great content

Great Content Checklist

A few weeks ago, a company I had never given much thought to wiggled its way into my inbox, my social media channels and my media/RSS feeds. With all the noise in those three channels the fact that they got my attention impressed me, but not nearly as much as the content they used to get in – that bowled me over. They got to me because they created great content.

The who is Signs.com and the content in question is their “Branded in Memory” campaign.

Before we get to why we love what they did, let’s focus on what they did. Put simply; they asked 156 Americans to recreate iconic logos, drawing from memory. Why? In their words:

“The logos of global corporations like Apple, Starbucks, and Foot Locker are designed to create instant brand associations in the minds of billions who see them every day. But how accurately can we remember the features and colors of these famous symbols? To find out, we asked over 150 Americans to draw 10 famous logos from memory as accurately as they could.” 

great content

The results are both fascinating and insightful. They packaged the experience by showcasing the following for each brand:

  • All 156 drawing on a scale of accuracy
  • Shared metrics for things like the percent of drawings that are nearly accurate and design elements specific to that brand
  • The historical evolution of the real logo
  • A design concept showing what it would look like if each brand used the customer-drawn logos.

So many of my marketing friends love this content, but, from the standpoint of content marketing strategy, what is it that makes it so great?

The eight categories of great content

If you talk to a dozen different content marketers about what makes a piece of content great, you will probably get a dozen different answers. With that said, you could probably take those 12 answers and distill them down to eight categories.

Great content is _________

  1. Strategic: All content should be well thought out and adhere to your strategic content marketing plan. Of course, that assumes you have a content plan. If you don’t, there’s no reason to feel bad – according to Content Marketing Institute’s 2018 Content Marketing Benchmarks Budgets and Trends report, while 92% of B2B companies report using content marketing to some degree, only 37% have a documented strategy. So, it comes as no surprise that only 24% of survey respondents report that their content marketing program is “extremely successful” or “very successful.”
    • The take away: most marketers are using content marketing, but only a small portion are seeing runaway success – I suspect that the majority of those who are successful have a strategic plan!
    • Did Signs.com hit the “strategic” mark? Yes, I believe so. While it’s impossible to know what their strategic content plan looks like, I suspect a great deal of thought has gone into understanding goals, audience, content formats, proper medium, SEO and more.
  2. Helpful/Useful: In his book, YouTility, Jay Baer says that companies should deliver content that’s so useful people will pay for it. While the concept of paying is broad, for example, a customer may pay via social share currency, or providing an email address; the result is the same, they love your content so much that they are willing to “pay.”
    • Take Away: I advise clients to put every piece of content through the “useful filter,” which is pretty simple. For every piece of content created, simply ask yourself, if I fit this customer persona, would I find this content useful? If the answer is yes, great job. If not, edits your content to make it fit.
    • Did Signs.com hit the “useful” mark? While the article may feel more entertaining than useful at first glance, remember that a big part of their audience includes marketers and designers, an audience that will appreciate and learn from clever customer insights about logos and brands.
  3. Audience-focused: I know too many marketers that fall into the trap of marketing to themselves as opposed to a specific audience persona.
    • Take Away: It’s a slippery slope to assume that everyone will like what you like, and the best content marketers always create content that will appeal directly to the audience they have targeted.
    • Did Signs.com hit the “audience” mark? Yes, absolutely. Signs.com knows that marketers and designers make printing decisions regularly, and they likely want as much of that business as they can get. By creating content that appeals directly to the marketers/designer persona, they deliver a piece of content that hits its mark.
  4. Relevant: Great content is always relevant to your business model. If you’re selling cars, but your content is about swimming pools, you are probably missing the mark. Of course, that example is oversimplified, but it provides an important example of a filter for content.
    • Take Away: Each time you prepare to create a piece of content stop and ask yourself if the content is relevant to your business model. If yes, continue. If not, rethink your plan and determine if you can massage your idea into something that is relevant.
    • Did Signs.com hit the “relevance” mark? Signs.com makes signs, which often include logos, so the content is quite relevant to their business model.
  5. Well distributed: When you build a content marketing plan one of the important things to cover is the distribution channels you’ll use to release your new content into the world. While there are no guarantees, it’s likely to include some combination of a blog, a landing page, social media, advertising, email, PR, link building, and more.
    • Take Away: Your brand and the content itself will dictate what channels of distribution make sense. I recommend looking at your audience closely first to determine where they are most likely to see and react, to your content. With those channels identified, look at the content itself and determine if that content plays well on that channel. If so, move forward and get it out there!
    • Did Signs.com hit the “distribution” mark? I am the perfect audience, and I saw their content pop up a handful of times, so they nailed distribution.
  6. Shareable: All content should be interesting enough that people it reaches are willing to share. If it’s not, why bother? It’s that simple.
    • Take Away: Work to create content interesting enough that people are willing to share it with their colleagues. There is no sure-fire way to determine if a piece of content is shareable, and for the most part, it’s a gut feeling. Just be honest with yourself when you evaluate. If your gut says no, it’s probably right.
    • Did Signs.com hit the “share” mark? Yes! This content was shared MANY times and even picked up by major marketing publications – it’s extraordinarily shareable.
  7. Actionable: Creating actionable content is one of the hardest things to do with content because you need to do it in a non-salesy manner.
    • Take Away: If you are creating content, you want to make sure that the person it reaches can see its relevance to your work, and if they have a need, they can quickly act on that need.
    • Did Signs.com hit the “actionable” mark? If you have a look at the landing page where the content is featured, it includes a “chat with us” button on the bottom of the page. They don’t try to sell me a sign right off the bat, but they do invite me into a conversation.
  8. Measurable: When you develop your content plan you (hopefully) have identified how you are going to measure both the overall program and the success of individual content.
    • Take Away: Determine top-line metrics that help your brand reach its content marketing goals (traffic increases to content sources, new business leads, etc.) and more focused goals to help determine if the individual content is doing what it should (traffic to content, likes, shares, etc.).
    • Did Signs.com hit the “actionable” mark? Um, I think so? I’m not sure what Signs.com’s goals were, but I think they’re likely pretty happy with this program’s success.

As you can see, content marketing is not easy. But, when it’s done well it looks easy. Such is the case with the “Branded in Memory” campaign. If you’re just getting started with content marketing this can be overwhelming, so know you have some great resources at your fingertips. For example, the content marketing institute has a plethora of great content to help you, and it’s all free. Or look to people like me, and companies like Stoltz, we live for helping people down the path to success – hit us up if you have questions!

And, last but not least, two of us here at Stoltz decided to give drawing from memory a try with the FedEx logo. We’re both proud we got the arrow (mostly) right!

Drawing by memory
SMG’s attempt at drawing the FedEx logo from memory.