Blog | 13 December 2013

Content marketing for Christmas? Bah, Humbug!

It’s that time of year again. A card arrives from someone you don’t know.  Woolly jumpers develop dangerous levels of irony.  Left-wing commentators will write their annual article on ‘why having nice things is bad’. Somewhere in the midst of this most of us will celebrate a festival known as Christmas.

Scrooge and Bob Cratchit by John Leech

Christmas over the ages has been, quite literally, a moveable feast. From its earliest references in the fourth century as a Christian festival on 25th December to its continuing celebration on 6th Jan as practised by those in the Orthodox churches of Eastern Europe. It was less important in the Middle Ages than the Epiphany and it was banned in 1647 by Oliver Cromwell’s government.

Content for Christmas?  Bah, humbug!

So why, and how, is this related to content? One word oft associated with Christmas detractors is the word humbug, made popular by Mr Scrooge, in the context that he saw Christmas as a fraud.

Humbug, according to the dictionary, means ‘something intended to delude or deceive’ and ‘something devoid of sense or meaning’.

Now it doesn’t take a massive leap to see how that might apply to the current view of most advertising and marketing.  If only I’d realised how much better my life would be with a power drill and how much more my wife and children would love me for it. Ladies, if your hair doesn’t bounce around like a hungry Labrador then you might as well call it a day.

So the rise of content – its value, engagement and the integrity it brings to the table – has perhaps been inevitable. What is also inevitable is that suddenly everyone can ‘do’ content. No you can’t. Or, at least, not very well.  A child with a paint set and paper may grace the walls of their school with a  delightful creation but few people are going to put it on the cover of a magazine and pay for it (although the child’s parents will treasure it).

Creating content that has direct monetary value and indirect brand value takes training, practice, skills, learned and inherent. It also takes time.

How not to do content marketing this Christmas

So before we rush to create some ‘content’ for our brand perhaps consider my five, slightly cynical tips on how not to do content marketing this festive season.

Don’t write for yourself
Think about your audience. Who are they? What is their reading age? What is the purpose of the content? Is it to sell or inform? This has an impact of the language, structure and vocabulary you need to use.

Don’t assume you have permission.
You might think it’s a great idea to make a video on washing your Christmas stocking for your washing powder client but the consumer probably doesn’t share your passion. Think about the brand and what it can do or represent. Not everything.

Don’t think of your consumer as a demographic
I can’t believe in this day and age you would do this. But just in case you do. Don’t.

Don’t forget that every story needs a hero
It’s not your brand by the way. It’s your customer. People no longer want to hear a story in which the consumer is the victim. Particularly in the time of goodwill to all men, and all that.

Don’t think channels at the start
The answer is a magazine, now what’s the question? This is wrong. Work out who you are telling your story to and what story you are telling before you decide where you want to tell it.

And this is the end of my Christmas tale.

Alex Marks
Alex Marks
Strategy Consultant

Alex supports the strategic development of River's business and acts as an experienced marketing partner for our client teams. He is a regular commentator, writer and conference speaker on a wide variety of digital,  marketing,  and content strategy issues.