Storytelling

How the Holiday Calendar Crushes Good Content

April Fools’ Day fell on a Sunday this year, which meant it was easier than usual to miss all of the puns and parodies from brands. But make no mistake, they were out in full force. Head & Shoulders unveiled Knees & Toes bodywash. Warby Parker and Arby’s hooked up for some weird collaboration called WArby’s. And Netflix acquired the rights to the soul of Seth Rogen.

Some of these spoofs were good. Some were bad. Most of it blurred together, which is what you’d expect when a bunch of copywriters try to be clever for the sake of being clever. But there’s a bigger problem at play here: These brands are spending resources to make an impact, but they all sound the same.

That sameness was most evident in the coverage of the April Fools’ content. Not only did industry pubs like Adweek post roundups, but so did The Washington Post, CNBC, and Teen Vogue. These articles are interchangeable, low-hanging clickbait that loses its relevance after 48 hours. We’ve hit a point where the coverage is more about the aggregate output of all April Fools’ content than the effort of individual companies.

Strategic differentiation is a big theme for brands in 2018. Simply being helpful or funny isn’t enough anymore. Audiences wade through so much content on a daily basis that brands have to put extreme thought into standing out. And that applies to activation just as much as it does to content creation.

The film industry has been aware of this issue for years. Studios constantly jostle for position and change release dates to make sure their movies don’t have to compete against similar movies or unbeatable blockbusters. Brands are thinking backwards, though, intentionally lumping themselves together based on the calendar. If they don’t have breakthrough content that destroys the competition, there’s almost no point.

Take Logitech’s fake Business Speak Detection product video that earned a spot on the major roundups. It’s one of the best examples of April Fools’ content I came across, with some legitimate funny lines and a concept that ties back to the product. But it gets buried by lesser examples. (Think of it this way: What’s the benefit of paying millions in ransom to run a Super Bowl commercial that’s just above average?) Logitech could’ve waited a month or two, pushed out the same clip, and owned the spotlight.

Years ago, we ran The Content Strategist this way, squeezing into conversations where we didn’t necessarily have to be. We ran some similar roundups that performed reasonably well and are backed by sound SEO tactics. The pieces aren’t bad—and we weren’t dealing with as much competition at the time—but we just came to the conclusion that the people who would read these articles probably aren’t the same ones who are going to sign contracts with us. So we stopped.

By avoiding the typical event calendar, we sacrificed some superficial traffic increase for a more meaningful relationship with our audience. The decision was liberating and has also helped us focus more on telling better stories. Unless you’re reporting news or really putting a fresh spin on current events, I’d recommend at least reconsidering how your content maps to the calendar. Because July 4th, Black Friday, and Christmas will get here soon enough, and chasing those clicks is only going to become more of a fool’s errand.

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