Tomorrow marks the official start of the 2015 drum corps season. While that probably means very little to most of you, I enjoy finding inspiration in unusual places and have often found that this youth activity is a breeding ground for business lessons. So this year, I’m taking a look at how some of the top teams in the activity employ storytelling, develop their audiences, and become masters of content marketing.
I could point to many fine examples of corps-produced blogs, podcasts and video series. I could highlight any number of active, engaged drum corps communities of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. But instead, I want to home in on three specific examples of organizations that are using content techniques and tools to step away from the rest, because I think each holds lessons for marketers willing to look at what’s expected in their own field and then do something different.
Veteran marketers may experience a series of ‘well, yes, of course’ moments while reading this post, yet I find that no-to-low-cost homegrown examples like these often stand in stark contrast to the canned and controlled campaigns professional marketing organizations run in the name of content marketing.
1. BANISH BORINGWhen it comes to content, there's no such thing as a boring business, only a boring marketer. Click To Tweet
As drum corps have entered the social media era, it has come into vogue for many to post their daily training routines to their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds. But let’s be clear — to the average person, seeing a corps’s daily spring training schedule is about as interesting as viewing a co-worker’s Outlook calendar. And then there’s Carolina Crown. Clever concepts, sly humor, pop culture references and a bit of meme-jacking turn something mundane into must-see visual content. Varying the format with each update — an infographic, pictograms, data, photos and plain ol’ text — keeps the series fresh and engaging. Proof that a little creativity goes a long way. When it comes to content, there’s no such thing as a boring business, only a boring marketer.
2. MICROCONTENT & THE ART OF THE TEASEAny single marketing event can inspire a sequence of tiny, timely microcontent moments. Click To Tweet
In the ‘pinstagram’ age, many brands strive for visual marketing mastery. Visual identity on the one hand and visual storytelling on the other are as important for a corps as they are for Coca-Cola. So each year, corps generate a bit of pre-season buzz around their uniform reveals. Will a given corps throw back to tradition or embrace design innovation? How will a fresh visual identity complement a show concept? For many corps, the big reveal is handled as a one-and-done event. And then there’s the 2015 Santa Clara Vanguard. Some stitching. Some sequins. Buttons and trim. These isolated details might seem small but when threaded together they turn a single event into a sustained piece of storytelling that weaves the fabric of audience engagement. The lessons? First, that no detail is too small to feature in your storytelling. Second, that any single marketing event, any one-time piece of “big content” can (and should) inspire a sequence of timely, related microcontent moments. And third, that if you truly embrace content marketing then you must also embrace the process of marketing your content. In this case, the tease does the trick.
3. TUNE IN TO TRANSPARENCYLift the veil of secrecy to give your audience an inside look your competitors can't, won't or don't. Click To Tweet
Transparency remains a difficult concept for many brands, even as the consumer communities cropping up around real-time content apps like Snapchat, Meerkat and Periscope thrive on it. During the off season, the programs the top corps are planning for the coming summer are as shrouded in secrecy as a Fortune 500 product roadmap. During the run-up to mid-June, the standard issue publicity plan calls for a series of carefully coordinated reveals — the show concept, the musical selections, the uniform (see above) — but most corps veer away from video until they’re ready to take the field in competition for the first time each year. Except the Cadets. This year, the corps director has picked up Periscope to live stream full rehearsal run-throughs — lifting the veil of secrecy to give their audience an inside look their competitors can’t, won’t or don’t. This isn’t only a pitch perfect play for Periscope and a smart experiment in real-time content creation. It’s also a sound strategy for meeting pent up demand from an audience patiently waiting out the end of an off season. In an activity that rewards polish and perfection, the low res warts-and-all footage also helps make the Cadets’s top tier brand more human, approachable and real — while also demonstrating the power of their product even without all the usual pomp.
How will your brand banish boring, master microcontent and the art of the tease, or tune in to transparency in order to step forward and stand apart? In what ways can you pioneer new content tools, techniques and tactics that differentiate your business from your competition? I’d love to hear your ideas.
Images and video lovingly borrowed from the corps’s social media channels.