Carbonaragate: when branded content fails

Brand ends up being outraged by editorial content produced for it. Lesson learned: never anger an Italian.

Last week, at the grocery store, I bought pancetta. Why? Because I had seen a 45-second video on Facebook about how easy it is to make carbonara pasta. True story.

Never did I think I’d hear about this video in a Guardian article this week.

If I had searched again for that video, I wouldn’t have found it. Because Barilla, the pasta brand, asked that the French site that had produced the video take it down.

Why did the site accept to take it down? Because Barilla had paid for that content. They had paid so that Demotivateur (the site) would produce video content that uses the brand’s products.

It so happens that Demotivateur had decided to reinvent an Italian classic, pasta carbonara, but as a one-pot pasta recipe. They didn’t know that reinventing Roman recipes is a big no-no, and that tradition trumps virality.

Demotivateur’s video, qualified as a “horror show”, even made front-page news in Italian daily La Repubblica!

Please, everyone, when producing branded content, get approval from the brand BEFORE publishing. You’ll end up with less trouble something be not quite right.

This week, Barilla published, on its site, the proper recipe for pasta carbonara, and everything is good again in the world. 

Creating better content, 10x better than the rest

A quick recipe for producing better content.

There is a lot of content out there. And you need to stand out. Your videos need to be found, chosen by your audience and watched.

How can you create a process that does all it can to create unique and memorable content?

Rand Fishkin over at Moz has an idea about that. He calls it “10X content”. Content that is ten times better than the rest.

In a 8-minute video, he explains what his criteria are for content that stands out (they are also listed in the accompanying article), along with a quick process to get there:

  1. Gain deep insight
  2. We have to get unique
  3. Uncover powerful methods to provide an answer
  4. Find a unique, powerful, exceptional way to present this content
  5. Expect you will have to do this 5 to 10 times before you have one hit

There are so many processes like this one, recipes that show you how you can produce better content, get views/clicks and so on. This one is not necessarily better than the others (and I’ve shared some others with you in the past), but sometimes it helps us getting thinking about how we can do our job better, how we can better serve our clients, what we can tweak in our approach producing great video content.

Sharing this, I hope, can also make you think about what type of content to produce for your product or brand, maybe get you to veer off a bit from the cruise control situation you might be in, get better at what you do.

Have a great day!

Old New Yorker articles turned into videos

Leveraging existing content in a new format: the New Yorker is doing just that for Amazon Prime.

I often mention how important it is to evaluate how you can repurpose existing content. After all, you paid for it, you published it, why not leverage it again if it is still relevant?

Now imagine if you could do that with archives dating back 91 years.

That is what the New Yorker is doing. They are turning a bunch of their articles into films. Some are documentaries, others are short stories, some fiction, even poetry and yes, some are about those famous New Yorker cartoons.


The first season consists of 10 episodes of about 30 minutes each. In all, about 50 New Yorker stories were recreated as films, executive produced by Oscar and Emmy-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney.

This is all part of Conde Nast’s venture into digital video, extending the New Yorker brand, doing something new with something old.

If you are an Amazon Prime member, go ahead and watch it today, episodes are already available. And if you’re not, there’s a 30-day free trial.

Marketers drowning under too much content

Half of surveyed senior marketers say their marketing organization has more content than they can manage.

Accenture just released a new report called “Content: The H2O of Marketing” that polled 1,078 senior marketers from 17 countries who work in 15 different business disciplines, ranging from finance to consumer packaged goods and retail.

“Content is arguably a marketer’s most vital natural resource: it fuels and sustains the marketing activities that connect businesses with customers and drive business outcomes. Content is to business what water is to life: an essential element for health and growth. ” – Accenture

But overall, the main message from this report is clear: we are generating more content than most can manage. We’ve often talked about how the consumer is flooded with content coming from left and right, well it seems marketers are themselves drowning in their own content.

Organizations need to work in making sure content is managed properly with workflows and processes. Content agency partners can also be key in making sure that quality and relevance are maintained throughout the chain because in the end, business objectives are key. Currently, only 45% reported that they are very confident that their digital content investments will achieve these business objectives, and with so much focus on the operational side of digital content management, just 16% analyze how content contributes to customer lifetime value.

We must all work together, marketers, agencies, producers in making sure that the content that is produced is relevant, that it serves a business objective, and that it is generated through a sustainable content strategy.

Take some time to read the executive summary of this Accenture report. And if you want, don’t hesitate to download the full report, it is also worth the read.

Is your content marketing stack built the right way?

Have you thought about how your content marketing stack came to be?

How is your content published?

What is the process you have to go through to get a content idea off to your audience?

It has to go through your content marketing stack.

How was your stack built? Did you start with technology, people or strategy? Guess which one is the right way to go.

You guessed right. Strategy-first is the right way to go.

Drawing your content strategy first will allow you to figure out which technology is right, which people are the most relevant contributors and which other actors need to be “aware” of your content output.

That stack is your key to getting content out in time, on brand, on target.

Content stacks are what we build with our clients. We call them “brand studios” and they make sure every stakeholder is aware of the strategy, that content capabilities are extremely flexible and that internal resources are leveraged.

Contently recently produced a video that shows you how this is the right way to do it, with the analogy of making a sandwich.


If you would like to learn more about content marketing stacks, take some time to click here to watch the video, or simply write to [email protected] and we’ll set-up a call or meeting to discuss this with you, with your brand/corporation in mind.

Publish less content, drive more revenue

The New Yorker is publishing less content, yet it drives more revenue and traffic.

Publishers have a dilemma. Should we go with a paywall and drive revenue through subscriptions or forego the paywall and drive revenue from advertisers.

Some of them are doing well in their niche with paywalls (the Wall Street Journal for example), others not so much. Some believe access should be free and focus on advertising revenue (LaPresse+ is a good example).

The New Yorker did a test last year. They took down their paywall for 5 months last year. The goal was to get as many people as possible to discover their nonfiction content, and incite them to subscribe once the paywall came back.

“Good luck with that,” pretty much everyone said.

But here’s what editor Nicholas Thompson had to say about the exercise:

“It wasn’t a massive increase in readers between July and November. There was an increase, but there wasn’t a massive increase. What’s weird is we launched the paywall, and then there was a massive increase.”

A year later, numbers are still up.

Now how is that possible?

Quality over quantity.

What they realized lately is that the stories where they put the most effort, the ones they are most proud of, are the ones driving the most traffic.

Audiences are saturated with the offer in content these days. Your goal is not to publish so often that they might, someday, click on something you did. The goal is to publish quality content that will create loyalty with your audience.

We went from an age of “Share of voice” (mostly used in TV advertising talk) to “Share of heart.”

It’s not a question of who will shout the loudest, it’s a question of who will win your heart.

If your numbers rely too much on the amount of content assets you produce and not enough on the quality of those assets, your results will suffer in the end.

Keep that in mind. And read this great Poynter article about how The New Yorker sees this.

Managing Content Production Efficiency. Are you wasting money?

Producing content is easy. Not throwing away money while doing so, not so much.

Gleanster Research has recently surveyed over 3,000 mid-sized companies, trying to understand how the best of them manage their content production process.

They evaluate that in the U.S. alone, surveyed firms will spend more than $5 billion in content production. The problem is that they also came to the conclusion that close to $1 billion of that amount is wasted through poor content processes and inefficient management of content marketing activities.

In a great 22-page eBook, Gleanster and Kapost sum up their findings and provide some guidance as to how brands can make their content marketing dollars better invested, or at least what the most common pitfalls are and how to avoid them.

I am sharing a Kapost post that sums up key findings, but I strongly invite you to grab a copy of the eBook at the bottom of the article (or email me if you’d like a copy).

The article outlines three key areas that brands need to nail down in order to make their investment in content count toward driving optimal revenue:

  1. Focus on Content Operations, Not Just Production
  2. Establish Processes to Enhance Efficiency and Effectiveness
  3. Invest in Making Your Content Marketing Operations More Efficient

Are your content operations optimal? Do you know how you could improve your content production efficiency?

These are questions we tackle with clients on a regular basis when building content operations. When working with brands, helping them build their content studios, we ask real questions and dig deep, evaluating how much should be done in-house, how much requires external resources, how to maximize content output, etc.

Content marketing and content production is now part of the daily life of a lot of marketers and brand managers, our goal is to work hand-in-hand with them in making sure their investment is sound and the production processes as efficient as possible.

Experts share 7 lessons on branded content

Take notes. Finalists for the Content Marketer of the Year Award share what they’ve learned.

The content marketing field can span a very wide web and, to top it off, is constantly evolving. A good number of brands are putting more and more effort into it. In many cases, they end up being in a situation where the number of directions they could take is so large that it becomes hard to know where to head.

Luckily for everyone, others are taking these routes and reporting back every day.

The Content Marketing Institute has awarded, for some years now, a prize to the content marketer who has particularly shined in a content marketing project.

The 2014 finalists each shared a key lesson they learned this year. These are seven lessons that are especially relevant to marketers who are working in or diving into content marketing.

  1. Find new ways to collaborate with influencers.Invite them to your place, your properties, rather that asking them to publish on their own. You will end up with quality material and a refreshing take on your content.
  2. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new platforms. Be agile, make sure you have an approach and strategy that allows you to do quick tests and experiments. Vine, Hyperlapse or any other, allow yourself to try them out (to sometimes discover that the results are simply out of this world… or not at all).
  3. To tell a good story, turn to classics. The hero’s quest, a storytelling and scriptwriting approach is as old as it gets. And there’s a reason for that. When you want to tell a story, turn to time-tested methods. It will make your scriptwriting much easier.
  4. Make your consumers the heroes. User-generated content does not always turn up into great successes. That’s true. But when it works, the results can simply be magical. View your audience as heroes, stars, and make them shine.
  5. Even “boring” industries can have fun with content. Can B2B corporations benefit from content marketing? Of course! They can even have fun doing it! Even if you operate in a “dull” manufacturing field, you can always spice things up and make it fun.
  6. Your branding targets your employees as much as it targets your audience. If your content is inspiring, it will also be to your employees. Think about your employer brand, and then examine what the content you create brings to it and how you can leverage it to keep in touch with your employees.
  7. Consider artistic collaborations. Get out of the ordinary by inviting artistic collaborators to your projects. They will bring their own personal touch to your old habits.

I recommend you read this article, it describes each lesson in detail, with accompanying business cases.

Managing content production: the importance of the editorial meeting

Getting a content plan together is one thing, keeping up with it when the time comes is another.

We talk a lot about putting together a realistic and powerful content plan, but what happens when you’re well into it, 37 weeks later, and you need to produce new content pieces?

That’s where it gets tough. That’s where it can fall apart.

And that’s where you need to have had a regular editorial meeting in place to keep it all together.

Content marketing and branded content both work in the long run. Sometimes it can get short-term results, but most often, you have to be in for the long term.

When your plan dictates you must publish original and/or curated content three times a week, you need to maintain the energy, the momentum. How do you do that?

Hold a regular editorial meeting.

The article I wanted to recommend to you this week was published by Yvonne Lyons over at Right Source Marketing. She outlines what constitutes an editorial meeting (and what it doesn’t).

She gives rough guidelines on how to do it:

  • Have meetings regularly and religiously;
  • Get everyone involved;
  • Discuss what’s coming up;
  • Discuss overall pain points;
  • Brainstorm;
  • Cheerlead. (I love this one)

I also love the “what not do to” list:

  • Let people rattle off their to-do lists;
  • Dissect a problem piece;
  • Make it miserable. (if you haven’t, visit Toast’s conference room to pick’n’choose in our candy bar)

So, have you incorporated an editorial meeting in your content strategy? If so, you already know how it helps for the long term success of your efforts.


Content marketing building blocks: the periodic table

How one table is helping make content marketing a bit simpler to all.

I always have a special place in my heart for people who are able to make things simpler. To boil things down to a more digestible form.

This is what Chris Lake from eConsultancy recently did. For content marketing.

Based on the classic periodic table of elements, he defined the building blocks of content marketing.

The result is a very interesting infographic that visually shows what makes content work and what defines a good overall strategy.

The table is split into 8 extremely relevant areas:

  1. Strategy: Planning is essential. You need a strategy.
  2. Format: A single piece of content can take many different forms. Will it be an article? An image? Both?
  3. Content type: Interview? White paper? Case Study? Something else?
  4. Platform: An area that evolves every other week. You need to know what platforms exist and which are the best for your content.
  5. Metrics: What will you be measuring? Downloads? Pageviews?
  6. Goals: Are you looking for more sales? Members? Shares?
  7. Sharing triggers: What is your tone? Controvertial? Cool? Funny? Sexy?
  8. Checklist: Make sure you’ve looked over each of these elements when publishing content.

By going over this table and picking elements from each area when evaluating your content strategy, you definitely have a good starting point.

This table shows something we believe in deeply at Toast. There is no magic recipe in content marketing. This table is not a recipe book, but rather an excellent starting point in making sure your approach to content is built on a strong foundation.

I invite you to bookmark this week’s article, published over at eConsultancy, and pull it out whenever you are revisiting your content marketing strategy.

The Periodic Table of Content Marketing
(via eConsultancy)