Chicken Suits, Killer Dust Bunnies & Branding: Why Good Content Is Crap

Arianna Huffington, Jason Calacanis, and Michael Arrington (to name a few) got filthy stinking rich by using one important tool. Sadly, most website owners have it and never use it.

Instead, many site owners hide their Excalibur (or light saber, if that’s more your thing) in a dark corner somewhere and rarely bring it out into daylight. But, if you’re brave enough to fight off the spiders, bats, and killer dust bunnies, you’ll be able to expand and grow your business far beyond its current expectations.


Where Businesses Go Wrong

I love writing and I love working with my clients, but if there’s one thing that drives me around the bend, it’s this common scenario:

A client contacts me looking for a piece of link bait, buzz content, or a marketing plan. So, I have them fill out a profile, we discuss goals, direction, and all the other specifics. But, as soon as it comes to choosing a topic, they disagree with every one of my suggestions. In the end, they choose a standard topic with a frame that confines their article to ‘safe’ subjects and constraints. The piece never generates much attention, and they end up disappointed.

Now, I’m not saying I always come up with the best topics to match a business all the time. I’m human. But, these clients turn down most good topic suggestions because they’re terrified. They’re scared stiff they might upset or offend someone. They’re worried they may come off looking silly or stupid and damage the brand they’ve worked so hard to build. Sadly, they likely do more damage to themselves by not taking a risk than they ever would have if they’d have just bit the bullet and done something a little differently.


Bring Out the Chutzpah!

If you look at the Internet’s most successful people, particularly big-name bloggers, you’ll see they have one common trait: they’re not afraid to get creative. They’re different and not afraid to cause backlash, offend someone, or have someone walk away hard feelings. They’re not trying to fit into a specific mold, or at least not a standard one. Most struggling companies and websites, however, are.

When companies fail get creative, they fail to demonstrate to a visitor or potential customer they’re different or better than their competition. And let’s face it, this is vital. If I go car shopping, I look for the one that makes me go ‘Yes! That’s the one I want’. If I want to buy a dress, I look for the one that looks better than all the rest. When I vote for a political figure, I vote for the one that stood out as being different and portraying the type of person I want representing me. If you don’t stand out, there’s no reason for someone to choose you!

Even businesses in the real world are learning this hard reality. Take the Apple/PC commercials, for example. One of the reasons they’ve been so successful is because they were funny, but they’re also quite creative. They appear different from any other commercial that’s been on TV or Internet lately. Comparing themselves directly to PC was risky, and let’s face it, they could have been facing some serious legal trouble had they done it wrong. But, they bit the bullet, they took the risk, and it’s certainly paid off.

Most people who own a PC or Apple have seen these commercials or heard them at one point in time or another. These commercials have also spawned numerous spoofs, generated all sorts of links to spread its reach, and even helped build and emphasize the brand. In the end, Apple comes off looking like THE high-end, elite product. It looks trendy and people want it because it’s different and THE thing to have.


Using Your Own Chutzpah

Other brands and businesses can do the same and it doesn’t have to cost millions of dollars or an entirely new marketing campaign either. It could be something as simple as creating an article that’s different from anything else out there; something that shocks, amazes, or maybe it’s even a little controversial. The important thing to remember when getting creative is that you need to sound intelligent, show professionalism, and you need to demonstrate all the qualities that you want your customers to associate with your business. Otherwise, you could end up doing more harm than good.

Outspoken bloggers and popular blogs have this down to an art form. These guys tell their stories straight up. There’s no beating around the bush and no candy coating. They give their opinions straight out and don’t care whether somebody likes it or not. In fact, they like it if somebody disagrees because it creates buzz, interest, and it gets people passionate and emotional about the subject.

This, my friends, is what drives sales and pushes people to follow your call to action. This is the exact same thing a writer works hard to accomplish in a piece of sales copy. You don’t need to be a jerk to accomplish it either.

If you want to take your site over the threshold and bring it into the realm of success, do yourself a favor and get out of your own way. Take the leap. It’s worth the risk. Worst-case scenario, this online world gets just a little more interesting!

Based in the Canadian Prairies, Angie Nikoleychuk (Haggstrom) is the Senior Copywriter & Content Consultant for Angie’s Copywriting, a premium business copywriting service providing offline & offline content to organizations of all sizes. In addition to online copywriting, Angie is a diehard coffee addict, avid Twitter user, and enjoys chatting about SEO, SM, branding, marketing, and business. (Besides writing, of course!)


  1. Julius

    I also think that being different and getting creative may not pay off immediately, so one has to be persistent in doing these things.

  2. Angie Haggstrom

    Hi Julius,

    I absolutely agree. Audiences can be very fickle. Even two similar sites in the same industry can attract completely different audiences, so it’s always worth experimenting. Besides, your content reflects on you and your business, so if you want customers to choose you over your competitors, you have to show them there’s a reason to do so!


  3. Lance Puig

    I agree with Angie. You have to give more value than what your competitor offers your market.

  4. Steve Mason

    Thanks to listening to u, I don’t think I have tried to fit the common mold of safe blogging. If we can’t step out of our skin and have enough Chtazpah to be a little on the edge, then why spend time just following the pack. Let’s geterdone with a big splash of crazyiness.

  5. Angie Haggstrom

    @Steve>> Nothing wrong with a little craziness 🙂

    @Lance>> Not sure it’s a matter of ‘more’ value, but different. Regurgitation is nothing more than that — the same old thing spit out multiple times. I want to know the companies I hire are a cut above!

  6. Peter Egan

    First, let me start by saying that I completely agree with you on virtually every point you make.

    I’m a big fan of the musical group “311”. They’ve got a song called “Come Original”, that despite being written before anyone had ever heard of a blog, provided step-by-step instructions on how to become successful blogging (or promoting oneself in any other capacity).

    The line that is most applicable is “You’ve got to come original | All entertainers come original”.

    That’s what it all boils down to really. If you be yourself and manage to expose whatever it is you’re promoting to an audience, someone will inevitably take offense and wind up generating additional publicity in the process of voicing his or her gripes.

    If you’re not pissing someone off, you’re not doing something right. As you pointed out in the post, it’s when bloggers and businesses start trying to conduct public relations in such a way that no one is ever offended that their target audience begins to tune them out. Trying to please everyone is a fool-proof recipe for failure.

    If my presence at Mixx (FatLester) is any indication (I have 1521 friends as of this writing and am one of the more controversial members of the community – I am not aware of a more popular user on the site), this post you’ve written is 100% on-point, and I am but one example helping to serve to illustrate it.

  7. Foster/ Postal Gold

    I think this is a great article, though I think there are more complex reasons for becoming popular or famous – I think Malcom Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point is a great example of how intricate certain trends and “epidemics” can be. I agree with Peter Egan´s statement that if you´re not pissing someone off you´re not doing something right. You need to provoke people to get noticed.


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