A Brand-Crushing Content Strategy

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There are some obvious rules for good content, like make it useful and relevant. Give me something that makes my life better. Or entertain me, make me cry, laugh or ponder. Teach me something. Whichever direction you take, you have to deliver value. If I sacrifice my time to engage with you, you better do at least one of those things because if you’re not, you are wasting my time. Seriously, who chooses to engage with content so they can spend time viewing a self-aggrandizing ad?

And worse, don’t bait me with a promise of value then break that promise during the experience. You waste my time and you lie to me? This is brand death.

So, the email comes in while the tax reform is in hot debate. It’s Fidelity so I’m sure they enjoy a decent open rate from their customers. The email promises to explain what the pending tax reform could mean to me.

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Good idea, something I need to know. It’s a respected brand and I’d like to know their take on how it will affect me. The headline reads “Find out what it could mean for you”. Okay, let’s go.

It takes me to a Fidelity landing page where the video is prominently displayed. But I’m getting bad vibes already. The video is titled “Manager Insights: Our View of The Markets and Tax Reform”. Ah… okay, less about me and more about you. Nevertheless, I click play. (Here’s the link if you’re interested: https://www.fidelity.com/managed-accounts/manager-insights)

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What follows is a sales pitch for Fidelity services and their brilliant insights, and remember I am a customer so there’s already a disconnect. (That’s a CRM and content targeting conversation for another day.) The video speaks primarily about Fidelity and how they do what they do, nothing about specific changes to the tax law, and only broadly about the implications of the changes and never, ever tells me as an individual what the tax reform means to me. Yet this is what they promised. I’ve had to sit through half the video before there is even a topic question halfway relevant to me. Yet the question is so broadly answered focusing on Fidelity and its services and capabilities that it is not an answer at all. It’s over for me now. I'm done.

How can they confuse a content-based relationship where there is an implicit promise of an equitable exchange — my attention for useful information? I learn, the brand is positively "preferenced" in my mind and all parties are happy. Instead of this simple give and get, they hit me with the classic and abhorred bait & switch. They promise me something to bait me into listening to a sales pitch that is all about them and offers me nothing. They are crushing their brand equity. They trapped me and I don’t like to be trapped. This kind of content strategy is a death sentence for brands and a pretty straight up example of what not to do. 

And so I end my little digital engagement with Fidelity wholly unfulfilled with the feeling I have been tricked, taken, our implied exchanged defaulted on. And just a bit pissed off. I quickly unsubscribe from future emails while awash in a loss of confidence in Fidelity with whom it appears I will never have a fair exchange. I certainly won’t seek out their content. Multiply my experience by all the people who also felt taken, and the potential scope of the loss of brand equity is, well, not good. It’s incomprehensible to me that brands today still don’t get it.

While everyone wants their content efforts to move the needle, ask yourself – are your content strategies respecting the customer and building equity? ‘Cause if they’re not….