In his seminal blog post, ‘Why content marketing is not a sustainable strategy’, Mark Schaefer defined the term ‘content shock’ as the time when ‘increasing volumes of content intersect our limited human capacity to consume it.’

That is, the time will (or indeed already has) come when the total amount of human attention is not sufficient to consume the content that is created.

What this means for brands is that, after content shock, the content that you spend your valuable time producing may never actually be read by anyone and could be a total waste of time and effort. Content shock exhibits itself through indicators that marketers are becoming increasingly familiar with: low click-through rates, high bounce rates, and fewer conversions and qualified leads.

While it seems that there is little brands can do to reverse the reality of content shock, there are a few key things you can do to be heard above the others and avoid its worst effects. Assembled by content marketing expert Matt Collette, MD of Zeno Group, there are four things brands can do to overcome content shock, listed below.

These were initially presented at a recent Econsultancy event in Singapore where brand marketers were given an overview of the current hot topics in marketing.

Before we start…

Econsultancy is conducting an Advanced Content Marketing Masterclass in Singapore on Tuesday, 28 March for marketers and other professionals who want to understand the impact of content marketing on their business. Matt Collette, MD of Zeno Group, will be the trainer, places are still available and you can find out more and book your spot here.

1. Put the consumer back at the center of content

The first thing a brand can do is to make sure that it considers the consumer first when producing content. That is, before you produce any content, think about what the consumer is seeking to do and how your brand can help.

This is achieved by conducting a thorough analysis of the various journeys your customers take when they interact with your brand, always keeping in mind what they are trying to accomplish at each step. Then, marketers should only produce content which reflects and builds on what customers are thinking, feeling, and doing at each step of the journey. This will help your content be the start of a value exchange with consumers.

A good example of content organised in this way is Rail Europe’s blog ‘Europe on Track’ which organises its content according to customer needs. Additionally, Rail Europe has published the thought process behind its marketing, available for download here.

2. Ensure your content has a clear pay-off for consumers

While helping consumers along their journey is a good start, content must provide some immediate benefit to consumers for the good relationship to continue.

The benefit obtained does not, however, have to be material (e.g. discounts and offers). Content can also feel beneficial if it satisfies a positive emotional response such as happiness, warmth, hilarity, or knowledge.

One popular way to give a reader a quick pay-off is to satisfy the positive feeling of sharing something useful. To accomplish this the content should allow the reader to fulfill one of their social motivations of sharing, such as:

  • Shared passions – I would share this content because it gives me the opportunity to connect with friends about a shared passion or interest.
  • Social Utility – I would share this content because the product/service could be useful to my friends.
  • Reaction Seeking – I would share this video to start an online conversation.
  • Zeitgeist – I would share this content because it is about a current trend or event (and I will look knowledgeable).

The content should, naturally, also be related to your brand message. Red Bull does this very well by creating content which shows people at peak performance (brand message), and often includes an inspirational or funny message to make it more shareable.

3. Create immersive content

Content shock has in many ways reduced a marketer’s ability to connect with their customers. With so many content options available to consumers now, it is harder to carve out space within their day to reach them. Interestingly, though, in one way it is becoming easier to reach people.

As digital platforms now offer near-constant internet connection and multimedia display, the hours per day that a consumer is available to consume what you have to offer has actually increased. According to one study, people now have, when you include sleep, a 31hr 28min day – half of which is available for marketing purposes.

Why 31hrs and not 24hrs? Because people multi-task across media and physical tasks during much of the day. Smartphones mean people can listen to podcasts while running or read web pages while eating. In order to win a disproportionate share of this new attention, marketers must make their content immersive and memorable.

One way brands can do this is by taking advantage of 360-degree video on Facebook and YouTube. Also, they should note that Oculus and Sony are close to bringing virtual reality to a mass audience.

One brand moving in the right direction in this area is Marriott Hotels, which offers branded ‘pop-up’ VR teleporters in major cities to show off its hotels and VR ‘room service’ for guests.

4. Use data to gain a competitive advantage

Finally, marketers should become familiar with data sources which help them produce better content, and use them to their advantage. Some of these tools are:

  • Newswhip Analytics, a database of the performance of articles across social media channels to help you benchmark and estimate performance.
  • Spike – a predictive analytics dashboard that shows which stories will perform best.
  • BuzzSumo – content performance statistics to help you find the most shareable content for any topic.
  • Demographics Pro – social media audience analytics which help you understand what your social media followers are interested in.
  • SocialBakers – social media performance analytics to help you understand the comparative reach of your social media posts – and of your competitors’ posts, too.

Using data from tools such as these will help you understand what high-performing content is out there and what gaps exist so that you can plan brand-relevant content which has a high chance of performing well.

After using content performance data, it becomes hard to imagine writing up content without having any idea about how it would perform once finished!


Many brands are feeling the effects of content shock and, perhaps, are now questioning the existence of their content marketing programme. Others, whose marketers understand the difficulty of getting through to consumers, are adapting by using new techniques to be heard above the rest.

And whether its by using customer-centric content, writing more ‘shareable’ articles, taking advantage of immersive formats, or using data to improve performance, these brands will be the ones who are able to overcome content shock, attract attention and, ultimately, succeed in delivering the brand’s message to the consumer.

Econsultancy is running an Advanced Content Marketing Masterclass in Singapore on Tuesday, 28th March in Singapore. You can find out more and sign up here.