3R of content strategy

#TheDress & The Three R’s of Great Content: React, Resonate, Recall


Okay. I always saw it as black and blue. In fact, I have no idea how anyone else saw that dress any other shade. But, my cones & rods aren’t the point here. The virality that was #thedress had all of us (who aren’t hidden under a rock) scheduling eye doctor appointments. All of us except for the Salvation Army, who used the dress as a chance to spread awareness about domestic violence:

Salvation Army black and blue

Now generally the response to their campaign was positive. It’s a topic that needs to be talked about. But, something about it put me off. I wasn’t immediately sure whether I agreed with it. But I knew I felt something. And as I talked with a colleague, it reminded me of a very simple content principle:

Three R’s: React, Resonate, Recall.

One I learned first hand in research I conducted years ago on these Australian anti-drunk driving ads:

Try to watch that and not react.

We tested the difference in reactions between these drunk driving PSAs by the TAC (drink and drive and people get hurt) and the American very pragmatic approach toward drunk driving PSAs (drink and drive and get a ticket). The results were pretty astounding.

The people who watched the Australian PSAs reported having stronger opinions regarding drunk driving than respondents who watched the American PSAs almost without fault. And if you watch that video, you’ll notice that the PSAs also had a huge effect on the amount of lives lost due to drunk driving since they began 20 years ago.

So what’s the point? The point is the reaction. It’s all about the reaction. Whether it be a smile, a laugh, a tear, a gasp, and in this case, probably all of the above, it’s the reaction that triggers memory. It’s your strong response that allows you to remember the experience, make associations in your brain and then recall the information later. And that’s why a PSA with such a strong message actually gets results.

Now we can’t attribute everything to an ad, or a tweet for that matter. But what we can surmise from this is the powerful effect or contribution that advertising, messaging, brand perspective and storytelling can have on a society when it’s relevant – yet another ‘R’ to add to the mix. Can every campaign we create elicit this same level of emotion? I’d argue no, it can’t. But is it something every brand should strive for? Absolutely.

And if you want to strike a chord that resonates and people recall later, with an eventual goal of increased awareness and, dare I say, increased sales or brand lift, you have to think strategically about the types of people you want to react, how, and how it aligns with your brand.

Your goal can’t be to make someone laugh. Well, it can be…if you’re a comedian. But the real genius brand content is the content that elicits a laugh and evokes a memory that can easily be re-associated with your brand, or your brand’s message. Otherwise the emotion will pass, and you will have lost your moment to make a lasting exchange with your audience.

So, back to #thedress takeover. My first reaction to the Salvation Army tweet and campaign was negative. I felt it in my gut. Black and blue used in that way disturbed me. But that was the point. And that’s the genius of it. The entire campaign was designed to shock you. But shock you into awareness around something that we all try our hardest to ignore. And guess what, we’re talking about it. We’re remembering it. And we’ll recall this later, I promise.

What are your favorite examples of content that makes you react?


MLK & Content Strategy


I’m not sure when MLK day became more than just a monday away from school for me. I think it must have been in the 6th or 7th grade when I read Why We Can’t Wait written by Martin Luther King, Jr. himself. When I read his words and realized just how intelligent, powerful, and forward-thinking this man was, I understood why the nation took a day off of school and work to celebrate his achievements.

It might seem like a stretch or even a “downgrade” to relate his efforts in the Civil Rights Movement to anything related to social media. But, when I think about MLK and his road to success – there are a few things that I truly feel relate back to our efforts in social media marketing.

1. Amazing writing – Everyone knows that MLK’s speeches were some of the best speeches the world has ever witnessed. Almost every line in his “I Have A Dream” speech or in his last speech “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top” are quote-worthy. Writing that compels someone to action is the only way to create a following. No matter your limitations – be it 420 characters or 140, always strive to write beautifully.

2. Great Timing – Use timing to your advantage. King paid attention to timing, not only when he was delivering speeches, but also when organizing movements, sit-ins, and boycotts. I remember reading MLK’s advice: “except for Christmas, Easter is the main shopping period of the year…the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.” When creating content for social media, consider what’s going on in the world and be relevant. This leads to the most memorable and “viral” content.

3. Strategy – It’s true that MLK recognized the importance of spontaneous actions, like those of Rosa Parks. But he also realized that, without organization and long-range strategy, people will exhaust their energies. Though I don’t remember everything from Why We Can’t Wait, I do remember that every effort King organized in Birmingham was thoroughly thought-out such that it would make the Civil Rights Movement  a “top-of-mind” subject for Americans. Extending beyond Alabama, planned well-organized boycotts played a major role throughout all phases of the movement.

Thinking through a social strategy is what makes a campaign successful. Even with the most eloquently written and relevant blogs, without a real plan or strategy, they may very well be over-looked.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr., “I Have A Dream”