BT, get your bloody content out of my way
If it is the advertising that makes the brand promise, then it is the role of content marketing to show how brands live up to it. But in the tragic case of BT.com it has turned into an irrelevant, useless mess says Dominic Mills.
You'd have to live on Mars not to know that content marketing is all the rage these days, as marketers fall all over themselves to dream up ways to engage more deeply with customers by dishing them up useful and/or entertaining stuff.
So they see the likes of Red Bull, Tesco, Land Rover or Asos and get a case of the IWOOTs - I Want One of Those - often without thinking first.
There's plenty of good stuff about content marketing out there, whether it's from the Content Marketing Association's Clare Hill , or from Stephanie Himoff of Outbrain, which marketers thinking about content marketing might be advised to read.
Last week I heard Nic McCarthy, head of content at Seven, which provides content for the likes of Sainsbury's and Aviva, encapsulate, in a wider marketing framework, the role of content marketing.
In a nutshell, according to McCarthy, if it is the advertising that makes the brand promise, then it is the role of content marketing to show how brands live up to it.
Now you might think some of Himoff's piece states the obvious - but maybe not to the likes of BT.
It has hired the Press Association (PA) to provide editorial content for its main website, Bt.com.
What I discovered when I logged in - which they insisted on telling me about before I could get to my BT e-mail - is that this involves full-on lifestyle coverage across areas like news, entertainment, technology, fashion and beauty, TV, film, video games, family and home (and on and on and on).
So the big question is: WHY? And that leads to all sorts of other questions you think BT should have asked itself first, such as: why do people go to BT.com? What do they want to achieve as a result of going there? And what makes BT a legitimate or credible provider of this sort of content?
I defy any member of the public to actively choose to go to BT.com for a diet of news and entertainment."
Now I've spent (too much) time on Bt.com recently - because I was moving house; because I wanted to take my BT broadband with me; because I was interested in subscribing to BT Vision; because BT Vision then kept freezing; and because I wanted to cancel BT Vision. In other words, I had specific BT-related needs to satisfy (which they were).
But do I want to go to BT for news, entertainment, fashion, health or beauty stuff? No way, and that's a) because they are not a credible provider of that sort of content (despite the PA white labelling) and b) because I go to Bt.com for functional, utilitarian reasons.
Result: this stuff is just in the bloody way, and what's more, most of it is useless.
Take, at random, this piece about arthritis, published last week. Please tell me, BT, what is the point of that?
"Ah," you say, "what about this content as a support to BT Vision?" But no, according to a BT spokesperson, it's got nothing to do with BT Vision either.
So what is it to do with? Well, according to Nick Wong, director of online at BT Retail Consumer: "The new BT.com website is part of BT's commitment to help our customers get even more value out of the time they spend online. By combining the latest editorial content with easy access to all their BT online services we want to make things simple and enjoyable for our customers."
Er, translated, I think this means they want to use the content as a lure to get us to spend more time on BT.com, from which I suppose they think they can sell us more stuff.
But I defy any member of the public to actively choose to go to BT.com for a diet of news, entertainment and so on.
That is not to say BT has no role providing content - I could usefully see it providing specific and focused content about telephony and broadband products and developments, and maybe stuff on the same subjects for SMEs - in other words, areas where it has legitimacy.
And, yes, there's a bona fide role for content around sport since that is obviously an area where BT has an interest and a message to get out - although leading, as they did (Sunday 13th), on Edgar Davids and Barnet is scraping the barrel.
In a funny sort of way, I feel sorry for PA. They have to churn out this stuff endlessly to a wide, amorphous audience that, like BT's customer base, is a cross-section of modern Britain that includes everybody from students in Manchester to grannies in Glasgow.
By trying to please everyone (or not offend them), they end up satisfying no-one.
And here's why I'm really unsatisfied. I'm still waiting for Infinity. Why can't they speed up access to that instead of faffing around producing irrelevant, useless content?