A Marketing Week Live Exclusive: The C Word

Tue 08 Jul 2014

A thought piece from our founder, Chris Page straight from the stage of Marketing Week Live…

"When I was a kid, I wasn’t allowed to swear indoors. Then, as I got older, certain of the ‘softer’ swear words were allowed at times of high-duress. Naughty-ish words like ‘shit’, ‘bugger’, ‘bloody’. There are certain words that I will now feel I can say in front of my Mum. But every now and then I realize that the more industrial language has to stay out of my her house, only to be used in moments of high drama whilst watching football or when someone’s nearly knocked me off my bike.

Like: the ‘C Word’.

As the owner and founder jelly and Three Blind Mice, I’ve been involved in the creative industries for over 20 years and have plenty of experience of working with brands of all shapes and sizes.

For nearly 10 years now I have helped to run jelly. What does jelly do? Put simply? We make things. Lovely things. Work that is carefully put together by all the Creators that we employ, in order for other people to sell their stuff. Those people pay us and in return they get something beautiful – it is commerce, of course, but also ‘Art’. We have a sign in our studio that says what we are: An Art Factory

For the first few years of our existence there wasn’t really a generic name for the things that jelly produced for our clients. It was just Design, Illustration and Films - of various kinds. We would do our best to take their brief and translate it in the most imaginative way possible to make something that we thought would make their Brand or Campaign work in the most effective way possible. We prided ourselves on teaming Creators and Creatives together, to get the right results.

We were happy to be beyond description, it helped us to be indefinable. Then someone, somewhere invented a word to try and describe what we did:

The other ‘C’ Word: Content.

Lets make no bones about it. I hate that word. It sounds like something thoughtless and ill-considered. Like;‘Filling’, ‘stuffing’ ‘ephemera’ ‘flotsam and jetsam’. It suggests holes and spaces that need filling without thought….

And that seems to be the problem. There are so many media channels these days that Brands feel an insatiable desire to fill, almost without thought. Most content feels like a reaction to a panic, ‘oh look, there’s a hole, we’d better fill it, Quick, put some stuff in there!’

So, I’d like to discuss jelly’s attitude to the ‘C Word’ and how we think its simple to not make the type of Content that becomes media wallpaper….

But how? It seems obvious to me that intelligent, creative, well-designed illustration, motion graphics and animation will give you stand out.

We all know that ideas are easier to share in the form of Graphics – and easier to retain. Video content get great benefits on-line, web users spend 19 hours a month watching video and written content is already everywhere, flooding into our lives. Video cuts through that - but it can’t just be a video of the Factory Floor or a Sales meeting, it needs to work harder and have imagination behind it.

Then there’s everyone’s bug-bear - Social Media: Video/Animation gets better social media results than the written word. We have already established that people learn better by seeing - but what they see has to add value and stay away from Stock Footage and droning voiceover. 

Quality and originality can be hard to come by, a crafted and bespoke visual approach can help with this. Make it bigger, brighter, richer – use multimedia, grab the eye.

You might think that ‘Strange’ and ‘Off-beat’ might be Brand-Damaging or Off-Brand but that’s what makes it cool. Captivating makes you stand out:

And then what about ROI? Return on investment is the scary part for the Marketer - that takes balls. Good Video isn’t cheap – but people tend to plonk content onto a single channel and then stare at the results from there, waiting for something to happen. Business Value happens everywhere, not just on a single channel. Patience is the key: Left to our own devices then, what would we do? We can’t leave the spaces unfilled. Your job as marketers is to scribble in the gaps, colour in the spaces so that things stand out. 

When I was a kid I would do that thing where you fill in the holes in Newspaper headlines. If I saw a D or an O with a nice white gap in the loop, then I would use whatever pen or crayon I could get my hands on to fill it with a splash of colour. I.e. Fill it with content.

When I was working on this, I discussed it with my wife. She said, ‘You’re always moaning about the word “Content”, if its so bad then why haven’t you thought of a better one? “Stuff” is no good, obviously and everything else is too brief-specific. But it’s not the word that’s really the problem – it is the crimes that are committed in its name. If we as marketers and creators were capable of a slightly more considered approach to visual assets that we put onto the media - in the names of the brands that we represent - then perhaps Content wouldn’t feel like such a dirty word.

Jelly was asked to pitch recently on a content project. All the major stakeholders were in the meeting, which was a long way away at a god-awful early hour. The brief wasn’t good… Why not? They wanted Content, of course – and lots of it. No scripts, no clear idea and no strategy… 

And then they asked us for a price. Procurement was in the room and cost was an issue, a BIG issue. Of course we couldn’t give them a cost without a script, style or even a concept, so we refused to quote.

Disaster? No. Not at all.

We resolved with the client to adopt a more measured approach and to develop the concept from scratch alongside them to achieve something, dare I say it? BETTER.

So. Let’s all do that shall we? Let’s work together to make Better Content – it can’t be that hard can it? 

But before you come to an Agency like jelly for a wonderful stand-out film or our design/illustration experience there should be a number of things that you’ve done yourselves:

SET A GOAL What do you want it to do? More sales? Just inform? More time on your site? Boosting blog traffic?

GIVE THEM SOMETHING DIFFERENT Trust me if it’s something you’ve seen already, then so have your audience.

BE PERSONAL Make it uniquely about your service or Brand.

Then ask yourself the following questions:

IS IT BORING? Honestly, you may have a list of points that you want to get across – but you need to do it in an engaging way.

IS IT POINTLESS? There are hundreds, no, thousands of hours of boring content already available on-line, why add to it?

WOULD YOU WATCH IT? Take the vanity of having produced something about yourselves out of the equation. Honestly – would you?

We all have to create Content but don’t just churn out the C Word, you’re better than that."

And you can check out our work here for some nice content...