There's a content marketing misconception that needs to be resolved. It's a false belief that conventional brands can't create engaging, compelling, and popular online content.
Far too often "conservative," or "risk-averse" is misinterpreted as "boring," which leads to more reserved brands believing they can't use content marketing to attract attention online.
But this is all wrong.
Content doesn't need to push the envelope or be irreverent, emotional, shocking, or outrageous to catch attention. Many brands create powerful content that stays true to their traditional brand values while still engaging audiences, boosting their brand, and fueling their content marketing funnel. Unadventurous content can and does work.
The Risk-Averse Content Approach: Why Some Brands Can’t Push the Envelope
While creating provocative content works for some brands, there are multiple reasons why it doesn't work for every brand. Some brands have no choice but to stick to a more conventional approach to their marketing and advertising.
In highly regulated industries, like financial services and pharmaceuticals, there are strict advertising limitations. This limits the marketing messages used in branded content and puts restrictions on content creation.
Other industries and brands aren't under legal restrictions but simply use a more buttoned-up brand voice and messaging. These brands often choose to create conservative content to stay in line with their company's traditional culture and values.
Some brands may want to push the envelope regarding their content creation but find resistance in the corporate approval process. Many large corporations and Fortune 500 brands have multiple approval levels for advertising and marketing content. More cautious content is more likely to make it through this approval process, which pushes marketers to stick with what they know will be easiest to get approved.
Choosing a risk-averse approach isn't always meant to please regulators and corporate policies. Many brands stick with traditional marketing messages because that is what their audience wants to see. It's often best for brands with a traditional customer base to take a more cautious approach to marketing.
Customers who prefer a more traditional marketing approach often include other businesses. Business-to-business brands usually need to take a more conventional marketing approach, whereas consumer-facing brands can have more leeway. B2C brands tend to take more significant risks with their marketing than B2B brands.
When brands join forces to cross-promote a product or service, they must compromise on the type of marketing and advertising material they use. If one brand is more risk-averse than the other, the edgier brand will likely need to tone down its messaging for the partnership to work. This may also be a factor for third-party distributors who resell other brands' products and have promotion rules and restrictions.
Multiple factors impact a brand's ability to push the envelope when creating content. But just because a brand needs to stay somewhat in the box doesn't mean it can't create compelling, exciting content that audiences love.
How Risk-Averse Brands Can Create Compelling Content
Many cautious brands have found success in content marketing by focusing on giving audiences what they crave. Here are a few ways their approaches have worked.
Use Light-Hearted Humor: Allstate Insurance
Insurance is one of the most unadventurous industries, yet Allstate has found a way to lighten the traditionally conventional space.
With its series of "Mayhem Is Everywhere" videos, Allstate distributes content that is fun, entertaining, and tied to its core message without being over the top or offensive. It's humor that is relatable and has mass appeal to capture attention and reinforce branding.
Allstate's "Mayhem" videos work on two levels: They create memorable television ads as well as engaging online content that is relatable and fun to share.
Dive Deep Into Data: IBM
International Business Machines Corporation sounds like a relatively flat and subdued business. But IBM has found a way to make its hardware, software, and consulting company interesting.
With its Big Data and Analytics Hub, IBM shares deep data resources and reports in dozens of industries and technology sectors, from business intelligence to predictive analytics.
The Big Data Analytics hub houses blog posts, infographics, reports, podcasts, white papers, and webcasts, making it a digital destination for developers and technology officers' ideal customers.
Solve Problems & Educate: T. Rowe Price
Financial institutes have many regulations and rules for their advertising and marketing efforts, making it a challenging industry for content marketing. But that doesn't mean they can't do it and do it well.
T. Rowe Price took an educational approach to its content marketing efforts and created microsites focused on helping audiences grow their financial literacy. For the topic of college savings, it created The College Savings Chill Out website.
College Savings Chill Out speaks to parents and teens worried and learning about college tuition. The site provides a valuable educational resource filled with videos, real-life stories, and a free copy of its college tuition prep e-book, "Everybody Freaks Out."
Show the Human Side of Your Industry or Business: Exxon
Exxon is very conservative in its communication with customers and the public. They are also in an industry that can be difficult to make appealing to the masses, so it found a way to connect with audiences by showcasing a more engaging, human side of its business.
On its microsite, Be an Engineer, Exxon gives an interesting look at the people behind its brand and their roles within the organization. The site features a "Meet the Engineer" section and resources on how to become an engineer.
While Exxon's industry, products, and services are somewhat mundane, it found a way to pull the most interesting piece from its organization and put it front and center. And at a time when interest in engineering education is growing, it has found a way to create unadventurous yet culturally relevant content.
Inspire Awe: L.L. Bean
Inspiring awe doesn't necessarily mean sharing something outrageous or over the top. You can fill audiences with wonder by showing them something beautiful.
A brand that does this well is L.L. Bean. As an established brand with many traditional customers, L.L. Bean sticks to its roots by maintaining a reserved brand experience. But this risk-averse approach to content doesn't stop the company from connecting with audiences.
L.L. Bean uses beautiful images and photography from landscapes, home decor, and fashion to captivate audiences on Pinterest.
The L.L. Bean Pinterest page has more than 5 million followers, proving that you can stick to your traditional ways while remaining relevant, interesting, and engaging.
Be Extremely Helpful: Betterment
Investment company Betterment found a way to connect with its audience while adhering to strict financial industry marketing rules and regulations. They created a digital resource center that helps potential customers find answers to their investing questions.
Tools like its Retirement Saving Calculator make it fun and simple to work through traditionally complicated financial concepts.
By turning complex topics into step-by-step interactive content pieces, Betterment can provide value and engage its target audience while staying true to brand values and industry rules.
How Fractl Has Created Compelling Conservative Content
Fractl has worked with many brands to push the envelope and create emotionally driven and nontraditional content pieces that go viral. But we have also successfully created campaigns for more risk-averse, Fortune 500 brands that needed more reserved content.
eBay wanted to attract attention online without going over the top with its content. We worked with them to create content marketing campaigns that took a cautious content marketing approach while still generating over 1 million page views and 50,000 social engagements.
Our successful campaign execution drove significant growth in SEO clicks and an increase in sales for eBay Deals over the course of a year. Here is a sample of some of the more traditional campaigns we've created for eBay Deals.
100 Simple Tips From the World’s Wealthiest
For our campaign 100 Simple Tips From the World's Wealthiest, we created an in-demand compilation of more than 100 quotes from successful business people, authors, actors, and entrepreneurs. It was so well presented that it was featured on 100-plus sites, including LifeHacker.com, Entrepreneur.com, Yahoo.com, Success.fm, NBCNews.com, CEO.com, and Reuters.com.
The Selfie Phenomenon
We created a hugely successful eBay Deals campaign, The Selfie Phenomenon, which chronicled the phenomenon of selfies. It received 120-plus pickups, including Today.com, Mashable.com, HuffingtonPost.com, Hollywood.com, DailyDot.com, FastCompany.com, Celebuzz.com, CafeMom.com, SocialMediaToday.com, MSN.com, and TheChive.com.
The statistics behind public opinion on smartphone usage during various moments and situations proved an engaging topic for our Smartphone Etiquette campaign, which received 80-plus pickups and was featured on sites such as Time.com, Mashable.com, TeamCoco.com, SocialMediaToday.com, and Ragan.com.
DirecTV & Discovery Channel
When DirecTV and The Discovery Channel teamed up to create the documentary "Racing Extinction," they wanted to promote the movie and create mass awareness while remaining true to their traditional brand values. We worked with them to launch the Gone Forever: Extinction Trends Throughout History campaign that could do both.
We combined long-form, on-site content with aggressive off-site promotions that delivered incredible results for both brands in the form of 70 press mentions, including placements on Fast Company and Quartz. Our additional in-house promotions increased awareness and attracted viewers to the documentary, making it the most-watched cable documentary film premiere in more than three years.
As you can see, the idea that "conservative" content must be "boring" content is a big misconception. You don't need to create flashy, outrageous, or shocking content to catch attention.
Many traditional brands find content marketing success by sticking to their core values and traditions and creating data-rich, educational, engaging, humorous, and awe-inspiring content.
Our creative team has a unique talent for identifying ideas that are tangentially related to your service offerings yet also have the potential to engage a large audience.