease out brilliant insights.
Unbridled creativity should be encouraged at the beginning, but the finished product needs focus. So, we continue that interrogation as we create the content, constantly evaluating the creative process.
We ask for colleagues’ opinions. Take a step back and return with fresh eyes. Go back to the brief. Rip it up and start again. And again.
Bold, shareable content should leave the audience with no doubt about what the brand has to offer. Creatively, it must engage and excite them.
Clarity must never be compromised for the sake of jumping on a bandwagon or demonstrating how bloody clever we are.
How many brands have attempted to mimic Apple’s “Think different” tagline, churning out grammatically dubious platitudes without even considering whether it’s relevant or even useful? I barely notice them anymore.
Stay true to your brand. Interrogate the brief. Invest in great design and writing.
Prepare to stand out – and be shared.