How can brands and retailers overcome the curse of content?

Nick Barthram, founder and strategy partner at brand consultancy Firehaus, explores how brands and retailers can avoid stagnating through their online content

This piece first appeared in the May edition of BikeBiz magazine – get your free subscription here

Everyone knows that ‘content is king’ in growing your brand and acquiring (and retaining) new customers, but most categories struggle to find the right source material.

If you’re selling fast food, or FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) products, what exactly do you put into your content? With some generous lashings of creativity some brands have done well, but most end up pushing content which is neither interesting, useful or entertaining to their chosen audience.

Not so however, in cycling, where every brand, distributor or retailer has great content: shoot some video of a great cyclist using your tyres in a great location – instant great content. But of course, it isn’t great content because as cool as it may look, it looks like every other cycling brand’s content. If you don’t stand out from your competitors, you may as well not say anything at all.

However, some brands do get it right. Love it or hate it, Specialized is fantastic at overcoming the curse of content, releasing a constant stream of videos and ideas which challenge preconceptions of a cycling brand. They might have a bigger budget than you, but it is their creativity that often shines through, not the production spend.

YT Industries, a D2C mountain bike rebel over in Germany, is consistently producing great content which is nothing like its competitors. Yes it does ‘sick riding edits’, but on top of that it has shot a 12-minute horror film, a soliloquy with Christoper Walken, and a top-notch Japanese anime.

Vittoria (a Firehaus client) is well known for its fantastic road tyres, and although its MTB tyres get great reviews, a significant number of riders around the world were not aware it even made tyres for off-road. But Vittoria knew that simply producing great videos of its tyres in action wouldn’t capture the attention of its desired audience.

So instead Vittoria decided to show off its in-depth knowledge of MTBing another way, highlighting the amusing similarities between friends on the trail and the true kings of the mountain – goats.

I’m going to take a giant leap and guess that the majority of people reading this suffer from the curse of content too. Your content probably looks great, but is it really distinctively you, rather than just cycling?

If not, try these quick tips to overcome the curse: Instead of spending all your time promoting a product, focus some of your effort on your brand – and the bits of it that make it distinctive from others. It feels counter-intuitive to downplay the release of your new widget, but marketing science is pretty clear, building the brand is how you grow.

Don’t overthink it, distinctiveness can be as much about characters and colours as it is about genuine differentiation. If you’re known for a particular look then double down on it.

Relax about your messaging and instead focus on entertaining your audience and giving them a better reason to engage with you than others. It’s better to have been seen and remembered by thousands, than understood by hundreds.

So, if you’re responsible for a cycling brand, be it retailer, brand or distributor, don’t take the easy route. Take the time to find out what your customers love about your brand, not just cycling, and do something different with it in your content. Otherwise, it’s all just wallpaper.

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