Is this HR colouring book great content or a near-miss?

A great idea can get you a long way – but for full impact your content has to follow through in its delivery

An email dropped into my inbox the other day from payroll, benefits and HR company Gusto (previously known as ZenPayroll). Something about the layout and content gave me cause to stop and think.

The fact that I stopped and gave it some thought probably answers my next question – but still I wondered, is this download great content?

The main body

The main thrust of the email is showcasing an HR colouring book. An animated gif shows hands on a table opening up a book and colouring in with crayons.

The artist – who produces the very look-worthy Cooper Review cartoons – has clearly been hired to produce some wacky, off-the-wall content treatments for this HR software company. The work she produces on her own account is relevant to this audience; she may even have some brand recognition among the people targeted by the client.

I’m not entirely convinced. (This is, of course, a purely subjective take. We’d need to work out whether HR leaders like it…) The execution is highly creative and interactive – elements clients often put on their wish list, wanting to prove there’s more to marketing than words on a page or screen, video and infographics. But I’m struggling to imagine anyone actually following through on the idea. How many are downloading and doodling on the thing?

Brand values

Perhaps that’s not the point. Perhaps the mere act of sponsoring this quirky execution is enough to reflect the brand values of Gusto. Maybe the real value of this content is the gif in the email. Having downloaded the colouring book, I’d also say it’s at the low end of Sarah Cooper’s quality scale. That’s also surely a factor.

Interestingly, given the effort they put in, there’s no obvious link to the company’s content on the main website. It’s buried under the ‘More’ dropdown menu, using the opaque title ‘Framework’ – hiding a treasure trove of pretty compelling content.

Does it work?

So, all in all, a curious piece of content marketing. It’s interesting, different – but, for me, falls short of what it might have been.

I wonder whether, given how acerbic some of the artist’s cartoons are about office life (and even HR), the client baulked at her wittier stuff and lost some of the edge in the process.

It’s worth noting that Gusto has sent me the link to the colouring book four times now. Perhaps, as well as the gif, there’s value in the idea of an HR colouring book, so they can use it as an attention-grabbing email subject line. After all, there’s some excellent links further down the email to highly relevant utility content – on health insurance or unemployment claims, for example.

And that is, I suspect, where the audience will get their real satisfaction.

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