How to Be a Frighteningly Brilliant Content Marketer

October 25, 2011 •

Content marketers should shiver with jealousy for Nightmares Fear Factory’s recent marketing success. If you missed this, basically, Nightmares Fear Factory is a haunted house in Niagara Falls Canada, and recently, their brilliant marketing strategy paid off big time when their Flickr feed was picked up by new and traditional media and sent around the web—I found out about it thanks to a friend who posted it on Google Buzz.

What’s the trick?
Instead of showing pictures of the haunted house, which without the context of the whole experience would probably look cheesy, Nightmares shows their customers. When they’re really, really scared. These are from their Flickr page:

Scared boys

Terrified couple

My first reaction to this was “This can’t be real,” but look at the Flickr feed and that doubt quickly dissipates. These are not cookie cutter models—they’re plain, normal people being scared senseless.

So how do I do this?

“Great,” you might be thinking, “that’s all well and good for a haunted house. But how could that ever work for my business? Terrified customers are the last thing we want!”

It’s true, you might not get content quite like this, but you can certainly learn from this idea. Here’s how:

1. Find your “scream” emotion. Shock and horror might not be your game, but you probably have an equivalent emotion. For example, Will Davis tells a story about our client Reclamere. They specialize in data recovery, data destruction, and computer forensics. Sounds pretty technical and emotionless, right? Think again. Will mentioned Reclamere to a new client and was met with a gasping “They saved us!”

This client’s company had a big computer crash, and Reclamere rescued their data.  Maybe the client didn’t go running around screaming in glee, but they surely shared their happiness.

To pin this down, talk to your salespeople, your client services people, and, most importantly, your clients and customers. Your business may not create an emotion that’s easily photographed, but I’ll bet there’s something that makes your customers or clients want to talk about you. Identifying that moment is the first step in mimicking Nightmares Fear Factory’s content marketing success.

2. Identify how to showcase that emotion. For Nightmares Fear Factory, a quick snap shot in a scary place easily did the trick. Your “scream” emotion may not be easy to photograph, and in fact, it might be slightly different most of the time. Here are some different ways to capture this emotion:

  • Testimonials
  • Webinars featuring a client
  • Case studies
  • Visual portfolio
  • Videos
  • Reviews
  • Surveys
  • Thank you notes

Many people think of content as blog posts, written by your company, talking about things your company is doing. But telling stories about what your clients or customers are doing is just as important. If you can work those stories into your blog without seeming like you’re bragging, great. If not, set up a section on your website that talks about more than just who your clients and customers are—but how your company makes them feel.

Horrified kids3. Promote and engage. If Nightmare’s Fear Factory had simply sold these photos to customers, or even printed these photographs on a brochure and mailed them out, they never would have caught fire on the large scale they did. Through posting these photographs on Flickr—an entire community based around photographs—Nightmare’s Fear Factory reached an active audience (make sure you read the comments on the photos, they’re pretty hilarious), and made their awesome content extremely easy to share.

There’s a lesson for all content marketers in Nightmare’s Fear Factory’s decision to post their photos on Flickr instead of the company website or Facebook page. Rather than keeping content on your own properties, go out and find other places to spread it around where there’s a ready audience waiting for you. This might be somewhere like Flickr, but it could also be a forum you participate in, or a guest post on a blog you comment on. When you’ve got something great, find a way to get it out to a bigger audience. You’d be amazed at what just asking can get you.

Last, I’ll turn the tables to ask what’s your organization’s scream emotion? Think this Flickr feed is an awful idea? Comment with your thoughts—I’m always glad to continue the conversation.

Photos posted with permission from Nightmare’s Fear Factory

About the Author

The Marketing Trenches blog provides thought leadership from actual marketing practitioners, not from professional thought leaders. Designed to help business leaders make more educated marketing decisions, our insights come directly from our experience in the trenches. You can find more from Right Source on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

  • Vicki Corson

    Brilliant move by Nightmare Fear Factory to post those photos. I bet that folks are flocking to their haunted house. I’d really like to know what scared the bejeezus out of all those people. If it wasn’t so far away, I know I’d be checking it out. Tracy, I really liked the point you made about sharing content on forums outside the corporate channels. Too many companies try to keep a tight hold on their content so they can “control” how it’s used. But when they do that they’re limiting their audience exposure.

    • Thanks for coming by, Vicki! And if I ever head up to Niagara Falls, I’ll definitely make a stop at this haunted house!

      And yes, it’s a huge battle to fight that “Well if we post it on Facebook, we can’t control what people say about it.” In most cases (I believe) the reward outweighs the risk.

  • People tend to think of web content as text, like articles, blog posts, etc.  Content is really anything that you publish and could be videos or images too.  Sometimes that visual representation can really draw the attention that you are looking for and attract a whole new set of eyes.  Think outside of the box when it comes to content marketing.  

    • Absolutely, Nick. Here’s another example I love for thinking out of the box about content:–it's a graphic and video rich job post. Job posts are shared more than many other types of content around here–but they’re normally tossed together and ugly. This one went out of the norm, and at least locally, went viral. Thanks again for coming by and commenting!

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