10 Expert Tips to Strengthen Your Content Marketing (Without Spinach)

Yesterday, I went to the Festival of Content Marketing and Branded Entertainment, also known as BEFEST. In its third year, this conference brings together some of Australia’s best marketing minds to talk about where we’re heading in the brave new world of content and branded entertainment. It seems that branded entertainment took a backseat to content marketing; but regardless here are my ten most useful, entertaining and informative outtakes. I have curated these to ensure they are neither sad nor relaxing because as I now know, this would place them in the “death quadrant” for sharing, according to Upworthy.

1. Branded Content is not new – and can drive massive sales of bad tasting products

I have been saying this for years, and thanks to Colenso BBDO’s Nick Worthington’s opening keynote, I can now prove it. One of the first pieces of branded content was Popeye the Sailor Man from 1929 who purposely ate spinach to stimulate consumption amongst kids who had rickets. The Popeye cartoons were so popular during the Depression, sales of spinach in America increased by 33%, and it briefly slotted in as the third most popular kids food after ice cream and turkey. “Popeye” spinach is still the second largest-selling brand of spinach in America. So, if Popeye can do it, we can too.

2. If you invest in amazing content production with a big idea, $0 media is needed to support it

The Jean Claude Van Damm “epic split” between two reversing Volvo trucks captured the attention of the world and has thus far been watched by over 75M people, making it the most watched automobile ad on YouTube ever.   It only ran once in a paid TV spot during the Grammys and the rest was all online video and viral sharing. Agreed, this is not exactly $0 in media, but still relatively little in comparison to the sheer reach and impact of the video.

3. You can’t just rely on organic reach, $$ are needed to fire up virality

Creating the content is only half the story. Getting it distributed is just as important and relying on organic reach within the mass of competing content is a very risky strategy. You may end up with the proverbial “castle in the content desert”. You need early adopters to share it and if you are fortunate in finding those important influencers who, if they support you, will ensure that you get the additional reach your content really needs to fire up. It is not just the content creation that is important; you need to put some gas on the fire and by this I mean save some budget for amplification.

4. Trying to be perfect every time is unrealistic – you need to create a lot of content ideas to get something that will be great

“Success is going from one disaster to another with no loss of confidence!” I loved this. Again from Nick Worthington, Executive Creative Director, Colenso BBDO Auckland. He says that if you only develop one idea it will be shit. But by law of averages, if you develop ten ideas then at least one will be good. Results come from taking risks rather than playing safe.

5. We need to entertain people.

Lets deliver stuff that people are going to love and share. “But how do we do this with an audience that inherently has ADHD?” asked Michael Abdul from The Sphere Agency. We need to stop the hard sell. Move away from cluttered environments and put the consumer first. For real. So that means creating content that really appeals to the target audience, which has relevance, and primarily will entertain them.

6. The five point content strategy

Lauren Quaintance, co-founder and head of content at Story(ation) shared a five point plan for developing content strategy:

  • Who you want to talk to, and why they should care about you
  • Do an audit of what you currently have and find out what works
  • Define what success looks like. What action do you want your audience to take?
  • What processes do you need to be a publisher. Do you have tone of voice guidelines, editorial calendar, meetings structures and approval processes.
  • Measure Learn and Optimise

Importantly, make your content strategy a living document, not something gathering dust in the corner.

7. Focus on Insights

John Ford, founder and CEO of The One Centre suggested that focusing on insight is one of the important keys to great content and to do this your need to focus on five C’s:

  • Character: Who they are and who they can become (with your brand)
  • Culture: The things they do, the life they lead and the rich fabric of life around them
  • Cause: (Role) What is the big idea that bridges between the person and your commercial interests?
  • Creativity: What ideas will turn them on?
  • Connectivity: (Sort of media planning) What are the devices they are using? What types of content are they currently using and consuming?

8. Think like a woman

This sounds a bit sexist, but as it is from Dove, a brand very close to my heart, I will let it pass! Kate Smith, Group Strategy director of M&C Saatchi (and ex-Ogilvy London where she worked on Dove) said content zig zags and thinks more like a woman. It is more fluid and unpredictable. (yes, she really said this, so don’t get cranky with me). She says there are three key things Dove taught her:

  • Think culture and content first and not channel: understand the world around your brands. Think about where they live as much about what your audience might or might not watch or read. Start a conversation. Invoke reaction.
  • Engage don’t execute: Trigger emotional responses that appeal across demographics, across countries and across genders. Don’t try and limit the reaction or emotions evoked.
  • Open not closed: allow the audience in. Use discovery of the story to create a sense of curation in the content. Don’t show people how to feel, let them feel it for themselves. Let your communications travel with the audience take on new significance.

9. Execution is as important as strategy – so is agility

“What differentiates execution from strategy? It is the difference between architects and builders. The executors are the ones that get their hands dirty” so said Jeanne-Vida Douglas from Filtered Media.

We really need to understand what the audience is interested in hearing about and what we can actually talk about. Execution evolves over time and you have to let it evolve – so agility is one of the key elements of a content plan – the ability to change.

Where you start may not be where you end up, and that is ok. A key piece of advice from Kristen Vang, director and founder of Hatchd Digital in Perth is “Do one thing really well. Don’t try and do everything at once (Facebook, Instagram, blog, Twitter etc) – do one thing well and then expand from that.

10. Measurement is not optional

A great model of measuring content success was shared by Todd Wheatland of King Content


  • What? How many people saw it?
  • Key Measures: Views, downloads, visitors
  • Tools: Google Analytics, Platform Analytics


  • What? How often does audience relate and share comments?
  • Key Measures: Likes, Comments, Shares, Time on Site
  • Tools: Posting and social tools, Google Analytics


  • What? How often do content consumers turn into leads?
  • Key Measures: Registrations, subscriptions
  • Tools: Lead forms, cookies, offsite tracking, CRM


  • What? How often do content consumers turn into sales?
  • Key measures: Revenue, contracts
  • Tools: Lead forms, cookies, offsite tracking, CRM

So there you have it, in 10 easy steps. Follow these and you will be a content marketer, my friends. And no spinach required. With many thanks to Tim Burrows and Mumbrella and the whole BEFEST crew, presenters and panellists. A very engaging day with lots of, dare I say it, content to think about.