The brain. It’s a wondrous thing, one we don’t fully understand. The same basic bundle of nerves and protein results in wildly different personalities from person to person. One of the theories that have been the deepest held about the brain, despite all the evidence suggesting its total bunk, is the right-brain/left-brain dominant theory. We all know how that goes, but let’s recap.
The left-brained folks among us are said to be the more analytical minds. They thrive in more concrete disciplines. They like order. They’re our mathematicians, our scientists, statisticians, data analysts. They’re the people who keep their desks clean.
On the other side, we have the right-brainers. The right side of the brain is supposedly all about creativity and the abstract. People who are right-side dominant are artists, writers, musicians, philosophers. They are the creatives among us, and their desks, if mine is any indication, are almost never clean.
But here’s the thing: we pretty much know now that we all use both sides of our brains. It’s certainly true that both sides of the brain are necessary for compelling marketing of any kind. Since content has become central to many brand presences, effective marketing is equal parts story and structure, the right and the left. I spend my days working to bridge that gap as a creative writer turned content marketing pro, and I’m here to share with you some of my experiences in making chaos and order come together to fuel marketing that works.
The Right Side of Marketing Content: Telling Compelling Stories
Let me paint you a familiar picture: A tiny infant sits on a cloud. The infant is also an angel with tiny white wings. This picture sits on the outside of a package of Angel Soft toilet paper in a way that’s, well, a bit on-the-nose for my taste. With a name like Angel Soft, you know this brand wants to conjure images of soft things, and you could do worse than babies and feathers and clouds for that. But, speaking for myself, babies and feathers and clouds have absolutely nothing to do with my time on the toilet.
Maybe that’s why I connect so much more to Charmin’s advertising approach. Instead of a baby-angel on a cloud, we get a bear. In the woods. Doing what bears do. Charmin has been telling the stories of bears on the job for years now, and they’ve even by now moved into suburban homes to serve as stand-ins for people who might actually enjoy going to the bathroom with the right toilet paper. Their slogan fits well: Enjoy the Go.
I’m not saying I necessarily enjoy the go, but I certainly know the difference between single-ply paper in an office bathroom and the extra soft stuff I buy at home. What I don’t know anything about is angel babies and the suitability of a cloud as a pack-and-play. To me, Charmin succeeds where Angel Soft fails because Charmin isn’t afraid to embrace their subject matter and commit to a value that’s concrete and tracks with my everyday need for their product. Both brands are communicating the value of softness, but one is anchoring that value in a story I can relate to.
The chances that you’re reading this blog for tips on toilet paper positioning are slim to none, I know that. But there is a good chance you’re thinking about how your brand can utilize the content for marketing purposes, and I think there’s a really good lesson here: Own your story.
Make sure that you have a solid grasp on your story at its most basic, something as simple as “Enjoy the go.” What do you do? How are you unique? What different types of people do you sell to or communicate with? What makes those audiences distinct from one another? What makes them similar? What you’re doing is telling a series of unique stories from unique perspectives. And every piece of content you produce needs to have a strong, clear tie to just one of these stories. That’s how you invite in each audience member on their own terms.
The Left Side of Marketing Content: Building Effective Structures
Did you know that most of Shakespeare’s audience was illiterate? I sure don’t remember hearing that in my high school English classes. I do remember reading sonnet after sonnet after sonnet out loud in class and memorizing Bard’s singular structure for composing every single poem. He wrote over 180 that we know of, but each one fits this structure: Iambic pentameter, three quatrains and one couplet, each with an ABAB rhyming structure.
Shakespeare wrote this way because his readers were actually listeners. It was easier for them to remember the sonnets they heard and share them with friends when they could predict the rhythm and rhyme of each new poem. In turn, it was easy for ol’ Billy to sit down and knock out a poem because he was never starting from a blank page. It’s a win/win for writer and reader.
This approach to content has a big role to play in modern content marketing. If you’re ever struggling to produce a blog, for example, it might help to bypass the blank screen altogether and start with a standard structure.
Much like Shakespeare’s sonnet, the blog has developed a form that works well for mobile readers and people on information overload. Before you start writing, jot down three main points you want to make in your article. Then, identify a hook that shows the audience you know what you’re talking about and understand their experience. Last, write down a clear call to action that tells the reader what you want them to do next. By the time you’re ready to actually start writing prose, you’ll find you have a structure that helps you quickly fit your ideas into a format your readers will engage with.
Marry the Right and Left for Impactful Marketing Content
This concept of structure, by the way, can extend to your entire digital presence. When you marry the right-brain approach of embracing a focused theme with the left-brain approach of adapting that theme into a versatile content structure, you’ll be poised to not only create more creative content but to also do it more quickly.
Consider this tweet from Oreo that went out during Super Bowl XVLII’s blackout:
Power out? No problem. pic.twitter.com/dnQ7pOgC
— OREO Cookie (@Oreo) February 4, 2013
While brands were spending millions on Super Bowl ads, the next morning it was Oreo that got the most attention and the most buzz. Why? They had a clear understanding of the stories they were telling about imagination and fun. They had the structure to capture that story in a quick piece of content. And they had the foresight to empower their creatives to use their whole brains. That helped them seize a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The whole human brain weighs about three pounds. Are you using all of that weight in your marketing content?