The poster children of the latest content marketing craze are Coke and Red Bull. That should be a warning signal in itself.

Coke and Red Bull are legal drugs, pumped with sugar and caffeine. (In some countries use of Red Bull is in fact either restricted or illegal.) So, what is the first rule for Coke and Red Bull marketers? Don’t focus on the content of the product. Focus on lifestyle content. Show images of happy, shiny, cool, sexy people having a great time and tell the customer you will too if you just buy our product. This is old school marketing brought online. It has worked in fooling consumers for decades. It’s a tried and trusted psychology-based manipulation technique.

And Coke and Red Bull are the shining example of success for content marketing? Is that what content marketing has become? Psychological manipulation and trickery?

Yesterday, I read that the Marriot hotel group has just announced that it is launching a Global Creative and Content Marketing Studio with the aim of becoming the place to go to for travel entertainment. The same day I read that “The global hotel chain agreed to pay a fine on Friday after admitting, yes, it did jam the personal Wi-Fi hotspots of guests attending a conference at one of its hotels, forcing them to pay exorbitant fees to access the hotel’s own in-house Wi-Fi network,” according to Slate magazine.

It seems that some organizations think that content on their websites can be used to cover up the content of their character. I’m not sure this approach will still work in our hyper-social, peer-connected, increasingly cynical and skeptical world. Brands have overplayed their hands for many, many years. The more loyal you are to most brands the worse they treat you.

Learning Opportunities

Humans are foolish, irrational creatures, driven by emotions more than logic. We’re easy to manipulate. A particular school of marketing has been aware of that and has exploited it to the maximum. A change in attitude and behavior from consumers is underway, though.

Like antibiotics, branding has been overused and more and more people are becoming immune. We have noticed, for example, in observing online behavior that the marketing elements of pages (banners, gushy content, etc.) are increasingly being ignored and blanked out. In fact, when test subjects do notice marketing their gut reaction is often to say “this is marketing,” and their trust in the site immediately drops.
Pumping your site full of content marketing might seem like a cool thing to do, and might even help your search engine optimization in the short term. But beware of the bloated, out-of-date, unmanageable website that emerges over time. Years ago, we dealt with an airline whose website was full of destination content. It got into financial difficulties and had to close its publishing activities and remove this content. The day after it removed the content, bookings jumped.

Less clutter, more simplicity. A telco removed 80 percent of its content and saw an 80 percent increase in sales. Think about it: all this content marketing you’re producing could actually be damaging your ability to do business.