Content Marketing: Conformity Versus Creativity

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brooke meme

When it comes to a noisy online world, how do you make your content marketing efforts stand out?

Do you conform to the “rules” and stay in the safe zone? Or do you take a risk and strive for creativity?

There’s no right answer; both have pros and cons. In this post we’ll explore each in the hopes of expanding your thoughts and ideas when it comes to formulating a successful content marketing strategy.

Conformity In Content Marketing

Conformity is the act of copying or emulating something. When someone or something influences your behavior and you decide “swing their way” – that’s conformity.

To me, the biggest phenomenon of conformity in content marketing on social sites is the meme. My post, It’s A Meme, Meme World (Or Is It), asked if memes are valuable.

brooke meme

I later got (somewhat) of an answer when Facebook decided that:

“Pages producing some low quality, meme content can expect to see a slight decrease. Pages that are exclusively posting low quality, meme content might see a bigger drop. The magnitude of the change will be greatest for Pages creating high quality content. Generally, these Pages should see increased distribution.”

In short, Facebook Pages that used to see hundreds of likes on over-shared meme content are now probably scratching their heads trying to figure out why this conformity tactic isn’t working.

Essentially Facebook, and some other smart marketers, feel that sharing crappy memes doesn’t adhere to the answers given in their user feedback survey , which asked:

  • Is this timely and relevant content?
  • Is this content from a source you would trust?
  • Would you share it with friends or recommend it to others?
  • Is the content genuinely interesting to you or is it trying to game News Feed distribution? (e.g. asking for people to like the content)
  • Would you call this a low-quality post or meme?
  • Would you complain about seeing this content in your News Feed?

Other conformity tactics would include asking fill-in-the-blank questions, asking for a like or share if the user agrees with your (very broad, obvious) statement, sharing inspirational quotes (that aren’t your own), etc.

Why Conformity Does & Doesn’t Work

Why recreate the wheel when you can borrow (or in some cases steal – aka: plagiarize) someone else’s creativity?

The upside is that you aren’t using any of your own time or resources to create content that will more than likely receive a positive response from your communities. Little effort, big (maybe) results.

Another upside is utilizing questions asked as a way to perform market research – which in turn may help you produce better content.

The downside is a bit larger:

  • You could be dinged by Facebook and other sites for constantly producing “low quality content”
  • Your audience could grow bored with content that’s not relevant, fresh or doesn’t pertain to your branding
  • Your clients may realize that you’re not giving them true time and attention when they see that you’re posting the same content for them as you are for your other clients (Um, then what exactly am I paying you for?!)
  • You could be fined hundreds of dollars for plagiarizing memes, pictures and other content that’s licensed (yes, this really happens)
  • Even using sites that offer free images dims your light a bit because so many sites are using those same, cheesy stock photos


Creativity In Content Marketing

Creativity, conversely, takes time and money. It’s not a quick fix. We usually see creativity by brands with larger budgets, bigger teams, and more experience.

I think many of us fall into the trap of thinking that creativity can only be created by design types. But that simply isn’t true. As long as you’re telling your unique story — rather than conforming to everyone else’s — you, too, can be interesting.

I can think of several ways to get creative that won’t break the bank:

  • Creating a mascot (like Dude!)
  • Use custom brand/product hashtags
  • Create your own videos telling your story. Better yet, let the customers tell your story.
  • Other User Generated Content (UGC)
  • Leverage your assets; barter and trade
  • Use free tools like Canva and Picmonkey to make your visuals better
  • If you HAVE to use memes, at least be creative and make your own with MemeGenerator or QuickMeme

Why Creativity Does & Doesn’t Work

I was going to say that creativity works 100% of the time, but then I’d be speaking for everyone. Although I don’t consider myself extremely creative, if I research, think and work hard enough I usually can pull something off.

Perhaps not everyone can do that. In some cases you may not be creative at all, in which case I urge you to seek professional help rather than using conformity tactics with your content marketing.

Creativity doesn’t have to mean recreating the wheel, either. While everyone and their mom may be writing about content marketing, I Googled content marketing and creativity and conformity for this post. They hadn’t been explored in this context.

Going that extra mile (research) can really help you when it comes to spurring ideas. Go ahead and Google “how to be more creative” (or just click the link, as I did it for you) and START with some ideas for sparking creativity.

What helps me get in the inventive state of mind is:

  • Reading: Follow bloggers who are different, and not spouting the same, sad topic. (When it comes to content, I adore Mark Schaefer’s {grow})
  • Research: Look at other designs, articles, visuals, etc. to get you “in the mood.” DON’T conform! Use those inspiring pieces as a way to spur an idea, but don’t emulate, CREATE.
  • Not forcing it: It just never works out when I do. Make a note on your idea and come back to it later.
  • Writing & list making: Not everything will be a masterpiece, but at least it’s YOUR vision and not a regurgitation of someone else’s.
  • Having conversations: When you’re humble and know you’re not the smartest person in the room (or the one who always has to be right) you learn a lot by joining in on conversations – especially with those who have more experience than you.



Will Creativity Kill Conformity?

Fingers crossed.

If you follow Mark Schaefer (mentioned above) you may be aware of  his Content Shock Theory, where he states that content marketing is not a sustainable strategy. The reason?

“This intersection of finite content consumption and rising content availability will create a tremor I call The Content Shock. In a situation where content supply is exponentially exploding while content demand is flat, we would predict that individuals, companies, and brands would have to “pay” consumers more and more just to get them to see the same amount of content.”

In simple terms: It takes an inordinate amount of time (and time = money) to create content that our consumers WANT to read. As the amount of (non-valuable) content rises, the demand will fall.

The demand will fall because we just won’t have the time to filter through the messages – and I’m sure many of us will be “so over” those Stay Calm and Carry On memes!

Several marketers jumped to Mark’s bandwagon to say that creative content is here to stay (you can see that post and my conversation with Mark surrounding those responses on the G+ post below).

There are many opinions out there – none of which are “wrong.” I think Mark is on to an interesting concept, and I do think that over time creativity in content will start to kill conformity.

How will we keep up? By continuously delivering fresh and original content to people who are interested in consuming it.

How will YOU keep up? Let me know in the comments section below.

See you in the social sphere!


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Brooke B. Sellas is an award-winning Customer Marketing Strategist and the CEO & Founder of B Squared Media. Her book, Conversations That Connect has been recognized nationally and is required reading for a Customer Experience class at NSU. Brooke's influence in digital marketing is not just about her accomplishments but also about her unwavering commitment to elevating the industry standard of digital customer experience and customer marketing.
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Category: Content Marketing, Marketing, Online Marketing, , ,
Tags: blogging, design, Online or Digital Plagiarism, , Trust
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6 Comments. Leave new

  • Avatar
    Veronica Solorzano Athanasiou
    January 22, 2014 1:42 PM

    This article resonates SO much with what I’ve had in my mind lately in this very NOISY world of news feeds. I agree 100% with you on how to be creative without breaking the bank and restraining from post unless you’re sure that it adds value. We’re on the same page here, friend. Keep up the GREAT work, this is indeed a very valuable and unique piece of content that shows how much time you spent putting all the info and your thoughts beautifully together.

    • Thank you SO much, Veronica! What’s funny is that I’ve had this scheduled for about a week now, so yesterday’s news about FB “dinging” marketers for trying “game the system” (I don’t know if I’d call it “gaming” – it’s more like, we’re working hard to figure out what works on FB AND is valuable) wasn’t even considered when I wrote this.

      It is interesting how conformity is seemingly getting us “in trouble” (seen less, less Reach, less interest, content shock – whatever you want to call it). I’m not saying it’s easy to be creative, and I know not everyone will be able to keep up. As Mark’s post so eloquently stated, we will see the fall of the brands who can not keep up (which I see as a good thing in so many ways, one being that marketing agencies — like us — can hopefully see a spike in consulting and outsourcing).

      I also think it’s a scary concept to be more creative because as a smaller brand (with tighter budgets) I also see how the rat race is going to grow highly competitive once again. We’re going to have to pull out all of the stops to continuously create valuable, original and visually pleasing content.

      The next year should be VERY interesting to say the least!! Thank you so much for always weighing in and making my day with your kind words. 🙂

  • This is an interesting conversation because I was having a similar one with someone earlier today (coincidentally). It was more in the context of the “internet celebrity” and the idea that you can become one by following one. It’s pretty much a step-one, step-two approach that ends up in a whole lot of people following a whole lot of the same steps to the same ends. The ends are to make money selling their “thing” but the means – in my opinion – are trite, dull and overused. The interesting part about that is that consumers love it and in many cases they follow celebrity for celebrity’s sake. So if you can conform, you’re going to be one of the cool kids. It’s like when Jennifer Anniston wears cool sunglasses and all the girls who want to be popular wear them too. People basically gravitate toward “me too”.

    Then there are the people who break so far out that they sort of create a culture all their own. They are not the cool kids but they develop their own followings of other not-cool-kids. It’s a lot smaller crowd to be sure but also a lot more noticeable. There won’t be billions of starry-eyes fans but there will be a very select niche.

    I realize this is a bit abstract but the point I’m trying to make is that I think there will always be a space for conformity and creativity. Because you will always have people who just want “the steps” and then you will have people who are “so over” the steps. It depends on what kind of person you want to be, what kind of business you want to run and how you approach customers. You can attract conformists with memes because they’ll like the idea of being “in the know” and you can attract creatives with “other”. I’m not sure either one will ever go out of style because that assumes people will just become… oddly… more conformist in either their conformity or creativity 🙂
    Carol Lynn recently posted…Six Shortcuts For Quickie Web VideoMy Profile

    • LOVE this times infinity, Carol Lynn! It’s a way in which I hadn’t looked at the question – which is why I LOVE/NEED/WANT conversation with people. I think you’re on to something. And yes, I suppose that means that I want to hang out with the not-cool-kids at their table. 🙂 While it’s nice to be “in the know” and have the steps all nice and neat (and created by someone else), I’d rather march to the beat of my own drum … where ever that may lead. Cool. Not cool. Different. The same.

      It’s an interesting and insightful notion that conformist conform or conformist create. I kinda like it.

      Thank you SO much for weighing in with your wisdom. It’s welcome, appreciated, and I certainly hope we can engage in more talks like this.

  • […] Do you conform to the “rules” and stay in the safe zone? Or do you take a risk and strive for creativity? Content Marketing: Conformity Versus Creativity […]

  • […] article Content Marketing from B Squared Media suggests many conformity tactics and discusses the overall advantages and […]


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