Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how product simulations fit into the emerging trend of custom content marketing. Where is the line between content (focused on presenting issues and providing solutions) and product promotional material?
I firmly believe there is a happy medium.
The core is about how the piece is framed. If the focus is on presenting a real industry issue, and uses a branded product to show how it solves the problem, it has merit as valuable content. The marketer also wants to ensure that it has value as a promotional piece. I believe the most effective way is to frame the problem in such a way that highlights something unique or compelling about that product. This may sound deceptively manipulative–crafting the right problem for display–but it really is merely presenting an approach to solving a certain class of problems that some prospective buyers are (hopefully) facing.
Therefore, I think effective product sims can be applied in a series of presentations that focus on demonstrating solutions to sets of real industry problems, oriented to the product’s strengths. Mark Fidelman states in his slide deck for “What Every CMO Needs to Know about Content Strategy“:
“Every company has content which includes documentation, video & graphics, etc. for products and services, but most content are an afterthought and not strategic…”
Certainly, every company does have content about its products, but that content is almost always focused on the product itself. I am advocating re-focusing the aim.
A mistake I have seen in a company that made a promotional game using one of its products was that the situations faced in the game using the product could be equally solved by pretty much any of their competitors’ products, so it lacked value as a good promotional piece because it didn’t distinguish the product’s capabilities in any way. According to one of the product managers, the company walked away with the feeling that games weren’t going to help sell the product, but I think they missed the point.
“It’s not a lie, if you believe it”
My favorite line from Seinfeld is from George Costanza, during an interaction with Jerry when Jerry is trying to learn from George how to beat a lie detector test. George offers the following piece of advice: “it’s not a lie if you believe it”:
If we put aside the obvious manipulative implication in this line, we can see a fundamental, positive truth in this statement. It’s not a sales pitch if you believe your solution to the problem is the best way, whether your are inside or outside the company. Therefore, marketers need to find the right problem to make that statement genuine.