What content marketers can learn from Pixar

I’m a huge Pixar fan. I can talk for hour about each movie and how excited I am about Monsters University, but I understand that might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

But there is something content marketers and anyone in a creative industry can learn from them. The Pixar team are expert storytellers that make everyone feel something, and I’m not saying it makes only children feel something…I promise I saw grownups crying on Toy Story 3…surprisingly it wasn’t me!

Change is what describes the digital marketing industry best. It is through your content you’ll stay connected to your audience. So, what can you learn from one of the best storytellers out there?

Say “No” if something’s not good for your business’ soul

Learning to say 'no' - content marketers
Learning to say ‘no’ – content marketers

 

After Pixar released Toy Story, Disney encouraged them to make Toy Story 2 direct to video. That was a strategy Disney used to keep successful film franchises alive by reducing the barriers to producing successive films. The “benefit” or “incentive” for filmmakers was that the next movie could be of lesser quality. Sounds great, right? Make another movie but invest less time and resource, why not?

As we know now, Pixar said “no”. They immediately thought that taking the path of least resistance would be bad for the company’s soul and despite Disney’s desire to make a lesser quality production, they agreed  at the end and Pixar went on to produce another blockbuster.

In the digital marketing industry, there is always something happening. One day you might wake up and hear all about this new type of content people are using and it’s getting them lots of links, shares, whatnot. Remember infographics a year ago?

This new shinny object, whatever it may be, is full of awesomeness…or at least it seems that way for everyone else but you. If everyone is doing it, and it is working out for them, maybe you should try it out, too. Right? No.

Don’t do something that can be bad for your business’ soul just because it seems to be working out for others.  Some businesses are comfortable with fads and their community is used to seeing them experiment, but if you aren’t comfortable with a particular fad, move on. Your content marketing is much more than one type of content. Concentrate in what is good for you and not others.

Every marketing campaign and tactic that you execute should reflect your business’ culture and ultimately your “why”. Engage with your community, provide valuable information, educate and be you. There are so many ways to create amazing content. Do what’s right for you.

The guys at Portent wrote a great article on the value of saying no. Don’t chase the shiny new object just because it’s right in front of you; build your content strategy based on who you are and what your company believes in.

Don’t lower your standards for quick fixes

Don't sacrifice quality - content marketers
Don’t sacrifice quality – content marketers

 

Hold yourself to a high standard for everything you produce. Don’t let yourself and your customers down and create crap content just because you want to “get something out of the way” or get your “share of brand voice”.

Companies that inspire trust and are consistent with their online and offline behaviour are the ones that succeed. Whether you’re an air conditioning business or Coca Cola, you should ensure your content is something you are proud of. Something that you want to put your name on and show it to everyone you know.

When you produce quality content, your audience expects to find quality every time you release something.  Meet their expectations. Don’t let them down, that’s how you can lose them. When we visit our favourite café we do it because we know what’s coming, and we like it that way. Content marketing should be approached in the same way.

Mackwebsolutions and Mackenzie Fogelson, who I had the pleasure of meeting last year at Mozcon, have consistently been creating outstanding content and, within a year, they’ve become a voice people listen to when it comes to web marketing. That’s what reliable, quality content can do. Create entertaining, relevant, valuable, and compelling content that makes people feel something, matches your brand, and builds trust with your future loyal customers.

Pixar didn’t sacrifice their quality when it came to Toy Story 2. They stuck to their beliefs and produced the amazingness that is Toy Story 2 and 3.

Don’t keep “breakthroughs” to yourself. Share and let the love rain down on you

Share your ideas and content - content marketers
Share your ideas and content – content marketers

 

Something I love about Pixar is their openness and transparency. They understand that by sharing, they not only stay connected with their community but they also attract unique talent and reinforce the company’s belief that people are far more important than ideas.

If you have an amazing idea, write it down. Share it. If you have found the best way to clean your air conditioning filters, share it. Keeping knowledge and valuable information to yourself won’t get you anywhere and it will not attract any loyal customers (potential customers won’t even know about it!).

People like Rand Fishkin, and Will Reynolds are great examples of admirable transparency and openness. They share everything. The good, the bad, and the ugly, and people trust them for this.

Sharing is good. Especially in the times we live in. Sharing will get you far. The age of hoarding knowledge as a competitive advantage in business is long over. It’s 2013 – Stop hoarding knowledge and share. If you don’t do it, someone else will and they will become the trusted authority and you’ll be stuck right where you are right now. Whenever you think it’s a “breakthrough” and should be kept a secret, someone else is working on it. So share valuable, engaging content today!

Don’t be afraid to fail. Admit your mistakes and move on

Don't be afraid to fail - content marketers
Don’t be afraid to fail – content marketers

 

Your content strategy has fallen flat on its face. Everyone knows it’s been a huge failure and now that massive elephant in the room is staring at you. What now?

Well, stand up, dust yourself off and start again.

Failure is an awful thing. I hate failing. But sometimes it happens.

The guys at Pixar had to restart Toy Story 2. True story.  After watching the development reels they realised they weren’t a 100% happy with the story. Once the team in charge of A Bug’s Life was done a new creative leadership was assigned to Toy Story 2, they noticed the movie wasn’t up to their standards and restarted it, despite Disney’s disapproval.

They understood that big risks can mean even bigger failures.

Don’t be afraid to fail. If your team knows that it is safe to fail they will take risks that can take your business to the next level. I’m not saying you should gamble either, mind you. Be smart but not afraid. Don’t let possible failures stop you from trying something new.

Feedback is key. It will improve your work

You have an amazing team. Use it.

Feedback can improve your content massively. Show your work progress to your peers and let them give you feedback. Don’t be embarrassed or afraid of what they might say, even if it’s negative.

When you have other people giving recommendations and sharing their ideas with you on your work, take it on board.

A really cool idea is what Pixar does and calls “dailies”.  They are animators’ works in progress shown to the entire animation crew. Everyone shares their ideas and feedback. All of Pixar’s films have been blockbusters…they are doing something right, and I think their feedback culture has something to do with it.

Fear complacency

Fear being complacent - content marketers
Fear being complacent – content marketers

 

This is by far my favourite thing about Pixar: They fear complacency. This motivates them to identify, discuss, and address new problems.  When Brad Bird was being recruited to Pixar, Steve Jobs, Ed Catmull, and John Lasseter said to him that the only thing they were afraid of is complacency, feeling like they have it all figured out. They want him (Brad Bird) to come shake things up.

Don’t continue down the same road just because you’ve had a successful campaign and it feels like that is a safe bet. Try something new. Try something others are not trying because they are warm and cosy where they are.

Run risky campaigns that are still in accordance with your business’ soul. Have your safe content but shake things up once in a while. Be more like Tom Cruise, plan content that kicks ass, and don’t be afraid!

I think the most important takeaway here is that you need to respect your content strategy. Your goal shouldn’t be about getting links. Think bigger than that.

When promoting Monsters University Pixar launched a incredible website, which has sadly now been taken offline. At the time, it was such a unique way to promote a movie….and it worked. It created interest, built intrigue, and generated buzz.

Pixar wouldn’t be where they are now if they didn’t think big. Before them, no one had done a full-feature computer-animated movie, now there are plenty of companies doing them.

So what now? What can you do with this?

  • Plan your content strategy and make sure you have a core strategy that is in harmony with your business’ soul and “why”.
  • Be you and deliver high quality content that adds value and meets your community expectations.
  • Share knowledge with your community and play a role in it. You might not have breakthroughs to share but you have a voice and can add value.
  • Trust your team and let them know it is ok to fail. You might not get it right the first time but if your team feels like you have their backs, they will thrive.
  • Give feedback. It is such a big part of successful campaigns. Talk to your peers, see what works, what doesn’t and improve your work with their input.
  • Stir away from complacency. If your work becomes stagnant others will take your place. Be the voice your community is not tired of listening.

Keep your soul and engage yourself in the crazy and amazing world that is content marketing.

And if you find any obstacles along the way…just keep swimming.

Engage in the world of content marketing
Engage in the world of content marketing