Sometimes the past is referred to as “simpler times” – and at least when it comes to advertising, selling used to be a lot more straightforward.
Take a look at this quaint, catchy, and delightfully East-Coast amusement commercial from 1975:
Shots of the park, an address plastered across the screen, an earworm sing-song jingle imploring customers to “come out.” It’s a simple sales pitch: Here’s our product, here’s where it is, come check it out. About as subtle and compelling as a door-to-door salesman, but that’s how business was done in the 70’s.
By 1989, not much had changed:
The vibe here, from the outfits to the hair to that synthesizer-saturated song, is undeniably 80’s – but the structure of the commercial is essentially the same as its predecessor: shots of the attractions, people having fun, come here for a good time.
Then, in 2004, Six Flags tried something a little different:
In a now-iconic move, Six Flags made an amusement ad that didn’t TELL the audience they knew how to have fun, but SHOWED the audience – through what is mostly an entertaining, funny video that has nothing to do with the park.
This ad showed that Six Flags had a personality, a sense of humor, and a philosophy their customers could connect to. No one ever says “I wish I’d worked around the house more.”
Instead of being drawn to ticket deals, food, attractions, shows, or anything else Six Flags had to offer, this campaign added a moment of joy to many viewers’ lives (so much so that dancing old guy “Mr. Six” appeared on Good Morning America) that they then associated with Six Flags.
This indicated a shift in how marketing was changing, not just for amusement, but across all industries. While Six Flags had still made what was technically a commercial, it was more than that.
In the years since 2004, particularly as brands expand online and engage with social media, effective marketing has developed a new set of best practices.
Content Marketing: Value Added for Your Customers
Amusement Marketing has changed because customer’s expectations have evolved along with the marketing landscape.
As brands became more inventive with their marketing strategies and consumers became more discerning in their expectations, the effectiveness of a straightforward sales pitch (even one sung with a comically thick Jersey accent) has fallen off.
According to a 2017 study of consumer expectations, 84% of those surveyed expected brands to provide content that entertains, tells stories, provides solutions, and creates experiences and events.
Consumers have been conditioned to expect this by Content Marketing, a strategy where branded messages and content are designed not just to sell – but to add real value to customers’ lives before they ever make a purchasing decision.
Good “Content” is information, entertainment, or some other form of enriching experience created by your company that people could enjoy consuming – regardless of if they are customers of yours or not.
Take, for instance, this move by Red Bull:
What does an annual event focused on building ridiculous planes and crashing them into the ocean have to do with energy drinks? Technically, nothing. But customers don’t make decisions about brands on technicalities. They do it on feeling.
Content Marketing SHOWS your customers what kind of company you are – one that knows them/their interests and cares about them/has a relationship with them – instead of just TELLING them to buy from you. The Red Bull Flugtag works because it is not a commercial for Red Bull – it’s a fun video that people want to watch, and a real live event they may want to attend… that just HAPPENS to have been invented by Red Bull.
The difference between Traditional Marketing and Content Marketing is that instead of creating ads your customers HAVE to consume (like commercials, banner ads, pop-ups, etc.), you create Content that your customers WANT to consume. This creates a win-win for both consumers and businesses, in that consumers get good Content they actually enjoy – while businesses still reap the benefits of effective advertising.
70% of consumers want to learn about products through Content as opposed to traditional ad methods, and that should come as no surprise.
Put yourself in the consumer’s shoes, and ask yourself:
Which brand do I like better, the one that’s always selling to me, or the one that is making Content that enriches my life?
Making the Content That’s Right for Your Brand
When it comes to Content Marketing, what works for YOU will work for your business. You want to play to your creative strengths, those of your brand, and those of your staff:
- Compelling writer?
- Passion for pictures?
- Aspiring YouTube Star?
- Talkative and Funny?
- Expert Researcher?
- Graphic Designer or Visual Artist?
Content Marketing is almost always CREATIVE – so you’re going to want to identify areas of interest and ability in creative fields that you can leverage to generate Content that plays to your staff’s strengths. Done correctly, Content Marketing is not only effective, it can actually be significantly more fun that the standard stuff.
Amusement Content Marketing: Channels and Best Practices
Creating a Blog is usually one of the first steps an Amusement business takes toward a Content Marketing strategy – since it is both effective in practice and simple to execute.
Your Blog is your direct communication line to customers, and it can also help create direction/clarity for your entire Content Marketing strategy.
By constantly writing about and thinking about your business, you focus and control the “story” of your business, creating company norms focused around continually generating purposeful Content (and a lot of it can be broken down and repurposed for other platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc).
60% of businesses who blog acquire more customers, but on top of that, Blogging also:
- Improves your site’s SEO when you use relevant keywords/phrases
- Gives your company a distinct “Voice” and brand personality
- Features your expertise (even if that expertise is just in how to have fun)
- Increases traffic to your website
So now you know the benefits, but what does a good Amusement-business Content Marketing Blog look like? First, let’s remember the golden rule of Content Marketing: It’s never a direct sales pitch.
Most solid Amusement-business Content Marketing Blogs fall into one of two categories: Informational or Entertaining.
Informational Amusement Blogs should:
- Provide new info relevant to your business that your customers would find interesting – such as stats about your attractions (EX: Degree angle of your steepest water slide?), origins and manufacture and history, staff interviews/profiles (can double as a recruiting tool)
- Give helpful tips for activities/interests relevant to your customers – “How to Make a Homemade Birthday Card to WOW Mom” could be a good blog for a Family Entertainment Center that regularly hosts birthdays, or “5 Halloween Costume Ideas for Thrill Seekers” if you’re an Amusement Park heading into October festivities
Entertainment Amusement Blogs Should
- Be relatable – this is where you demonstrate you know your customers, demonstrating a relationship beyond business/customer
- Be Funny – Humor is an effective tool for making customers like/feel connected to your brand, and humorous content is significantly more likely to be shared EX: “The Four Types of Laser Tag Players”)
You likely already have Social Media accounts and strategies for them, but are you creating strong Content on the most important platforms?
The most important social channels for Amusement businesses to focus on are Facebook and Instagram, so let’s look at what Content Marketing looks like on each:
Your Amusement Instagram
- Should be visually interesting
- Needs to have a voice/perspective
- Must showcase genuine feelings/moments/sentiments
Original Content doesn’t need to populate your entire Instagram feed, where you probably do want to make the occasional sales pitch or simple announcement, but if you want to build a loyal follower base – you have to give them a feed worth following.
Here’s an example of a great piece of Content from Mulligan Family Fun Center – Murrieta’s account, @mulligan_murrieta:
View this post on Instagram
HAPPY MONDAY! ⛳️⛳️⛳️ Don’t forget, it’s DOUBLE YOUR FUN MONDAY! With the purchase of a $10 Fun Card you will receive a $10 Bonus Value for FREE! We’re open today from 3:00pm-8:00pm! 📸: @jack_kohama_and_mama #guestappreciation #mulliganmurrieta #mulliganfamilyfuncenter #miniaturegolf #miniatureguest #mondayspecial #familyfun #murrieta
There’s a lot that makes this great Content:
- Unique, pleasing color scheme
- Deliberate composition
- Adorable kid!
- Snarky, relatable sentiment about growing up
- Still makes us think of mini golf
If you’re already blogging and creating Content like this for Instagram, we have good news for you – Your Facebook work is basically done. Share your blogs (with added captions) and images from Instagram on Facebook as well. That’s two Content-Marketing blips on your customers’ radar for the work of one!
Both Instagram and Facebook have a feature called “Stories” – images and video that stream when selected by users and delete after 24 hours. Stories are quickly becoming one of the most popular information sharing/consumption formats, and they’re great for by-the-minute updates about specific deals or even shut downs/adjustments at your location that you don’t want sitting on your feed forever.
But when it comes to Content Marketing, creating stories that actually add value and incentivize views takes an engaged eye. For strong story creation, you’ll want to identify a member of your staff who can be present during events and moments you want documented live.
A strong Social Media storyteller will be able to capture highlights as they happen, focusing on real moments with customers – surprises, shout-outs, and anything else that makes those watching your Facebook/Instagram story feel like they were really there.
Traditional radio is quickly going the way of the phonograph, so instead of investing in radio ads that probably sound a lot like the audio versions of those old-style commercials above – it may be time to bring your business into the podcasting sphere.
For an example of how it’s done in the Amusement industry, check out The Official Holiday World Podcast:
Podcasts can be labor-intensive to produce, but they make for an excellent way to make your customers feel like they know you, and can be a much more entertaining way to deliver news, answer customer questions, or build your brand voice.
For successful Amusement Podcast Production:
- Create a catchy & clear name
- Develop eye-grabbing cover art to bait clicks
- Produce a professional intro (possibly with voice actors and definitely with music) that establishes the tone/concept of the podcast
- Identify who has the compelling personality/broadcast chops on staff to host
To bring this blog full-circle, we started by exploring some video marketing that was NOT content marketing. Video Content Marketing is not about making commercials, it’s about making videos that people who love your location would want to watch and share.
Taking a page from Red Bull and their Flugtag, you want your videos to be worth watching beyond any kind of marketing message. The marketing message will come from the fact that the video was made by you.
Do you serve great food? Maybe a “How it’s made” style video walking us through a delicious layered sundae.
Awesome new ride or video game? Give us a POV ride-or-play through (with commentary, ideally).
As always, humor is an effective tool as well. The more your videos can be relatable and make your customers laugh, the more likely they are to share.
Maybe you have a mini golf course? Kids can be comically bad at mini golf in adorable ways. A compilation of kids’ mini-golf “fails” is cute, shareable… and just HAPPENS to showcase 18 holes of fun at your location.
As with all forms of Content Marketing, when you’re making video, it’s about being creative and making something that feels worthwhile.
And that should be your key takeaway here: Content Marketing is about demonstrating empathy for your customers, and giving them something that isn’t an advertisement OR a product.
It’s Content, and when it’s doing its job right, customers barely notice they’re being advertised to by your business.
For instance, you just finished reading a piece of Content Marketing by WDD, and whether you noticed you were being advertised to or not – we hope you learned some useful strategies for making Content Marketing work for you (like it’s working for us).