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What we can learn from John Lewis about Digital Content Marketing

Posted by Steve in Digital Marketing | May 2019

John Lewis are famous for their Christmas ads and typically spend around £1m producing them each year.

The ads are a key part of John Lewis' annual marketing strategy, and their continued investment in them shows they work.

Most SMEs don't have £1m to spend on an a single campaign of course.

But we can learn how John Lewis get such good returns on their campaigns.

Production vs Amplification

In our digital workshops and masterclasses clients calculate how much time and budget to allow for production of digital content and how much for amplification.

They almost always have a lightbulb moment where they realise their organisation has the ratio the wrong way round.

It is a classic mistake in-house teams make with content marketing.

Corporate Content Marketing

John Lewis spent £1m on their 2018 Christmas ad, but then spent a further £6m making sure it got seen by all of their audience both online and on TV.

They stuck quite closely to the classic 80:20 rule in marketing, where 80% of time or budget is spent on amplification, and 20% on production of content or creative.

Bigger players normally work to this kind of ratio as they understand that building a brand is done not in one interaction but in lots of micro-moments over time.

Corporates develop truly valuable content for their audiences - like interactive tools, industry research papers and guides that help customers solve big problems.

Because they create content their audience love it makes sense to then "squeeze the lemon" by investing lots in promoting and amplifying what they have created.

SME Content Marketing

When we speak to SMEs they often tell us they spend around 80% of their time and budget creating new content and 20% circulating and promoting it online.

So for example, many describe creating a long blog or social post and sharing it on social media the same day and that is it. Once they have done that they book time to create another long blog or social post and repeat the exercise.

Often they realise that not only have they created content that is of no true value to their audience, but also, most of their audience didn't even see it anyway.

A Winning Hand

We run an exercise in our workshops and masterclasses where we use a deck of cards we have developed to help delegates see how they can turn one piece of content they have created into as many as 52 further valuable pieces of content.

This is more closely aligned with the best practice approach the corporates take of course. It leads to consistency of message, and enables an audience to absorb and enjoy content in lots of micro-moments over a long period of time.

The deck of cards is just one way to help shift the mindset of digital marketers from repeatedly producing average content, to a best-practice mindset of producing truly high-value content that warrants much greater investment in amplification.

In the SME world, the leaders in each sector always have the 80:20 rule the right way round when it comes to content marketing.

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