One of the last bastions of what I call Old Marketing (aka “pre-digital”) that is slowly and finally giving way to 21st century best practices is long-form content. It’s been a long haul, and a few out there are still resistant to the change.
Remember the word-laden marketing campaigns that were popular before the 1960s? (OK, it was before my time too, but trust me, I’ve studied this.) Then Volkswagen came along and set marketing on its ear with Think Small.
In the 1990s, Volkswagen took that concept even further, cutting the original Think Small word count significantly in keeping with the exploding Internet culture. And this was before 140 characters was even a gleam in Jack Dorsey’s eye. . .
But who’s been left in the dust of all this anti-copy revolution? Those folks are still out there:
- Claire, that woman in Marketing who is asking the writing team to crank out 4- and 5-page case studies that no customer will ever take the time to read
- Phil, the technical sales guy who is getting ready for a trade show by producing six 22-page white papers that no customer will ever take the time to read
- Lorelai, the CEO who is directing staff in an update to the 40-page Corporate Backgrounder document that no customer will ever take the time to read
Are they dinosaurs, or just uninformed? I’d like to think it’s the latter.
Often, an organization will call me in for a project, and I’ll find that a Claire, Phil, or Lorelai is large and in charge—and insisting on long-form copy that will end up getting deleted or trashed by the intended audience. It sometimes takes a bit of doing, but usually I can help them see that longer-form content today is a very specific choice. It only gets results in certain situations, like content marketing, omni-channel campaigns, and eBooks.
As far as case studies go, 2 pages max—there are even some brave and forward-thinking companies that are willing to pare it down to a 1-page solution brief. Scannability at its best!
White papers? Studies say that they usually don’t get read no matter how long or short they are, but if you must, 4-6 pages and no more!
Corporate Backgrounder? Meh. That’s what your website is for, Lorelai.
Today we move fast, we think fast, and we read (or better yet, scan) fast. Don’t waste your time developing long-form copy that burns through your marketing budget, doesn’t get read, and makes your company look like the T. Rex of its industry.