What's the new C word?

There’s no doubt that the new C Word is content. At best it’s a bland catch-all to cover all sorts of communications that would otherwise be difficult to categorise.

At worst, it’s a term that promotes laziness and low standards, by encouraging the generation of large quantities of “stuff”, without any discernible idea or realistic hope that anybody will enjoy it.

In particular, we could all learn from the wise words of John le Carré, when he observed that: “The cat sat on the mat is not a story. But the cat sat on the dog’s mat is the beginnings of a story.”

Most brand content fails because it lacks narrative conflict. It has been authored by people writing for their own enjoyment, rather than with their audience in mind. The characters portrayed are typically all-too-perfect. The subjects covered are usually safe and the morals of the stories unremittingly positive. There is rarely any jeopardy, any danger of things going wrong. As a result, ordinary people rarely care about the results.

A few brands get that this isn’t enough. You need to fully understand that true storytelling requires a bit of tension. So they happily take pot-shots at your enemies, rather than seeing this as “negative marketing”. Talk about big cultural issues rather than saying these have nothing to do with your business.

And whatever you do, engage your audience.