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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’d be hard-pressed to have avoided the promotional carpet-bombing that surrounded the release of Anchorman 2 last month.
In the four months that preceded the Anchorman sequel’s December release, Ron Burgundy and his ridiculous Channel 4 News Team friends were everywhere.
Ron Burgundy appeared on various local news stations, opined on the Australian elections and sold cars in a cross-promotional campaign that lead to a 40% increase in Dodge sales.
Not only that but Ron ‘released’ an autobiography, exhorted viewers to contribute filmed auditions for his news team and even had his own mobile app.
With content marketing being so hot right now – you’d think that we’d know everything there is about how to do it properly.
Turns out Anchorman 2 still has some things to teach us...
1) Content marketing is raising the quality of movie marketing
Film promotion tends to boil down to two key outputs: some trailers and a series of high-profile media interviews with the actors. By contrast, Anchorman 2 exceeded this with great examples of content marketing.
For sure there was the usual branded Tumblr and Facebook film page, but what was particularly notable was the commitment to creating original content to support the film’s release and curating fan content, not just merely slicing and dicing movie footage into new content formats (such as a trailer).
Interestingly, most movies reward fans with content after they purchase the DVD, usually through secret brand portals, extra footage or easter eggs.
By contrast, Anchorman 2 gave us all of its content, which in many ways was as high-quality as the movie itself, upfront.
2) Content marketing does not have to directly reference the product
Despite the occasional blurred lines between content marketing and advertisements, the whole point of content marketing is really quite simple: creating engaging content that attracts, engages and builds a relationship with an audience which may make a purchase in time.
Of the seventy YouTube videos featuring Will Ferrell in character as Ron Burgundy, not one of them mention that there is a new Anchorman film coming out.
People don’t like blatant advertising, so simply having Will Ferrell going out on chatshows saying, “There’s a new Anchorman movie out soon - it’s going to be really funny please go and watch it,” won’t work.
Instead, the Anchorman 2 team created entertaining content based around the character designed to both make us laugh and indirectly remind us that there is in fact a movie coming out.
3) You can have too much of a good thing. That includes content
There is a danger that we can fall into the trap of thinking that for our content marketing efforts to succeed we have to create lots of it.
On the contrary, consumers are suffering from a ‘content deluge’ – there is so much choice out there – adding to the morass is not the best way to cut through the noise.
Furthermore, brands themselves are waking up from the content marketing hangover and having to now not only manage large amounts of content creation and distribution, but also having to measure and justify their content marketing efforts.
While Anchorman 2 is a brilliant case study of how to create excellent pieces of content marketing, it also serves as a warning for content marketers that are prone to excess.
Only weeks into the campaign and a backlash began from overexposure to Ron & Co., suggesting that too much marketing was undermining the final product and leading to ‘marketing fatigue’ amongst consumers.
4) Content marketing will not save a dud product
Many of us who cheerlead in the content marketing industry (be it as an advisor, practitioner or technology provider) are in danger of implying that content marketing is the silver bullet tactic which will solve every brand’s woes.
And at risk of seeming like a party-pooper, that’s not the case at all.
Content can do many things.
- It can raise awareness.
- It can keep you interested.
- It can influence a purchase decision.
But it can’t change how you feel about a product once you’ve bought it. Especially if that product is a dud.
As Anchorman 2 has shown us – despite it being a masterclass in content marketing, all the in-character guest appearances in the world couldn’t save it from the acres of bad reviews.
Disappointingly, The Legend Continues…is all moustache and no trousers.
5) Content is for the long-run, not the short-term wins
The problem with short-term campaigns is that they are interruptive, repetitive and are more concerned with quick engagement spikes than fostering an enduring relationship with fans.
The great thing about good content marketing is that each piece of content retains its value independently of the product its advertising – it isn’t only effective or of use during a brief campaign, but rather continues to build long-term efficacy.
Hence, Anchorman 2’s director, Adam McKay, continues to tweet from the various character’s profiles “whenever he wants to share something he thinks is funny”.
The videos remain searchable and indexed for future reference – and whether you watch the movie or not – Ron’s address to Emerson College will continue to be funny for years to come whenever you need a laugh.
Best of all, thanks to a real understanding of character and storytelling, Ron Burgundy can continue to turn up in various scenarios (more newsrooms & official openings) that are completely consistent with the character – meaning the Anchorman 2 story will be prolonged well after the marketing machine around the sequel stops.
Thanks to some impressive examples of content marketing, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues really can continue…