Why content marketing needs elephants and canaries

In content marketing, communication pieces carry different levels of weight and impact. To be effective in the online ecosystem, marketing campaigns need a good blend of both heavy and light communications – what I call ‘elephants and canaries’.

Elephants and canaries: content marketing singing in harmony
Elephants and canaries: content marketing singing in harmony
Image © shutterstock.com | mattasbestos

See an elephant fly

Elephants are higher value content pieces which have a relatively long shelf life and potentially have a high degree of influence on buying or advocacy. Like their real-world counterparts, they are associated with long-term memory and longevity. That is, they stick in the mind and are made to last.

These executions include e-books, infographics, videos, animations, white papers, webinars and in-depth blog posts.

Recent research by the Marketing Leadership Council and Google among B2B companies found that purchasers are already 57% through their decision making process before they make contact with their potential suppliers’ sales people.

The report states:

“Potential customers are readily turning to their personal networks and publicly available information – increasingly through digital and social media channels – to self-diagnose problems and form opinions about solutions.”

Elephants help educate customers and stakeholders, and influence decisions both before and after would-be buyers get to the 57% stage. Elephants play a part in gaining you access into potential customers’ ‘purchasing funnels’ well before those same prospects make it into your sales funnel.

Canaries fly further

Canaries are lighter, more numerous and fast-turnaround pieces of content – the email and social media ‘spokes’ in the hub-and-spoke platform.

These feathered friends are the regular e-news issues, tweets, retweets and other social media updates, not to mention quick-fire blog posts.

They work interdependently with the elephants, often promoting the elephants and drawing customers and influencers towards them. The canaries effectively encourage interaction with the company, its brand and its media assets. The elephants meanwhile give the canaries something to sing about.

While the elephants often ‘live’ on the company’s website alone, the canaries help to spread their influence by flying further afield and attracting conversation and back links.

Baby elephant walk

Elephants beget baby elephants, derived sub-assets which can add leverage to the initial effort that went into creating a single, expensive media asset.

I recently copy-edited a 5-minute animation on wound care for a client targeting international healthcare markets. This primary ‘elephant’ asset contains enough material to give birth to ‘babies’ such as spin-off infographics, blog posts, a medical poster and a viral video, not to mention a whole aviary of canaries.

As the New Year approaches now is a good time to be devising the elephants which, allied to your brand objectives, will best contribute to your online narrative in the first three to six months of 2014. You’ll find they will deliver offspring in the form of smaller content pieces and provide a flight deck for your – and your network’s – e-news and social updating ‘canaries’.


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