What Content Marketers Can Learn From the Water-Delivery Business

It's All About Distillation, Purification and Rehydration

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For the last decade the marketing world has been engulfed in the world's largest (and longest) plumbing project. We've seen a collective of smart people in Silicon Valley, New York and elsewhere taking to the streets to build shiny new pipes designed to help brands deliver stuff to consumers.

It started with the rise of digital, which brought websites and microsites. Eventually we graduated to social, which saw the construction of the Myspace pipe (long abandoned), the Facebook pipe (saturated), Twitter, Pinterest and many more. And now, mobile has created a platform to provide even more ways to reach consumers. The plumbers have been busy. And, selfishly, there is a degree of job security knowing that so many of us in the content business have so many pipes to fill.

But here's the thing: We've spent so much time focused on finding and using the newest pipe available that our industry has forgotten the most important thing -- the quality of the water we're delivering. Instead, we've been on a long journey that's summed up in four simple words -- more quantity, less quality. But over time, it's always the quality of water we value, regardless of what spigot it came from.

The good news is this: Brand marketers have finally started to accept that great content, just like water, finds the most natural and efficient way to get to where it needs to go. Anyone who's seen a spring thaw on a mountainside knows that.

What this means is that it's time for us, as an industry, to put our focus back on the business we've been in all along -- good, clean water. Clients and agencies are starting to shift their focus accordingly, but the volume of opportunity is so large that it's going to take time to get there. The important question now is how do we go back to the basics of making and bottling the good stuff?

It boils down to three big things: distillation, purification and rehydration.

Distillation

Around my office, we talk a lot about a brand's "cutwater" -- the sharpest visual and verbal articulation of the brand's ideal (think "Just Do It" or "Got Milk?"). The theory here is that when you distill something down to its finest point, it becomes infinite. Once a brand has found its cutwater, you have a filter that can be used to purify every single creative decision you make. Using it will help your team move away from channel obsession and focus on how to create truly unique and authentic content.

Purification

Once you have the filter, you've got to put the water (ideas) through it to produce a salable product. To do that, you have to focus on good old-fashioned creative thinking. What is the best vehicle for my brand's message? Whom am I talking to? And how and where do they want to be spoken to?

We also need to start our creative conversations in a totally different place. For instance, start with the question, "What would people want on this medium and is it right for the brand?" instead of, "Where do we want to stick this piece of creative?" It's a change to the entire strategic and creative process. Great content (or, once again, clean water) is instantly recognizable and infinitely valuable. Once produced, people will consume it, share it, dream of it and always come back to the source for more. That is what a brand wants more than anything.

Rehydration

Thanks to all of the channel focus, today's brands are dehydrated -- and consumers can feel it. The heart of any great brand, or even the boring ones, is the content they create and the conversations they have with consumers. The pipe-building years have seen both of these things become tired, brittle and dried up. Fresh, purified content will go a long way toward fixing that, but to get the license to make the water we need to encourage a new level of enthusiasm from our brand partners. Don't just sell great ideas -- really SELL them. We have to exhort our clients to run out into a torrential downpour, take a nice warm bath or learn to swim. It's our job to make them want to plunge in and plunge deep. In other words, remind them to immerse themselves in what matters most -- the drink.

If it sounds simple, that's because it kind of is. Consider this a call to action -- grab a pump.

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