It’s 1971 and this new football shoes company decides they need a logo. Despite competing against established brands like Puma or Adidas, the owners didn’t want to spend too much on the graphics. They were focusing resources on production. $ 2 an hour is the offer they made, which a young graphic design student accepted. After presenting different options and working a total of 17.5 hours, the designer Carolyn Davidson was paid the due $35 for the new logo. This was The Swoosh, the Nike logo, one of the most recognized brand logos in the world.
Fortunately, the Nike founders recognized the added value Davidson brought with her design. And were fair enough to admit they hadn’t paid her the real value she had created. 10-15 years after Davidson delivered the swoosh logo, the company founders threw a surprise party for the designer. They offered her a swoosh-shaped diamond ring and a substantial number of shares in the company. They are estimated today at about a million dollars.
This story is worth telling and retelling for the lesson it teaches. A classic proof that creative minds are not compensated enough for the long-term value they bring to a project.
Website content has the same problem.
It is mostly seen as an expense, as a pestering necessity for a business, and not as a valuable asset.
Asset and commodity: definitions
An asset is something (tangible or not) owned and controlled by the business, which delivers ongoing value.
A commodity is a basic, limited good that can be bought and sold, such as copper or coffee.
When you think of online content as a commodity no wonder you want to get it for as little as possible. You perceive it as a basic good to be given in exchange for something else (clicks, views, subscriptions). And you think that once it’s published and its hype diminishes, that piece of content becomes worthless. Nothing further from the truth.
You’re confusing content with coffee.
Quality, deliberate content doesn’t expire. On the contrary, it adds up intrinsic value to your brand. It has a long lifespan and stays valuable through time. Quality content brings in traffic, builds trust in your brand and often converts into sales. You can have one piece of article do this cycle over and over again, and win you multiple sales. This is an almost infinite resource which can bring in lots of business. It is not a limited resource like coffee. That’s a commodity, a basic good that you buy in exchange for a little money.
Your website content – the product descriptions, destination guides, inspiration lists, traveller stories – acts like a salesperson of your team. In fact, a copywriter is said to be “a salesperson behind a typewriter”. Think about how much you are willing to invest in your best salesperson. How much you are willing to pay them, train them, because you understand the long-term value a salesperson can bring to your business. You should treat digital content the same way.
I spot right away when a business thinks of content as a mere commodity, as a pack of coffee. That’s when they request a price per word. When you ask to pay per word written, you don’t understand the whole value of a complete text. It’s like asking a designer to price per circle or line drawn. It’s about the final product and how that will help your business grow.
Say you charge 0,50 € per word. The Airbnb marketing team commissions you to create their tagline. You come up with theirs: Belong Anywhere. Job done. You bill 1,00 €. Or you land a fantastic gig with Air France to create their tagline. You come up with the brilliant France is in the Air. According to your fee per word, you bill 2,50 €. You can never look at content as a commodity and expect to pay per word, like you pay for coffee per cup.
When is content a commodity?
Content can also be produced as a commodity, and all too often it is. To the detriment of the brands that publish it.
Content is a commodity when it doesn’t have any clear objective, but it’s produced just because. That’s a bag of words you paid someone to create, only to throw out the bag after you publish it and it slowly dies, lonely on your web.
Content that’s so promotional and centered on your own business that doesn’t offer anything of value to a prospect. That’s a commodity you paid for out of vanity that will bring in no new sale. Guaranteed.
Content becomes a commodity when your mindset is to produce more and more and more.
There is a clear correlation between getting the content cheaply and using it as a commodity. Content that you outsource to content mills, interns with no experience, or “native” speakers in underdeveloped countries who don’t know a thing about marketing – this content will be the commodity that you will spit out into the web, only filling it with more clutter.
Let’s not do this. Let’s start producing content that we’re proud to call an asset of our business.
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