What is Content Shock & What It Means For Your Business

We humans are funny creatures.

We’re always attracted to something new.

And then the new thing becomes a fad, then a trend and then a rage.

Just think about when, in the ‘60s, London-based fashion designer Mary Quant invented the miniskirt and named it after her car.

It started out as a fad, then became a trend and a rage. And of course, the rage eventually burnt out and miniskirts vanished.

We can say the same about online content.

Fast-forward to 2017. And we can say we’ve come a long way since that time. Not just that I live on the other side of the planet in Canada, but the then fad “Internet” has evolved a lot.

This evolution has made life easier in many ways, but now it’s causing headaches for marketing professionals because we’ve reached…

The Age Of Content Shock

Over the years, marketers have learnt that if they want to be successful and want to gently seduce their target markets, instead of raiding them with silly sales pitches: they have to use educational content and let their markets consume it for free…or, for an email address.

This has been going on for a good number of years, but we’ve reached a limit.

As Michael Schaefer explains it, we’ve reached the state of content shock, the state of having a sip of water out of a fire hose on full blast.

In Michael’s definition, content shock is…

“The emerging marketing epoch defined when exponentially increasing volumes of content intersect our limited human capacity to consume it.”


Over the years, thanks to technology and the more popular photo-and speed-reading courses, our ability to consume content has grown a bit, while marketers content creation and distribution ability has increased exponentially. And it seems, marketers are not running out of content-creating steam in the near future.

But it does mean that marketers will need to apply better strategy and better tactics to effectively engage with their markets, including:

  • More resources to achieve the same level of market penetration as before. All forms of content, especially video, has become increasingly more sophisticated than they were only five years ago. Additional sophistication requires extra money.
  • Higher barriers of entry are dictated by the big money players. They know any competition can undermine their success, so they control the competition, at least the ones with less money than them, by making market entry cost-prohibitive for smaller players.
  • Small players are forced to stop playing because they run out of resources shortly after leaving the start point.

What that also means is that if small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) want to successfully play the content marketing game

They Have To Do A Different Kind Of Content Marketing

No, more content is not the answer, although this is exactly what most companies do.

In Is Content Marketing a Sustainable Marketing Strategy?, author Michael Brenner reports that…

  • On the average website, 0.5% of the content receives over 50% of all traffic.
  • Some 70% of marketing content goes completely unused.

Michael summarizes that the real problem is volume and poor quality, that is a preponderance of junk content.

Why so much low quality content?

Because, due to their morbidly low prices, content mills in India and other third world countries have become so very popular and, as long as the very high quantity is there, clients don’t seem to care that the content is written by people with dubious English.

The other option to high volume low quality is less but better content and, what’s often missing today is, better integration of content marketing and business development.

Content marketing – The Business Development Cycle

The key is to keep pace with content marketing and have the resources to do so, which leads to better business development.

Content creation and content distribution feed content marketing, but that content has to generate sales leads with high probability to turn into customers down the road, so the money made on those new customers can pay for further content marketing.

There is no point in chasing more newsletter subscribers or more Facebook likes for the sake of being able to brag about the size of your email list or the number of Facebook likes.

One’s got to know when size matters and when it doesn’t.

Sadly, they are non-bankable assets.

They can be made bankable, and that’s business development.

Effective business development makes content marketing sustainable.

One form of successful integration is inbound marketing. It’s content marketing with all the built-in elements to turn content consumers into paying customers. And this makes inbound marketing one of the most cost-effective and sustainable marketing strategies.

The bad news is that 86% of B2B companies are using content marketing.

And while this data alone can drive many SME owners to the brink of suicide, the good news is that many companies, regardless of size, poorly integrate content marketing with business development, and can’t turn it into inbound marketing.

The main reason is that business development is treated as good old-fashioned sales with no regard for what marketing does in the areas of brand development, content marketing or other long-term focused initiatives.

In most companies, content marketing is run by the marketing department but business development by the sales department. This creates a discrepancy because marketing is long-term focused but the business development folks are chasing instant sales. There is a disconnect in marketing and sales alignment.

What makes the situation even worse is that salespeople often offer unreasonable discounts in order to close sales right away.

But that’s something the two rivaling departments have to sort out between themselves.

But what can content marketers do?

Continue With Content Marketing But Get More Out Of It?

Join Forces With A Big Brand

You may be in an industry where your products/services complement the products of another industry serving the same target market.

Just think of the music industry. Major rock bands are roaming the land with their lead act bands that play to warm up the audience.

After leaving Accept in 1987, singer Udo Dirkschneider formed his new band, U.D.O., and for a while, it was the lead act for former Black Sabbath frontman, Ozzy Osbourne.

So, on the brand value of Black Sabbath and Ozzy, UDO worked its way up to the heavy metal major league.

As lead acts, SMEs can achieve significant notoriety by working with more recognized brands.

This is how celebrity endorsement was born too.

Just think about how many people have achieved business expert stardom by being affiliated in some ways with Peter Drucker or Claremont Graduate University, home of the Drucker School of Management.

Narrow Your Target Market

Marketing to a narrow market is a lot less expensive than marketing to a broad market.

Think about Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola and why Coca Cola is more successful, although PepsiCo has twice the headcount of Coke.

The Coca-Cola Company does one thing: It guards the Coca Cola brand. It’s 2016 profit was $52,978 per employee.

PepsiCo does a bit of everything, Pepsi, food, snacks, etc. It’s 2016 profit was $23,973 per employee.

Obviously, since Coke markets only one item, Coca Cola, using a given amount of money, it can reach the market more effectively and profitably.

It has more than twice of Pepsi’s profit per employee.

Yes, it’s tempting to have a broad market and a broad product range, but you can end up suffering from the strawberry jam syndrome. Too much bread (content areas) and too little jam (good content). Still, it can cost you a pretty penny to implement it, but no one will enjoy the empty slices of bread.

Promote Your Uniqueness

Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, started climbing mountains using soft cast-iron pitons that had to be thrown away after each use.

Chouinard, who was as also a blacksmith, designed a new piton using aircraft-quality chrome-molybdenum steel. The tougher pitons were reusable too.

He recalls…

“Every time I returned from the mountains, my head was spinning with ideas for improving the carabiners, crampons, ice axes, and other tools of climbing.”

Granted, there are many blacksmiths and mountain climbers in this world, but Chouinard is probably the only one who’s both, thus understands both mountains and metals, and how metals behave on the mountains under extreme conditions. And that is his unique value.

This is undisputed objective uniqueness. Better customer service, better quality and other platitudes are subjective, so we’d better not even bother to use them.

The key is to find the kind of objective uniqueness that can’t be disputed.

In case of Chouinard, no one can say, “No you’re neither a mountain climber not a blacksmith.”

And no one can say, “Oh, I too am a mountain climber and a blacksmith.”

The Advantages Of The First Or Early Movers

In their book, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk, authors Al Ries and Jack Trout

talk about the advantages of the first mover.

No doubt, whoever does something first, will be remembered.

But the other factor is who can promote that event more successfully.

You see, most people believe Edison invented the electric light.

No, he didn’t. He used his political and legal prowess to steal the inventions from the English Joseph Swann and the American William Sawyer, who were brilliant inventors, but they didn’t understand the media and PR.

When Edison found out that his two rivals were further along in perfecting the light bulb, he simply announced that he’d perfected the light bulb and immediately received all the fame and recognition, and no one ever listened to Swann’s or Sawyer’s side of the story.

In reality, Edison didn’t even have a prototype.

So, although Edison was the “latecomer”, due to his better use of b2b marketing and PR, he became the inventor of the incandescent light.

Yes, this is infuriating, but it shows that coming first is not an automatic win. It’s good to know marketing too.

So, even if you’re not the fist in your industry, you can use good marketing to gain some advantages.

And if you have narrowly defined market, as we defined in a previous point, you have an even easier task to pull this off.


So, it seems this whole content shock is really shock caused by too much low quality content.

Look, I believe, no matter how many jewelry stores open in North America, Tiffany & Co. has nothing to worry about, and it wasn’t the first jewelry store.

Allen Brothers doesn’t have to worry about the number of high street butcher shops, although their prices are multiples of supermarket meat prices.

And I sincerely hope that the day comes when companies recognize and pay the creators of good content in proportion to what they expect to achieve as a result of distributing that content.

All in all, my verdict is that if you’re ready and willing to create high-quality content and you’re in in the long haul, then inbound marketing is still your best bet.

It’s not instant gratification, but lasting gratification. It’s not quick money, but lasting, steady revenue.

Picture of Todd Mumford

Todd Mumford