In my experience, the number one enemy of content marketing is… more content. Every single minute, hundreds of videos are uploaded to YouTube, thousands of blog posts are published, and millions of social media accounts are updated.

In fact, Beckon, a marketing analytics firm based in the US, examined $16 billion worth of marketing spend for their Marketing Truth or Marketing Hype report, concluding, rather alarmingly, that: “19 out of 20 pieces of content get little to no engagement.”

Eek. The more content that’s created, the less effective it’s becoming. With so much competition, it’s easy to get swallowed up in the soup and never make an impact. So how can you buck the trend and produce material that your customers commend?

In my time as a BBC documentary filmmaker, I was taught to ask myself the following: How do we entertain people? How do we make our content relevant? How do we make it more engaging? How do we keep people coming back for more?

This is what I would label ‘pull’ tactics, i.e. naturally attracting audiences by creating compelling experiences.

However, upon entering the advertising world in 2005, I found that marketers were somewhat fixated with ‘pushing’ their messages: How do I explain my services? How do I tell people what I sell? What paid advertising space do I need?

Increasingly, I think brands need to stop pushing and start pulling; this is the key to creating effective content that stands a chance of cutting through.

Think Like a Publisher

If you look at the type of content your friends are sharing on social media, it usually falls into the categories of either being funny, moving, interesting or useful. Rarely, do people ever share content that lists a range of product features, or details the nuances of company structure – the boring stuff.

If you review the content you’ve published over the past 12 months, ask yourself whether it was created to be relevant and engaging, or was it simply more material that’s been pumped out to satisfy the schedule of your content calendar?

Was it engaging enough to step out of your normal circles?, i.e. the people that already follow you on social media. If not, then you definitely need to change your approach and focus on emotive content.

Marketers often talk about emotion these days, and 2,000 years ago Aristotle said it much more eloquently than I ever could:

Way back then, philosophers realised that the best way to inspire action was to influence emotions, and I’m a firm believer that storytelling should be central to your content strategy, because stories resonate on a very deep level, helping us make sense of the world we live in.

Even B2B operators should focus on publishing stories, because emotion underpins every piece of captivating communication – it applies to everyone. I often hear people say, “We don’t use emotion in our content because we’re too dry, it doesn’t suit us, we only discuss features and benefits.”

Yet, if you consider what the emotional motivators of your prospective customers are, there’s plenty you can learn in terms of creating content that appeals directly to them. Traditionally, we think of emotions as either laughing or crying but, on a day-to-day basis, people may be stressed about their job or, conversely, take pride in what they do and want to share their experiences for some form of public recognition.

These emotions are more apparent in a B2B context, powerful feelings that can be tapped into when producing your marketing messages, perhaps demonstrating how your product or service can solve a problem, making lives easier, or educational content that others will happily share to show they’re ‘in the know’.

Here’s three emotional drivers that you should start building your content around:


People often aspire to do more, and are very conscious of how they’re perceived by others. Sometimes, they simply want to be seen to live up to their own PR.

It’s the marketer’s job to transport buyers to where they want to be, instead of where they are, presenting them with an almost utopian vision of where they could be, and how that destination would help them achieve their goals.

This is called altercasting, and you need to identify the role that your audience wishes they could play, and make this more prominent throughout your content, helping them see themselves in a different way.

A Problem Shared Is a Problem Halved

The idea is to demonstrate that you have a deep understanding of the pain points your customers face, and how your business can make a meaningful difference by listening, reacting and making life better.

As marketers, we should know what our clients need, even if they haven’t figured it out for themselves yet, and some people call this the hurt and rescue principle. Fundamentally, for me, it’s about recognising that people have some form of strain and saying, “Yes, we know all about that, and we’re here to help.”

Immediately, your audience will have a connection, because they’ll appreciate the empathy and feel liberated to remove the stress, hopefully following through to buy your product or enlist your services.

Fear of Missing Out

People might have concerns such as, “What if a competitor sees this first?” or “What if a colleague recommends this first and gets the credit for it?”, and you can have a lot of fun with these emotions, providing you treat them with a lightness of touch, just as Taulia has done in this comical video:

The motivator here is wanting to do well at work, but when the main character returns to work after suffering with RSI (as a result of laborious data entry), he finds the intern has suddenly become his boss, because he’d done such a great job filling in (thanks to the automated invoicing software he used).

It’s a tongue-in-cheek take on what motivates people to succeed, while illustrating how the product can help make the working day all the more efficient – a key driver for the target market.

Do Your Homework

Ultimately, you have to put yourself in the shoes of your target market, and be clinical about how you approach their emotional drivers. When sitting down in creative sessions with clients, I ask them to take three minutes to jot down all of the possible emotional drivers that their ideal customers would find important.

Then, we take another three minutes to list all of the emotional drivers that we’d say if we were being rude about the target, i.e. maybe they’re driven by laziness or a fear of failure.

Taking this leftfield, slightly cynical viewpoint is quite revealing, because it forces you to think differently, potentially uncovering fertile ground to exploit.

This fun exercise should result in a treasure trove of ideas, which can be refined and prioritised. The best one – the one that you can actually get away with saying out loud in public – is the emotional driver you should be aiming for.

Emotion is sometimes regarded as the enemy of logic, prompting you to act on impulse rather than what’s sensible, but there’s no doubt that having an emotional hook can influence decision making in a very positive way.

Conversely, it’s worth bearing in mind that this year’s CX Trends report revealed brands underestimate the emotional impact of broken promises, so it’s imperative that you stay true to your word.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the businesses who succeed in the fast-paced Internet Age will be those that abandon facts and figures to focus on how customers think and feel. Putting emotions at the heart of your strategy will give your content the very best chance of being that one in 20 piece that grabs attention.

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