‘Good content rises to the top.’
‘Talent will out.’
‘The idea is the sell.’
In the earliest days of the internet, these phrases may have been the stock-in-trade of every marketing agency in London and beyond, but do they still hold true? In an era of pay-per-click advertising, big businesses throwing money at replicating viral content and blogs populating every last nook and cranny of the internet, is it now the case that spend is the essential element of a successful campaign?
Money for nothing, and clicks for free
With more and more brands turning to pay-per-click (PPC) advertising to capture the attention of the vast pool of search engine users, it’s becoming necessary to pay out more to place more. The vastly increased competition involved in PPC means that complex, extensive campaigns are becoming the new norm – and these will require an adequate budget.
A good PPC campaign takes time and resources – from researching and selecting keywords to ensuring a higher search engine placement to creating landing pages that are optimised for conversions, your budget will have a major impact on the overall quality of your campaign. Some of the major search engines, including Google, even reward the best campaigns they see by charging less per-click if the ad or landing page is useful and satisfying to users.
‘Buzz’ alone is not enough
Creating viral content is the holy grail of content marketing, but vague, ill-defined ‘buzz’ and word-of-mouth are almost impossible to engineer without the budget to back it up. Very few things go viral on their own – even the non-commercial content that achieves online fame is only a tiny fraction of the vast amounts of content that exist on the internet. For every witty cat video that snowballs into a Twitter mega-hit, there are a thousand more that languish in obscurity.
More often than not, viral content designed to drive sales has the hidden hand of a marketing department or social media agency hiding behind it. Paid social advertising is proving increasingly useful as a means of capturing and engaging attention in a more organic fashion, especially with so many people seeking ever more innovative ways to escape from the white noise squall of advertising saturation – whether it’s a defensive layer of ad-blockers or the safe refuge of the anonymous Dark Web. With brand loyalty on the wane in favour of tailored content, budgeting well for social engagement is looking more and more like the savvy way to stoke the fires of online engagement.
There’s a tendency for any profession to cast a gauzy film of nostalgia over its own past. Was there really a halcyon golden age in which a great idea would unfailingly capture the hearts and minds of consumers without the need for grubby cash behind it? Or is it more likely that a well budgeted campaign has always been a core component of success, and that the internet merely requires a reallocation of where that money is going?
When it comes to marketing campaigns, a complete reinvention of the wheel is probably a step too far – instead it’s more important to reconnect the ideas themselves with the more tangible side of marketing. It’s not enough to assume that a great idea will sell itself – cash on its own is no substitute for a great idea or imaginative content, but it can help them achieve the platform, and the audience, they deserve.