Content Wasted, Or Worse

The other day, I ran into a headline that really interested me. In a click, I could see that it was sponsored content, but I still wanted to see what the post had to say. So I dutifully filled in the lead-gen boxes with personal information, and in exchange I was told I could download the content.

When the download arrived, it not only didn't address the subject promised, but was in fact just a promotional offer from the sponsor.  It was classic bait and switch.

Since then, the company has used my contact information to bombard me with offers to meet and explain what the headline had promised.  The most amusing was an offer to buy lunch for my entire agency, even though they have no idea where I work or that in fact I am not a creative or media agency, but a PR guy — and  that I write this column.

It would not take a lot of guessing to deduce what I think about that company in light of its deceptive lead-gen package.  They not only wasted my time, they didn't even bother to do the minimal search work it would have taken to eliminate me as a potential customer.  I am not that hard to find.



In a similar vein, I read a sponsored post from another company just this morning — and by the time I got to the end, I had NO idea what the company does or what its unique selling benefit might be.

The only difference between the two examples was that in the first case I became a wrongly targeted prospect; in the other, I just wasted a little more of my time.

We live in a world where content (and data) are the new holy grails of marketing. But if you misuse them, you are doing more harm than good. 

I will forever hate the company that link-baited me into giving up my contact info, while I just kinda feel sorry for the second one, since they wasted a considerable amount of creative energy and money on an effort that, at least with me, fell flat as a pancake.

I am sure folks at the first company are patting themselves on the back that their "content" created so may leads. And, what the hell, just because most of those leads haven't led to a sale, the product/service is so expensive the company will not mind pissing off a hundred people to make a single sale. Meanwhile, they have created no end of ill will. Hope it was worth it.

There is really no excuse for the second sponsored content (published in a prominent publication) to have been so worthless. It's clear that whoever wrote it (probably not the CEO under whose byline it appears) got so enamored with parsing jargon trying to sound au courant that he/she forgot the primary mission of any piece of writing is to communicate. Clearly nobody read the final copy and said, "You know, this really doesn't explain who we are and what we do."

I see a lot of these kinds of mistakes in business promotional copy, especially on websites: many words, lots of posturing and repeating the obvious without telling readers what you want them to know about you.

Since content is now a cornerstone of marketing, make sure it delivers the message you want clearly and succinctly.  Stop trying to be cute — and actually communicate.

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