Recently I was sitting in a meeting with a prospective client and he was talking about a great presentation given by a brand content studio. The ideas were phenomenal and impactful, he said, but then he quickly added, “and then reality struck.”

By “reality,” he was referring to the difference between a bold, brilliant idea and a content concept that genuinely fit his objectives. I call this over-ideation -- the impulse to do big fancy think pieces without always considering the desired outcome. He lovedthe big ideas but what he needed was something more down to earth that aligns closely with the company’s capabilities and solutions -- content his bosses could clearly see gain traction with customers. A white paper, some case studies, a library of industry-specific content. Quality thought leadership, but not necessarily earth-shattering or toe-curling stuff. Sometimes you “aim for the moon.” And sometimes, as Freud allegedly said: “a cigar is just a cigar.”


While it sounds simple to know which way to go, directional signals can easily get crossed, especially when a bunch of clever and enthusiastic people are batting around concepts while brainstorming. You get caught up in the excitement of creation. It’s easy to get lost.

While in the midst of an ideation spiral, see if asking yourself these questions helps to put it all into perspective:

  • How will ROI be measured -- by impressions or subscribers, by revenue or market share, by positive feedback, by research that measures perceptions and lift? To what extent does ROI impact the direction you take creatively?
  • Is your vision for content in sync with other members of your team responsible for decision making? If not, what would they need to hear -- what criteria would need to be met -- to give the green light to any concept?
  • Are you looking to promote or provoke? In other words, are you looking to blatantly promote your product features and benefits or is it more important to create a dramatic experience focused solely on its informational value to the customer, even if your company is not at the center of it? Spoiler alert: Usually people want to do a bit of both and it takes a lot of expertise to pull this off well. Use our Me Meter to see where you fall.
  • If you had to pick the single most important goal for this project, what would it be? Customer acquisition, industry visibility, brand awareness, pleasing the boss--you’ve got the idea.

So maybe you’re looking to produce a larger-than-life interactive piece on a social issue that will reinforce your company’s global citizenship and strike a powerful, emotional chord. Or maybe you just want to sell the hell out of your products and showcase your market expertise. There’s no right or wrong. Both tactics can be creative, strategic and engaging, and a blended approach can sometimes be the best way to go. It’s about keeping your eye on the end goal. The key to great content strategy is ensuring great ideas are also the most effective ones. That means knowing when to shoot for the moon -- and when to light up that cigar.


Liked This Read? If you got something out of this story, we recommend you check out the following reads on content planning & strategy:

  1. Sometimes The Best Way Forward Is Behind You - Is It Time To Pull A 180?
  2. The Road Not Bacon - How High Is Your Social Coefficient?
  3. Content Pyramid- The New Method For Effective Content Planning.