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5 Content Strategies for Boring Brands

“If people aren’t talking about you, they’re not talking about you for a reason. And the reason isn’t that they dislike you. They’re not talking about you because you’re boring.” ~ Seth Godin

The formidable challenge for marketers of boring brands is that you have to present content that is remarkable and interesting even when your product—on the face of it—is not.

So the question is how should you get people to take interest in a boring brand?

The key is in distinctive presentation. Every brand has a unique story about its origin, its people and its experience. The solution is to find an authentic theme, apply creative imagination and tell your story in a way that will attract and retain people’s attention. What was widely perceived to be boring could become inspiring or at least interesting to a group of people.

Let’s face it. Boring products solve legitimate problems too. QuickBooks, toilet paper and dentures fulfill a need just as much as, if not more than, smart phones, cool music and fashionable clothes. If your brand is one that solves a problem but doesn’t easily generate excitement, here are five content strategies you can use to attract attention anyway.

Come to the Rescue

Just like good brands, good content solves problems. Boring brands have the same opportunity as everyone to share information that improves customers’ lives or helps them to do their jobs better.

Roberts and Durkee knows this. In 2008, this run-of-the-mill [type] law firm used content marketing to become the defacto consumer advocate for victims of the Chinese drywall problem that hit the US market toward the middle of the decade.

They created a website/blog called chinesedrywallproblem.com to help thousands of Florida homeowners whose homes were built with toxic drywall. The website provided pertinent information such as how to identify contaminated drywall, the toxins’ health implications, and the victims’ legal rights. This content strategy established Roberts and Durkee as the expert in Chinese drywall problems and resulted in incredible business opportunities for the firm.

To create content that solves problems, ask yourself:

  • What kinds of emergencies are happening in my community?
  • Are there particular groups in need of someone to speak up for them?
  • How can I create content that helps them resolve these problems?

Reach out to your community

If your product does not easily spark excitement, create content that show-cases your readers’ lifestyle, interests and passions instead. This is another way to generate brand appeal. Focus your content on the consumer rather than the product and encourage conversations that resonate with your community.

Procter & Gamble–the makers of Gillette razors, Heads & Shoulders shampoo, and other everyday brands—created manofthehouse.com as “the real man’s magazine,” packed with compelling advice on guy-to-guy topics such as money, careers, gadgets, parenting, and yes of course, sex.

The site specifically targets young dads and connects with them via Facebook and Twitter as well. By December 2010, manofthehouse.com attracted over half a million unique visitors per month.

To reach your community with your content, ask yourself:

  • Who do I want to attract?
  • What is their lifestyle?
  • What are their interests and preferences?
  • How can I provide a forum for them to discuss these issues in a conversational, entertaining fashion?

Do something completely unexpected

No matter what kind of product or service you offer, there’s no reason for a boring presentation. Any product can be showcased in a way that is interesting, appealing, even fascinating!

Agilent Technologies produces measurement instruments that help scientists, researchers and engineers to measure variables in chemical analysis, life sciences and electronics. Ho hum, right? On the contrary.

Going completely against type, Agilent resisted the typical dry technicalities in favor of the truly unexpected: a video puppet show. The highly engaging Agilent Puppet Chemistry is so far removed from the company’s brand image, it immediately disarms, intrigues and captures the audience.

And that audience consists of scientists and chemists who work in research and forensic labs – an audience that is relying more heavily on the internet to research instruments and platforms. This technique proved to be highly successful for Agilent, increasing traffic to their website and encouraging more prospects to click through in search of more information.

Want to go against the grain?

Brainstorm a list of adjectives that describe your company and then research their opposites. For example if your organization has a serious, demanding and lifeless culture, you could research ideas that are entertaining, relaxing and fresh. Then create a mix of content that matches those ideas and presents your company in a totally unexpected and refreshing way.

Play to your strengths

A lot of people equate content with writing. But writing (blogs, e-books, white papers, books, etc.) is just one way to create content– and it’s not for everyone. No one knows this better than Gary Vaynerchuk, founder of Wine Library TV. Gary, by his own admission, couldn’t write to save his life. So he doesn’t. He video blogs…and he does it extremely well.

His very informal yet highly energetic style, frequently described as ‘unpretentious, gonzo approach to wine appreciation’, offers a stark contrast to everyone else’s dry, conservative approach to wine culture. Most wine bloggers simply publish a written article and then wait for visitors to subscribe. Gary, on the other hand, loves the camera, is passionate about wine and comes across like a familiar dinner guest, relaxing in your living room.

To play to your own strengths, ask yourself:

  • How do you prefer to express yourself? If you enjoy being in front of the camera, try video blogging and inject your own personality into the content.  If you prefer to look people in the eye and feed off of their energy, speaking engagements or training opportunities might be your vehicle.
  • Do people easily recognize your gifts or talents? Perhaps you’ve been told that you have a ‘golden voice’ or a ‘way with words’.  Maybe they’re onto something. Explore your talents and find a complementary outlet to express them.

Encourage people to talk…about anything

Josh Bernoff, Forrester Research Analyst and co-author of Groundswell, recommends that boring brands encourage people to talk–even if it isn’t about the brand itself. By borrowing a relevant topic and encouraging conversations about it, boring brands become part of the conversation.

Social media presents the perfect opportunity to apply this “borrowed relevance,” as Bernoff calls it, because conversations are already taking place there that are not product-centric, pushy or self-promotional.

A good example is Liberty Tax, a tax service franchise (yawn)…with a Facebook audience of over 6000 people! A quick look at their Wall reveals how they use a variety of tactics to engage their customers and create a lively atmosphere. They discuss Groupon deals, hold photo contests, show appreciation to different members of the community (teachers, policemen and firefighters, etc.), and so on. They also make taxes fun (no, really!) by giving away free tax apps, and offering advice and tips on little-known tax credits, refunds, etc.

Without a doubt, distinctive presentation is the key to a boring brand’s problems. But it is not without its stresses. Breaking away from the comfort zone is risky and may open them up to criticism.  I think Barry Gibbons, former CEO of Burger King hit the nail on the head when he said: “Ho-hum. We swim in an ocean of ho-hum, and I’m going to fight it. I’m going to die fighting it.” If Burger King recognizes the importance of distinction, I think less-known brands ought to be taking notes. Don’t you?

Over to you: Are you fighting against being boring? What strategies have you employed?

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This post was first published on the Content Marketing Institute blog on March 16th, 2011

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