Living by the Content Rules: Have Some Fun

One of the key messages of Content Rules is that creating content as a cornerstone of your marketing offers your organization an enormous and unprecedented opportunity. Among them:

To engage directly with customers (or would-be customers)

To communicate with personality, empathy and real emotion

To create value

• And also: To have a little fun

It’s tempting to dismiss that last point, maybe. Who cares if your content is fun? Does fun make the cash register ring? And, anyway, what if you’re a B2B company selling dead-serious stuff? Won’t it undermine your credibility, marginalize your message, and disrespect your products if you don’t approach your marketing with solemn gravity?

In business, it’s tempting (and easier) to use the same boring words everyone else uses. But you’ll be far more approachable (and a whole lot more engaging) if you lighten up a little.

Approaching your content with a sense of fun and personality doesn’t mean you don’t sell something dead-serious, or even what some might consider boring. Consider Eloqua, a company based in Vienna, Virginia, that makes marketing software.

Eloqua created The Conversation as an interactive sales tool for companies that want to make their online marketing more effective. This week, during a meeting with the Boston marketing team, I noticed the 2009 Groundswell award the company won for The Conversation’s humorous, smart, engaging approach.

Similarly, this morning Hubspot released the first episode of its animated (cartoon) Web series, The Adventures of Captain Inbound, in which marketing superhero Captain Inbound defeats the Sultan of Spam. (And saves the day. Of course.) I particularly liked the cameo of David Meerman Scott‘s “Great Oz”-style talking head. His counter-terrorism advice to combat the Sultan? “Create exceptional content that people will want to share, and point the world to your virtual doorstep.”

The takeaway for businesses is this: Creating content alone isn’t enough. The key is to create exceptional content that sets you apart from the crowd, drives viral sharing, and enhances your company’s profile and personality. Which, by the way, includes creating the unexpected, the unfamiliar, and occasionally the oddball and fun (or perhaps even the animated cartoon series!)

What great content ideas have you seen? We’d love to highlight other companies who live by the Content Rules.

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13 Responses to “Living by the Content Rules: Have Some Fun”

  1. Marjorie Clayman Says:

    Interesting point regarding the “fun” part. Sometimes just a hint of fun, even if it's a bit of word play that the “clever” folks will get, is enough to be memorable. However, if, let's say, you're trying to market something related to a very serious medical disorder, fun could fall flat, result in misinterpretations, or even come off as a sign of disrespect. It's a delicate dance. A lot to ponder.

  2. annhandley Says:

    Hi Marjorie: Quite right. To clarify my point, I don’t think ALL your content should be hilarious and amusing… but I do think it’s good to surprise your audience once in a while, and do something unexpected. And yes, fun. In a survey of more than 5,000 businesses this past spring that MarketingProfs conducted (in connected with Junta42, “producing engaging content” was the top challenge they identified for their content marketing programs. So it seems to me that rethinking what's really “engaging” might be a first step. And “fun” comes under that category, for me.

    But clearly, as with anything, it’s important to understand your identity and your audience. It’s great to take some measure of risk, but be sure you remain consistent with who you are.

  3. Tyson Goodridge Says:

    Like @hubspot's ad- is that @mvolpe or Karen Rubin? nice voices…
    I think Dharmesh should be next voice…

  4. annhandley Says:

    I don't know if Mike or Karen participated — but Rebecca Corliss did (although I barely recognized her!) ; )

  5. C.C. Chapman Says:

    I find it interesting that you called it an “ad” since I see this as something very different than what I think of as ads.

    Yes, of course this advertises their business and what they are about, but calling it an ad just seems to simplify the genius behind it in my opinion. What made you call it that? Just curious.

  6. Tyson Goodridge Says:

    Yes, it definitey wasnt an ad- was just up late, not making sense of the world- on a full nights sleep, i would have called it, well, good content!

  7. Alexandra Fisher Says:

    I like to think of making content “enjoyable”. “Enjoyable” covers a large range of positive attributes, including “funny”. Most business-oriented communications (online or off) are not enjoyable–they don't challenge you to think, let alone tickle your pleasure centers. Besides humour, other ways to make online content enjoyable are to make it:

    * Emotional
    * Beautiful
    * Surprising
    * Insightful

    Would someone who knows nothing about your business “enjoy” your website? How about your annual report? Kick it up a notch and see what happens!

  8. C.C. Chapman Says:

    Well said and I think I might add a new “E” to a slide I often use that says you must Entertain or Educate people with your content and if you can do both then you are doing extra well!

    ENJOYING something is a powerful emotion for sure. Thanks for sharing it.

  9. annhandley Says:

    I like that, too: “Enjoyable” is a nice term. Thanks, Alexandra!

  10. The greatest online marketing campaign ever… « Nomad Marketer @ IQPC Says:

    […] But in the age of content marketing if you go by these basic rules or these better ones (published by Ann Hadley here): […]

  11. K’s Top 5 for the Week « The Agile B2B Copywriter Blog Says:

    […] Living by the Content Rules: Have Some Fun by Ann Handley (@MarketingProfs) […]

  12. Geoff Zimpfer Says:

    Hi Ann,

    Just pre-ordered the book – can't wait! Been a fan of yours at Marketing Prof's for sometime and your webinars rock. That said, would like to interview you for series on how biz can effectively leverage/integrate webinars. You'll be in good company for this series with others like Mari Smith, Michael Port, John Jantsch.

    I can also help your book get exposure as Partner Manager at Infusionsoft.

    Look forward to your reply.

    Geoff Zimpfer

  13. Ricardo Bueno Says:

    You gotta have at least a “little” fun with it. People connect with you that way. If you’re just a marketer hiding behind a logo and are too stiff to break a smile, it’s just not gonna work.