Content marketing has been a huge buzzword this year, but as we wind down this December, we’re realizing that sheer quantity isn’t the key to this strategy. In light of the holidays, let’s look at what Rudolph, Santa’s cherished reindeer, can teach us about content marketing.

No one likes you – until you’re useful

All of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names, they never let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games.

Plotting a unique course is paramount to market differentiation, but there’s a danger of disappearing if you’re not offering value at the same time. Before he was able to lead the sleigh with his nose, Rudolph was ridiculed and left out because of his unusual trait. Different wasn’t necessarily good until it proved worthwhile.

This year, Lowe’s hit the nail on the head with its #lowesfixinsix Vine collection that gives viewers digestible 6-second tips for improving their homes. Not only is this a highly creative way to use a brand new medium, but the tips are genuinely helpful (and entertaining to boot). Whether it’s entertainment or practicality, your content should offer some key takeaways for your audience.

Catch the right attention

Then one foggy Christmas Eve, Santa came to say, “Rudolph with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”

Without Santa’s need for Rudolph’s unique trait, that strange reindeer would have fallen into complete obscurity. If the right person sees your content, it can go from great to legendary – so healthy doses of paid and earned distribution should certainly be part of your strategy to get your content in front of the right people.

Not all pieces will be picked up merely by word of mouth (like Jimmy Kimmel’s twerk fail hoax), but it can sometimes take only a few high-profile mentions to generate a buzz. This is where good pitching is essential. Know your content inside and out, and craft pitches that are concise and irresistible to bloggers and journalists who share your target audience.

On top of this, be memorable

Then all the reindeer loved him, and they shouted out with glee: “Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, you’ll go down in history!”

Are you stuck in your customers’ heads? Are copycats lining up to re-tell your story over and over again? Think of Rudolph, whose story is a best-selling song that is repeated by hundreds of artists each year around the holidays. Think of the shine in children’s eyes when they’re told the tale of Rudolph on that fateful, foggy night. Can you do that with your content?

Industry-shattering content is the goal, but when that’s not within reach, aim for mindblowing and evergreen. Don’t settle for mediocre content. Does this make your customers want to share, and want to tell your story? Only after you’ve identified your “wow factor” should you focus on making the content visually fascinating and well-written. Will this be a piece your customers will enjoy and that you’ll love to show off to prospects? Can it be revisited, and will you be proud to see it living forever on the Internet?

The truth about Rudolph

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by what all we’ve learned this year with content marketing, remember this one thing: the legend of Rudolph itself started out as a promotional effort. In 1939, Montgomery Ward (a department store in Chicago) decided to produce an in-house coloring book to give away around the holidays. They chose Robert May, a copywriter, to write the story of Rudolph. The book saw great success: 2 million were given away, for free, in its first year. Merchandise, the song, and the film came after that.

Had it not been entertaining, memorable, and promoted to the right people at the right time, Rudolph would never have been more than a simple children’s coloring book.

Image credit: Flickr