How to make your content marketing like the best bits of Top Gear

There’s a hidden gem in the new BBC series that all content marketers can learn from.

Top Gear is a global brand. Its combination of cars, boyish banter and far-fetched, far-flung challenges has earned it fans around the world. No wonder the latest series, with a completely new presenting team, was so eagerly awaited.

The challenge that faced the producers was clear: stick to the same successful formula or take the opportunity to try something new. They opted for the safe choice, though came up with a few minor modifications. Were they successful? Time will tell, though the critics’ reviews after two episodes have generally been negative.

Copycat content

The question of originality is one that faces content marketers on a regular basis too. We analyse the data and see what works and are naturally inclined to do more of the same. We also look around at what the competition is up to. Here the temptation is even stronger. The first reaction to seeing an impressive piece of content from a competitor is often to start planning something along the same lines.

Such copycat activity feels like a safe choice, but there is an important difference between the decision facing Top Gear’s producers and that facing a content marketing manager. It all comes down to data.

The BBC producers knew that the original programme had stellar viewing figures that drove an international branding and syndication business. But it may be harder to judge the success of some cool new content from a competitor. It may be slick and make you drool with envy but that doesn’t mean it has hit home with the target audience.

Success can be hard to measure, and, as recently discussed, does not always come from the highest quality content (just ask all those cats in hammocks). So, if you’re going to be inspired by another organisation’s efforts, make sure you are following a path of demonstrable success. But there is another way, or so the Top Gear example suggests.

Authentic content

The headline on GQ’s website is unequivocal: “Chris Harris Can Save Top Gear”. The article goes on to explain that a little-known presenter of a spin-off show is the best thing about the relaunch: “buried in the new Top Gear companion show, Extra Gear, is the man able to drag the series back from the brink”.

What makes Harris the Messiah of motoring journalism? According to GQ it is the fact that he understands how cars work, can drive very well and does not rely on superlatives or shouting to get his message across. He is original and he is authentic.

Originality can be a dangerous game. The stakes are high and, when you venture into unchartered territory, it is easy to fall flat on your face. Not every content campaign needs to be a work of sparkling originality, but that’s where the big wins are, and it makes sense to conduct an originality health check to ensure you’re trying something new on a regular basis.

Authenticity is less risky but harder to master. Think about the content that you find compelling, both within the business world and beyond. Chances are that it will be written or presented by someone with an authentic, authoritative voice. And a great benefit of focusing on authoritative authors is that they will naturally bring original ideas with them.

So, when you’re sculpting your content strategy, don’t forget to look for authentic voices that could take your marketing into overdrive.

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