Compelling Content and the Case of the Ass-Eating Pants

Kjeragbolten used to represent a wedge

One of my favorite German words is ‘Arschfristhose,’ which is the term used to express the concept a wedgie (those of you in need a refresher on what a wedgie is can find an excellent description from Wikipedia here). While not a word most of us tend to use in polite company in either language, I like the German version so much because of how wonderfully descriptive it is. Whereas the word ‘wedgie’ certainly implies the appropriate wedging action, it’s otherwise pretty vague. The German word’s literal translation, which equates to ‘ass-eating pants,’ by contrast, couldn’t be more vivid.

My point in telling you this isn’t to give you a German lesson or to resurrect any painful childhood memories. Rather, it’s to illustrate the importance of being descriptive, of injecting a little personality into your content (albeit always carefully tuned to your particular audience), and of using that content to tell a story. Just imagine, if a single German word can conjure such a strong, if undesirable, image in your head, the possibilities are going to be virtually limitless when you’ve got an entire language at your disposal.

For marketers, telling stories that get their audience’s attention, captivate them, and, better yet, compel them to do something is the name of the game. Of course that’s easier said than done, particularly if you’re tasked with creating content about things like spark plugs, tooth picks, or radiators. After all, how do you craft a compelling story when you’re dealing with the mundane?

For the folks at DollarShaveClub.com, the trick was to get creative, use humor, and humanize their content, which they have done in this short video:

Since being posted to YouTube in March 2012, the video has been viewed over 13 million times and has gotten more than 12,000 comments. That’s hugely impressive for a relatively low-budget production about something as uninteresting as razors. While its success is due to a number of factors, the fact that it’s funny, has personality, and has a really vivid narrative is a huge part of its winning equation.

So as you think about your next piece of content or the next message you need to communicate, ask yourself is it really all that compelling? If the answer is no, chances are that the only people who are going to consume it are the ones who absolutely have to.

Sadly for us marketers, that’s because we live in an information age where people have so much content thrown at them (the equivalent of 174 newspapers’ worth of data every day according to a surely outdated 2011 study) that we have become really good at parsing through all the noise. As a result, you literally get a split second to capture someone’s attention before being discounted or — gasp — relegated to the trash. If your content can’t capture someone’s attention in that amount of time, they’re not going to consume it unless they have a really good reason to.

While creating a piece of content as wildly successful as DollarShaveClub.com did may be aspirational, it’s a great example of compelling content for the rest of us to learn from. And, if nothing else, it hopefully puts a much needed wedge between you and any of your old ideas about what it takes to get people’s attention.

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