The Right Way to Balance Business and Fun in Your Content Marketing. What’s a content marketer to do? The most important thing is to be relatable and human, whether you serve a B2B or B2C audience. After all, even in B2B marketing, you’re trying to engage with the actual humans inside the business. But it is possible to be seriously helpful and somewhat playful at the same time. You either follow the guidelines to the letter to please your creative director, while failing to engage effectively with your audience, or you wow the audience but end up diluting and undermining the brand over time. You have to work with your individual art director or creative director to find a middle ground—and usually both parties will have to give a little. While it’s true that too much fun and frivolity can make a brand seem young and immature, the pendulum can easily swing too far the other way, making your brand come across as cold and overly corporate. Create playful top-of-the-funnel content that directs people to more serious content down the line, and adapt as needed. Get a weekly dose of the trends and insights you need to keep you ON top, from the strategy team at Convince & Convert.
When a brand is new and growing, they tend to be freer—and often more fun and creative—with their content. A young brand’s very survival depends upon making a splash, catching attention, and being new and distinctly different.
As a brand matures and new marketing talent is brought in, the tendency is to start looking toward the more established brands in the industry and embrace a slicker, cleaner, more consistent look and feel. Metaphorically speaking, many brands jump straight from cargo shorts and graphic tees to suits and ties, leaving the seemingly frivolous stuff behind.
Then they find themselves in a conundrum. While the professional new attitude works well at certain points of the customer journey, it often falls flat higher up in the funnel. What’s a content marketer to do? Is it possible to be both fun and serious? Or do we have to embrace one and abandon the other?
Questions like these can be especially challenging during the “teen years” of a brand, says Zach Rainey, marketing communication specialist at Japanese ad agency Nippon SP Center Co., Ltd. “They think that since the ball started rolling, it’s time to stiffen up and be an adult already. But if they’ll keep in mind how they built their audience in the first place, they might relax a bit.”
At Workfront, we’ve spent the last couple of years juggling and experimenting with the right blend of playful content—think zombies, superheroes, and the Nine Levels of Hell—and more authoritative assets that answer customer questions and pain points outright. Along the way, we discovered five key lessons any content marketing team can use to more effectively balance the fun (a.k.a. engaging, creative, edgy) and the serious (a.k.a. direct, no-nonsense, buttoned-up) for their brands.
1. Listen to the Market
What are people downloading, clicking, and responding to? Don’t forget to look at both social media and demand generation1, which requires an open line of communication with the people who run your social media marketing efforts and PR.
“My advice is to stay focused on the audience that engages the most,” both currently and in the past, says Rainey. “What content worked? What built the foundation of your audience?” Perhaps those wacky posts you released when your brand was young helped contribute to your current image in a significant way. It could be a mistake to abandon them completely.
“The most common observation of mine,” says Vivek Nair, head of marketing at Talent & Analytics India, “is when you start out your content marketing efforts, you reflect your brand’s true values (fun, helpful, etc). But as business grows, your focus shifts, and most content folks will focus on churning out quantity rather than quality that matches your values.” Instead, Nair recommends deciding on your brand persona (What do you stand for? Why do you exist?) and “producing content for your target audience and customers with an intention of helping them.”
2. Approach Content by Function
Content at the top of the funnel can be a very different animal than content at the bottom. Without a little fun or edginess, you won’t last long in the realm of old media and social media. But the closer you get to the point of sale, especially in B2B, the more corporate and authoritative you may need to become.
“Some of the tech brands I write for have been doing a mix of playful and more technical pieces,” says Michael Belfiore, New York Times technology journalist and author. “In general I would say that the more playful pieces can be a good icebreaker that can funnel people into more ‘serious’ assets.”
It’s also important to realize that, even…