One of my favorite things to do after a long day is watch a classic comedy movie. Amongst the laugh-out-loud films I own, one of my all-time favorites is, “There’s Something About Mary.” If you haven’t seen the 1998 romantic, gross-out movie, it stars Cameron Diaz, Matt Dillon, and Ben Stiller. After watching it recently, while trying to get work off my mind, I realized there are a few lessons content marketers can actually take away.
Zip Up Controversial Content
For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, the plot starts out in 1985. Self-conscious, shy 16-year-old high-school student Ted Stroehmann (Ben Stiller) gets a prom date with the girl of his dreams, Mary Jensen (Cameron Diaz). Unfortunately, it ends early by a scream-inducing, embarrassing zipper accident. After all members of Mary’s household and the small community learn about Ted’s mishap, he’s taken to the hospital; consequently losing touch with Mary.
Whenever I watch the zipper scene, I cringe. Prepare yourself—guys in particular—when you watch it for the first time. The camera zooms in to show the painful damage. If you know the directors, Peter and Bobby Farrelly, then you’re aware of their slapstick. However, shock isn’t always a prelude to laughter, or whatever emotion you’re hoping to pull out of the consumer.
Sharing a bit of exciting content to get your followers talking can increase engagement. But you’re going to lose Likes and follows if you go overboard. Consider that good news can spread faster and farther than disasters and sob stories, according to a study by Jonah Berger, a social psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania and author of the book, “Contagious: Why Things Catch On.”
Football, for instance, is a passionate topic. Right now, connecting your brand with preseason is a smart marketing strategy. Do it correctly—like capture the exciting experience with your brand in the background—and you’ll generate interest and engagement on your social channels.
Do it incorrectly—such as badmouth a particular team—and you will offend your fans, and lose Likes and followers. Since social media is a public forum, it’s best to keep strong opinions to yourself.
Social Stalk and Share
To continue the movie plot, Ted is still in love with Mary 13 years later. His friend Dom suggests he hire a private detective Pat Healy (Matt Dillon) to find her. Sound familiar?
I compare it to Facebook ads or sponsored Twitter posts to lure your ideal customer. Once they’ve searched for a product or service similar to what you offer, you stalk them online with ads. Except you’re supposed to give authentic value with each connection. Don’t just self-promote. Give something helpful away for free. Then they’re more likely to return to develop a relationship with your content and you.
Nielsen research conducted a study for Twitter UK in March, revealing the top ten reasons why people follow brands. One of the biggest findings: 52 percent follow for useful content, such as special offers or promotions, freebies, and exclusive content.
Be True to Your Brand
Moving into the middle of the movie, Healy finds that Mary is a beautiful, single, orthopedic surgeon and falls in love with her. He resorts to lying and cheating to woo her. And he’s not alone. He learns other men in Mary’s life are being frauds to win her over, too. Ted is no better. As the movie progresses, and he enters Mary’s life again, he leaves out the part about hiring Healy to track her down.
This reminds me of brands with pushy sales tactics automated responses, canned sales pitches, and no purpose behind their business. They just connect for the cash and not because they care to collaborate. This leads them to force things, or in Healy’s case, get huge fake teeth because it’s what he thinks Mary wants or needs. Taking the time to not only share your mission and values but also listen and understand your audience will create a genuine, one-to-one relationship built on honesty, trust, and reciprocation.
For companies looking to build or restore trust, the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer identified 16 attributes that build trust, including engagement, namely listening to customer needs and feedback; integrity, such as transparent and open business practices; and purpose, such as working to protect and improve the environment.
I’d like to share how the film concludes and throw in the last content marketing lesson, but that would spoil the ending. Let’s just say there are always going to be competitors out there trying to win over your clients. If you don’t follow content marketing best practices, they will, and with their sincere efforts they’ll win your audience’s heart.