Don't Be Bitter: Creating an Edge in a Competitive Content Landscape

Tap into a feeling with me for a moment.

You sit down at your desk at 8:03am. Your to-do list is brimming with work that feels like drudgery, but you gotta do it. And then you see it: your competitor's latest product pings your inbox in an email marketing campaign that is ACTUALLY different. It stands out. It feels good. And you think: Dammit. That's really, really good.

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As creators, storytellers and brand marketers, there is a fine line between admiration and infuriation. And when you are not using the fuel of that tension to grow your business or advance your creative - it can quickly become a toxic place to work from.

There's a controversial quote that I absolutely love to pull out when I'm feeling like my work is not measuring up:

Jealousy is the tribute mediocrity pays to genius. - Fulton Sheen

These words were spoken by a Catholic Archbishop. Hardly the first place I'd ordinarily go for stoking my competitive edge. But it hits me in all the parts of my gut where good business decisions come from.

At a time when marketers spend an equal amount of time reacting as they are spending creating and strategizing, it can be really easy to just start creating for the sake of creating. Doing because we have to do. Working on what we always work on. All the critical activities that lead to meaningful shifts and competitive edge start to go by the wayside:

  • Experimentation: We don't have the time or money.

  • Iteration: This is good enough. We don't need to do it again.

  • New Collaboration: Let's just use the same team we always have. We don't have the access to new folks.

And it's in the LOSS of these behaviors, that brands lose their edge. It's where great brands go to die on the mount of: "Because this is how we have always done it." Don't believe me? Ask anyone who has worked in marketing in Real Estate, Financial Services or Health Care.

These deaths are slow deaths. But you can see it happening in real time: Cue the listless stares of brilliant marketers beat down to jealous and bitter task masters punching the clock, day-in and day-out.

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It does not have to be this way. And I would contend that the fastest way to turn it around - is to actually embrace PLAY, EXPERIMENTATION AND NEW COLLABORATION in your marketing department.

PLAY: The idea of play in developing creative is totally lost. Most brands spend months hyper-planning every single shot of their upcoming content calendar to the point of meaninglessness. Shot lists don't look like inspiration centers. They end up looking like demographic talking points. Like this:

  • Boomer Dad Holds Product in Left Hand and iPhone in Right Hand

  • Grandma Holds Product in Right Hand and iPhone in Left Hand

In building soona, my co-founder and myself kept talking about a word over and over and over again: FRIENDLY. How could we make the production process more friendly, so that it welcomed more PLAY. Our crews are encouraged to try new things. To take the shot list provided by clients and provide iterations and fresh new ideas. One recent shot list just said: Water balloon party. Fireworks joy. Happy product.

That is where innovation comes from.

EXPERIMENTATION: I get it. Experimentation costs money. It isn't free to create content. But this is also where the fast casual content experience comes in. At soona, videos cost $93 per clip and photos cost $39 per clip. Not sure if an idea is going to work? It's the perfect place to test a theory, get some feedback and then come back and shoot it again.

In most cases, the initial experiment and then the second shoot may still end up costing less than a traditional content production.

NEW COLLABORATION: As a former Creative Director at an agency, I know I'm speaking to other Creative Directors when I say: sometimes too many voices HURT creative. Decision by Committee is the bane of any creators existence. As a result, I see a lot of creates pull their creative IN and don't reach OUT.

If we don't spend enough time inviting in new voices that could potentially HELP the creative, we may end up holding it back from its potential. When we act of out of fear - well - I can tell you that jealousy is not far behind.

By bringing in new voices, new teams and new collaboration - you may be surprised where your ideas go. At soona, all our crews are dedicated staff. So whether you walk into our Minneapolis studio, our Denver studio or use our upcoming Anytime product - you'll have access to 100 years of diverse creative experience at your fingertips.

So next time you find yourself with a case of rage FOMO - just consider the alternative: Are you truly opening your brand to new possibilities? Or are you just working to do the work?