“Plinko” Content: Zig and Zag Your Way to Brand Awareness


brand awareness

Storytelling is the most powerful messaging tool available to us. It doesn’t matter if that story comes from blog articles, video, podcasting, or other channels. Nothing can convey the heart and soul of brand essence like a solid story that can be retold (shared) with all the contemporary social tools. However, there is also a fallacy in the assertion that a great story is all you need.



We all know the classic philosophical question, “If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does a bear crap in the woods?”

Or something like that.

Marketing messaging and storytelling is very much the same. In a time when consumers turn off or ignore banner ads, marketers now find themselves crafting new paths, entry points, and rabbit holes to lead the audience to the real message. No matter where people enter your content flow, you want them to exit the bottom of the funnel as customers after they absorb your copy and visual information.

It’s kind of like the Plinko game on “The Price is Right.

Oh, puh-LEEZE. Don’t try to act like you’ve never watched. What else can you do when you’re “working from home” and it’s not time for “Maury” yet?

For those of you who (claim to) only watch Netflix and Hulu – let me explain. In Plinko, the contestant drops a big poker-chip-looking disc into the top of a huge upright game board. As the chip falls, it is deflected by pegs, making it im-freaking-possible to predict where it will come out at the bottom. With a few lucky bounces, the chip lands in a slot that pays thousands of dollars.

On the other hand, the chip can end up in the goose-egg slot. In your game of Messaging Plinko, you need to structure your content in such a way that consumers never end up in that zero-dollar slot. (insert #fail horn) Entice, woo, entertain, and inform them, so they fall in love with your product or service offering.

Here’s a hypothetical scenario using a tropical travel destination as an example:

1) Kelly Consumer opens her email and sees a compelling subject line (which you should hire a copywriter for – because it is an art form) that sparks enough interest for her to double click and see what’s inside.

2) Kelly starts reading your story. Like a lot of people – she is busy and has a short attention span, so you damn sure better get right to the point. A compelling piece of visual content supported by the proper copy should inspire Kelly to click on a link that takes her further down your content path. How you choose to do this in your email should be informed by a progressive testing and optimization process with your list.

More often than not here is where the disconnect is created. Large brands still see the division between church and state of traditional and digital advertising. They believe their money is best spent in storytelling from a firm that can tout large (impression-based) numbers derived typically from broadcast, outdoor, and print.  Digital shops, right or wrong, are often seen as production houses for resizing and further distribution of this content in an effort to shoehorn it into digital silos.

Do I sound jaded? Good. Because I am. If you are funneling a portion of your budget to a digital firm, you should choose one that can take that conceptual storytelling and nurture it into a more robust experience.

3) Once on the website, Kelly’s attention might be pulled in different directions depending on the type of consumer she is. She might be drawn to a video, package pricing, point-of-view photos, pet info, charts showing weather trends or social media links. Kelly might hopscotch all around to those various content elements. Other visitors might focus on only one or two. As the marketer, you need to ask yourself if you’ve done the best job in consistently developing content that tells the complete story.

4) If you’ve done your job properly, Kelly is now making a reservation. Or she puts the resort on her list of potential destinations.

Think of your audience’s attention in a very non-linear format. Or if you want to be geeky, just think of it as a process diagram. Where the wheels fall off is usually creative optimization vs. asset management. You come up with a great idea for a new campaign. You pitch it. The client bites, but they don’t want to redo all the elements (website, Facebook, blogs, videos) to reflect the new campaign.

Now you have built the first “portable classroom” behind your high school. Before you know it you’ll have a dysfunctional village that looks nothing like the front-facing building.

The real truth is even stranger than fiction. I once had one of America’s largest multinational telecommunications corporation as a client. I stood in a pool of more than 40 other agencies working on a ridiculous number of seemingly disassociated objectives for this client.

At first glance, you would think that this model is complete insanity, but it does actually end up making a lot of sense if done properly.  If you can get your content to consistently connect from one messaging vehicle to the next (from email to landing page, to registration component, to service introduction video, to such action levels, to purchase) while adhering to the brand – then you have succeeded.

The best thing you can do is put yourself in your customer’s shoes to understand their motivations. And be honest! If a new website is required for a new product or service, then build it. In the end, the expense of doing it right the first time will be far cheaper than duct taping it to the current architecture.

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