Joy Parks

Archive for May, 2010|Monthly archive page

Evil Corporate Communications

In content, great writing, retail, What works on May 6, 2010 at 7:29 pm

In his article for Inc. magazine, “Why Is Business Writing So Awful,” Jason Fried has stirred the hearts of hardworking, passionate and professional copywriters, content providers, corporate scribes, et al, everywhere. He’s figured out why most business writing is terrible. For anyone who has ever tried to write clearly, effectively and creatively for a corporation, the source of the problem hardly comes as a surprise.

“Unfortunately, years of language dilution by lawyers, marketers, executives, and HR departments have turned the powerful, descriptive sentence into an empty vessel optimized for buzzwords, jargon, and vapid expressions. Words are treated as filler — “stuff” that takes up space on a page. Words expand to occupy blank space in a business much as spray foam insulation fills up cracks in your house. Harsh? Maybe. True? Read around a bit, and I think you’ll agree.”

You can almost hear the sound of a thousand writers sighing. Validation is a wonderful thing.

Fortunately, he also notes there are some companies that are communicating brilliantly and originally, but you’ll have to read the article to find out which ones.

One of my personal favorites? Trader Joe’s — informative, witty retail writing that treats customers like smart grown-ups. No wonder the small gourmet food chain has a cult-like following.

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Branded content now commands 32% of marketing communications budgets

In business development, content, content communities, content strategy on May 4, 2010 at 9:11 pm

The Custom Content Council, working with ContentWise, today released their 10th annual industry study “Characteristics Study: A Look at the Volume and Type of Content Marketing in America for 2010.” And the future couldn’t be brighter. Despite a recession and reduced ad spending in traditional paid media, U.S. spending on the production and distribution of branded content has increased to $47.2 billion. The large bump, the details of which are available only to Council members, is attributed to the inclusion of electronic and other forms of content marketing for the first time this year.

Highest proportion of spending on branded content ever
According to the Council’s news release, the most common forms of branded content (also known as custom content) are “website updates of articles, blog posts and e-newsletters, while the least common are mobile and e-zines, such as flipbooks and interactive PDFs.” And while mobile content may not be widely used right now, the study notes “it does rank as the medium that most marketers believe they are likely to add or invest in next year.” Even more optimistic is the study’s findings on the proportion of marcom spending on branded content—a whopping 32% of overall budget, the highest percentage of spending dedicated to branded content in the study’s 10 year history.

For both companies looking to benefit from their own content marketing program and the content strategists and creators who already know the value of branded content, the news doesn’t get any better than this.

Branded Content: The New Old Thing

In content, What works on May 1, 2010 at 9:06 am

In 1921, the Washburn Crosby Company, which would later become part of General Mills, offered women a chance to win a flour bag-shaped pincushion for correctly completing a word puzzle available in their bags of flour. Along with the contest responses came a tidal wave of questions about food, cooking and entertaining. The time was right—the American middle class no longer had servants to depend on and the lady of the house needed to strap on an apron and get busy. From these questions, the marketing persona of Betty Crocker was born. Created by home economist and business woman Marjorie Child Husted, with a surname in honor of a recently retired Washburn Crosby director and a first name chosen for its happy, all-American sound, Betty Crocker became the American homemaker’s new best friend, dispensing advice through newspaper columns, a long running radio show and eventually television. The persona was brought to life in 1949, by Adelaide Hawley Cummings, an actress who hosted the General Foods branded entertainment ventures and did walk-on commercials on the George Burns and Gracie Allen Show. At one point, she was believed to be the most recognizable woman in America, bested only by Eleanor Roosevelt. The campaign branched out into cookbooks and other products, many of which are still available today. The visual of Betty Crocker changed eight times between 1936 and 1986, reflecting changes in how American women viewed themselves and the most recent version continues to peer at us from ads, product packaging and an aesthetically pleasing and information-packed http://www.bettycrocker.com/.

The creation of Betty Crocker also inspired other early companies to recognize the value of what we now call branded content; what they viewed as a means of reaching and connecting with customers, and providing information of value to develop loyalty. In the 1920s, women’s editorial departments sprung up in early ad agencies to give credible voices to personas like Libby’s Mary Hale Martin and Odorono’s Ruth Miller. The Lux Soap Company had two spokes-characters; Marjorie Mills for soap flakes and the chatty Dorothy Dix for toilet soap. The advice, humor and information provided by these characters and others laid a strong foundation for the value of branded content that we are only now rediscovering.

General Foods build an empire on branded content nearly 90 years ago. Just imagine what you can do with it now.