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Should marketing content be bite-size or supersize?

“If you can’t fragment your content into cross-platformed multi-media mini-particles, then what kind of content provider are you exactly?”
Those are the words of iconoclastic comedian Stewart Lee, complaining to the Financial Times that the sort of comedy he performs can’t be reduced to snappy one-liners that will fit into a poster, or a tweet, or a 10-second video clip.

Lee’s point is that when it comes to content, shorter isn’t necessarily better.  His material isn’t composed of catchphrases that can fans can tweet to each other; instead it unfolds over the space of a 30-minute TV show, or a 90-minute live performance, carefully building layers of nuance until you realise you are watching something very clever – and very funny.

I was reminded of Stewart Lee’s article while reading one of Maxine-Laurie Marshall’s posts on this site. Maxine was asking how long her event video should be, saying that best practice dictates it should be no more than two minutes. 

I was particularly struck by this reply from an anonymous commenter:

"As a video producer I find it increasingly frustration [sic] that the "2 minutes maximum" quote is always rolled out by PR's and Digital Marketing people. If the content is good and engaging then people will spend more time watching it.”

Anonymous is absolutely right. We marketers get very caught up in the idea that content should be short, snappy, and quick to digest.  Customers lead very busy lives, we tell ourselves and they don’t want to be held up for long. The less of their time we ask for, the better for everyone.

But sometimes that just isn’t the case.  In the B2B world especially, vendors have complex products and services that take time and skill to explain properly.  That doesn’t mean they’re dull, or that no one wants to know about them – it just means that sometimes a two-minute video or a 20-word tweet can’t (and won’t) do them justice.

The rule shouldn’t be to make content as brief as possible, but to make it as useful or engaging as possible to the people you want to see it.

I once heard a wise person say: “The question isn’t ‘how do I explain this in 100 words?’, but ‘how do I make someone want to read 10,000 words about this?’”

Content doesn’t ‘have’ to be short or long, single-platform or multi-platform. Whether it’s a two-minute video or a 10,000-word white paper, it just needs to do the job you want it to do.