Don’t be the Homer Simpson of content marketing

In a classic Simpson episode Homer gets an opportunity to design a car (called the Homer of course). His brother hires him to create a car that will appeal to the “average” American, thinking that Homer must be in tune with that broad demographic. It ends in disaster, of course. Homer adds everything he can think about to the design – like two bubble domes, three horns (“you can never find the horn when you’re mad”) that plays “La Cucaracha”, gigantic cupholders and tailfins. In addition, the engine sound is supposed to make people feel “that the world is coming to an end”.

the-homer-inline2So why do I bring this up, apart from my love of all things Simpson? Although “don’t be like Homer” is pretty good all-around advice, there is a connection between his aspirations as a car designer and a lot of the content marketing happening right now: Instead of trying to create content that is specific, addressing real problems or opportunities for the target audience, there is too much generic or broad content being produced.

One aspect of this is the enormous amount of content being produced, another is the quality of each piece of content. For a great take on both take a look at Doug Kessler’s Crap presentation – more relevant than ever. But it is the latter I find more interesting, and where I see the connection with Homer’s failed car design clearly. There are a lot of blog posts out there that don’t contain much value, a lot of infographics that aren’t that informative, a lot of videos that we don’t want to watch and so on. And the reason for this is not that they don’t address interesting topics – it is because they do so in a very bland, one-size-fits-all kind of way. Just like Homer the people behind this content has tried to pile everything in there, in this case talking to everyone at once, rather than focusing on a specific target group and pinpointing their needs.

Recently Tony Zambito wrote an interesting piece, asking “Is your team executing content marketing or pitching content?”. In it he lists several danger points, like marketing teams using the concept of content marketing to do what they always have done – pushing product-centric, supplier-centric etc content. If you don’t prioritize your target audience and actually research their challenges and needs you will never be able to create content that is really useful and valuable to them, and you will be pushing the content equivalent of the Homer on your potential and existing customers

The best way to make sure you create content that actually serves a purpose is to start with a content marketing strategy, that clearly outlines your goals, target audience, resources, channels and KPI’s etc. With a strategy, provided you make sure it’s implemented properly, you can avoid creating unnecessary content and achieve some real results.

And it might actually save you money too. The Homer was not just a design disaster, it was an expensive disaster that brought down the entire company. Which is another risk we run if we create inferior content – paying a lot for content that does very little, both for our target audience and for our company. “Do-oh” as Homer would put it.

 This post was originally published on LinkedIn in July, 2014

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