15 reasons why content marketing fails

15 reasons why content marketing fails

Why good marketers often make bad content – and what to do about it

Everyone’s churning out content these days. Every brand, every marketer, every creative and most not-so-creative people. But so much of what is produced in these ‘creative’ fields turns out to be the opposite of creative. It may not be howlingly bad. It’s just... meh. It’s the fat part of the bell curve: the vast majority of all content produced. And it can never make even the slightest impact on a reader – much less move a market.

But here’s the weird thing: if you meet the people behind all this mediocre stuff, you find that they’re smart, motivated and talented. Clearly, our collective content-creation machine is broken. And it’s wasting a hell of a lot of time, money and effort while actively undermining the reputations of the brands that produced it.

15 reasons content marketing fails

There’s no single reason that good intentions turn into bland content. There are at least 40. You can find the full list in April’s edition of CIM’s member-only magazine, Catalyst – these are just some of the most common. By listing the many ways content goes wrong, I hope I can help you avoid that fate and create something special.

  1. Surface skating 

People who crank out mediocre content start writing before they start thinking. This lack of insight is fatal. Make sure you have something new to say.

  1. Staying the course 

Bad content can stem from a fear of pivoting: “I promised this, so I must deliver it.” No. You learned something important on the way that changed your mind. Honour it and pivot. They’ll thank you.

  1. Failure to show your workings 

People like to see HOW you got where you got, and WHY. Expose your process, don’t assume people won’t care. 

  1. The ‘naff’ detector failure 

It’s easy to get carried away with a ‘novel’ idea and never stop to notice it’s a dog. (Google ‘Windows 7 Party’.) 

  1. Aiming low 

Not even trying for a home run. This is the number-one killer. For most content creators, ‘good enough’ is just fine. 

  1. Attention deficit disorder 

Acting as if you’ve already got people’s attention is a fatal assumption. Earn it. Then work hard to reward it.

  1. That’ll do 

A refusal to kill our babies or even revise them is the fast track to <yawn>. Edit. Be honest with yourself. Be brutal. Start over. 

  1. Self-censoring 

“I can’t do that” kills lots of great work. Why can’t you? What if you did? Rules suck. Break some and see what happens. 

  1. Fear of stealing 

The compulsion to be 100% original is hugely misguided and futile. Everybody steals. Even the people you steal from. Dance on the shoulders of giants (and pocket their earrings).

  1. Stealing but leaving out the one thing that worked 

A lot of people steal without really analysing or understanding what worked in the original. Tear it down and reverse-engineer the things that made you lean in, smile, laugh or say, “Aha!”. 

  1. The curation crutch 

Curation is hugely popular and often billed as the easy way to generate lots of content. Wrong. Curation without added analysis and critical thinking is just a bunch of links. It’s nice that others say X, Y, Z. But what do YOU think about it all? 

  1. Me-me-me

Great content is always about the audience. Even if you wrote it to shout about Release 7.6 of your product, your duty is to make it about them. 

  1. Missing your sweet spot 

Every brand and every content creator has a sweet spot – where the things your audience cares about overlap with the things you’re an authority in. Write from outside this zone and the result is superficial and inauthentic. 

  1. Split persona syndrome 

A lot of crap content tries to do too much – telling different stories to different audiences. Target clash is a killer. Focus on one target audience. 

  1. Short-termism 

Using trickery to generate traffic, like clickbait, might get you the clicks, but it undermines your content brand – and that’s fatal. 

Sound familiar? Discover Doug's commandments for overcoming the content marketing challenge in the full article, available exclusively to CIM members in this edition of Catalyst magazine. If you’re itching to get your hands on Catalyst, find out how you can become a member of CIM for as little as £15 a month.  

CIM offers a number of Content and Copywriting courses to help you avoid these common mistakes. Now available via virtual delivery and in a range of formats, find the right course for you here.


Doug Kessler Co-founder and creative director Velocity Partners
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