Chuck Kent

Creativity vs. Me-too Content Creation

By: Chuck Kent | May 6, 2013 | 

Creativity in Content MarketingThere’s been a good deal of talk about content overload lately.

How all of our efforts may soon come to a non-rapturous end in the Crap-ocalypse that now represents much of content creation and sharing.

One of the best commentaries on this is the pithy – and nicely designed (don’t get me started on the sorry state of conceptual and graphic design in content marketing) – slideshow from Velocity Partners in the U.K.

Because my own livelihood depends on people recognizing the value of real creativity in content (thank you, Mark Schaefer, for tapping Creative on Call to design your latest eBook), I frequently find myself cornering other creative types to get their opinion on the current state of, and outlook for, real creative thinking in content creation.

Naturally, then, I simply had to nab Jason Konopinski, one of my favorite writers, when I saw him at Social Slam 2013.

What is the Current State of Content Creativity?

(I encourage you to take five and watch the video – there’s some interesting commentary on branding and content – forgive, please, the background noise from the conference; it was catch as catch can.)

Jason Konopinski interview from Creative on Call, Inc. on Vimeo.

Here’s the gist of what the creator of the Riffing on Writing podcast and Poetry Friday had to say.

Chuck Kent: I’d like to know what your evaluation is of the current state of creativity in social media and content.

Jason Konopinski: Creativity is a challenging concept, and it’s something I write on frequently… stringing out the best way to present my unique voice, my unique perspective, and how to translate that into client work. Let’s be honest: Marketing creativity is hard, it’s not easy, and marketers in particular tend to take the path of least resistance. We try to replicate the success of others.

An example I used recently was the comparison between the brilliantly executed Instagram ad that went out during the Super Bowl for Oreo, during the power outage, and then comparing that same kind of content three weeks later during the Oscars, and how that moment of brilliance had faded into nothing more than noise because so many other brands were trying to replicate that success.

Imitation Runs Counter to Creativity

Jason Konopinski: Marketers are a tricky lot. We really try to look at creativity and take the path of least resistance, try to replicate the success of others and how figure [that] out in terms of a formula – but that runs contrary to really what creativity is. We have to think creatively to reach our audiences in the best ways possible, and that’s gonna take a little bit of legwork, a little bit of research.

Content – the current state right now – it’s sad to say I think we’re starting to hit a saturation point. There’s lots of “me-toos” in the space, lots of derivative content, often without a whole lot of thought, a whole lot of planning to take the opportunity of that moment, with very little to show in terms of success.

The Creative Opportunity for Content Creation

Jason Konopinski: For content marketers now, the biggest opportunity for this space is working within a set of circumstances, setting your guardrails an achieving those ends. If that means increasing sales 10 percent through the publication of a whitepaper, those are the guardrails that we’re setting. But if it’s simply increasing this nebulous idea of engagement through a hastily shot photograph, that’s really not that creative at all.

Two questions to you, dear readers: What do you see as the most over-used “me-too” content approaches? What examples of uniquely creative content have caught your imagination?

About Chuck Kent

Chuck Kent is on a mission to make content marketing more creative and less “me too.” He is a brand strategist, writer and content creator, and creative director of Creative on Call, one of earliest virtual “non-agencies.” Previously a senior creative at BBDO, he writes about branding, content creation and their intersection, both on his own blog and as a contributing editor/author for Branding Magazine. He even sings about it in his weekly retort to #FollowFriday, #SocialSong Saturday.

  • Thanks for including me in this interview, creativeoncall, and for letting me blather on. 🙂 
    I’m still thinking a lot about executing creative campaigns — and, admittedly, I’ve seen myself being tempted by the “me-too” seduction.

    • jasonkonopinski I think that there needs to be a whole reconsideration of what it means to create a campaign, switching from the research/plan/ideate/execute/repeat next year model to one that recognizes thats is more of a living, breathing, ever-changing affair, affected and often redirected by many interested parties. Oh, and it would be nice if, per @ginidietrich, organizations would actually, completely integrate their marketing disciplines and employ Marketing in the Round… hmmm, that would make a great book title

      • creativeoncall A fella can dream, can’t he?

        • jasonkonopinski creativeoncall On the good days, I think we get paid to dream…

        • creativeoncall Yes. 🙂

        • jasonkonopinski creativeoncall And on my REALLY good days, I get to dream, then wrap it in verse(s) and put it to music…

  • Thanks for this, Chuck and J! I am not sure what I have to add, except my usual frustration of managing to get anything truly innovative past the powers that be. So often, innovation is stifled by having to prove that your new idea has legs. That is the source of a lot of derivative content to my eyes. But it’s Monday, I poured coffee all down myself, and I spent 3 hours talking to “customer service” for rogers, so I am rather disillusioned at the mo.

    • RebeccaTodd  I’m all for ideas that have legs… but back to my point above, the brand strategy is the real idea, and the various creative expressions of it are just that.. individual expressions.  Try to put the onus back on the powers that be to clearly articulate a compelling, differentiating, customer-serving brand strategy and then you can justify a wide range of unique creative (even if an individual idea is so unique as to seem a one-off), so long as it clearly serves the core strategy, including reflecting the brand personality and voice.
      OK, off my branding guy soapbox…

      • creativeoncall RebeccaTodd Rebecca I think you’ve hit a key element of the “me too” part of it. Rarely do execs have the cahones to be the first out of the gate with something. But then when same innovative idea really takes off, they want their teams to do it also. It’s a vicious circle, I’m afraid.

  • The key issues in content these days, in my view, are two. One is, as you described, the “me-too” approach to creativity. It results in very little actual creativity. Second, the pursuit of creativity is leading to pitifully little substance in content., as well.
    It is one thing to see a great idea and figure a way to adapt it so it helps you meet your goals. It is entirely another to see it and do it, just because you think it is creative.

    • ClayMorgan  Per your well-taken last point, while content marketers like to diss traditional marketing, the whole “Creative for creativity’s sake” thing has infiltrated content marketing, too. Add to that the fact that it seems as if few content marketers are well-grounded in basic, differentiating, personality-giving, consumer-centric brand strategy (or that organizations expect them to be)… well, add that all together, and you’ve got a recipe for another era of meaningless marketing masquerading as inspired communications.  
      Sorry… it’s dangerous to get me started on this subject…

      • creativeoncall ClayMorgan Content marketing does seem vulnerable to this sort of “but, it’s creative!” logic trap because the actual cost of production is low (Oreo’s content team notwithstanding). It’s relatively easy and low-risk to throw together an image riffing on the latest meme to drive engagement (gah! I still hate that term) that doesn’t necessarily connect back to any measurable goal.

  • In my world we would just write, publish, tweak and write some more without fear.

  • I’m not sure I see an overly used content “strategy,” but what lends to your Crap-ocalypse is the amount of content that just isn’t done well. People are ultimately lazy. We always look for the short cuts. And, the short cuts in content makes most of it crappy. The good news is, if you do it well, you really stand out.

  • Pingback: Five Steps to Create Compelling Content()

  • LOVE LOVE LOVE! Someone was listening. 🙂

  • Pingback: Content Marketing: New Trends to Watch by @michaelgerard Spin Sucks()

  • Pingback: Is Creativity Really Creative These Days? | Rock on()

  • codyerin

    love reading through your blog, I wanted to leave a little comment to support
    you and wish you a good continuation. Wishing you the best of luck for all
    your blogging efforts.

  • Ambercarl

    Hey what a brilliant post I have come across and believe me I have been searching out for this similar kind of post for past a week and hardly came across this. Thank you very much and will look for more postings from you.

  • abbibarclay

    Very interesting
    article. I would love to read the book “Start with Why”, by Simon Sinek. I
    think he has taken a great topic to deal with. Teaching leaders to inspire
    others is a good idea to bring up a civilized society. Thanks for sharing.
    Keep posting.