Article

Ashley McGovern
Ashley McGovern 4 January 2019

The Spoof Is In The Pudding: Fake Products As A Content Marketing Tactic

Tired of creating humdrum content for your site? Try mocking-up zany spoof products that can attract great traffic.

Anyone familiar with Mad Men will know something about the crooked heyday of advertising. Back in the swinging 60s, the industry regularly sidestepped truth and, instead, appealed directly to the hopes and dreams of consumers. Shaping products and brands into something beyond the literal came all too easily.

Though, generally speaking, content marketers are an honest upgrade from the TV show’s devious ad execs, we can all learn from their creativity. Generating smart, trending content and interesting assets that direct traffic is, after all, the ultimate goal. Typically, the key reason behind content marketing is to answer a definable search need: by sourcing new data, creating a shiny, helpful infographic, or filing FOI requests, you can help resolve a question or query.

So handy and informative are marketers, perhaps, the resourcefulness of just playing about with a brand’s products has been forgotten. Is there any traction to be gained from spoof items?

Fake It Till You Make It

It’s standard practice to find unique content that appeals to press and consumer alike - but why just find? Why not invent? Why not find out if the spoof is in the pudding and create something far-fetched and fun? Over the past five years or so there’s been a rash of fake products released into the world, from the gold-plated drone to the spider-proof shed. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. If you look internationally, there are a plethora of weird items out there. The pattern seems to be to take something fairly common and give it an absurd spin.

Case Study: The Cat-Proof Christmas Tree

At peak seasonal periods, like Christmas, users are inundated with a sack full of content, so you need to really stand out. This year the team at Christmas Tree World spotted a clear, if eccentric, search trend: cat-proof trees. Concerned cat-lovers across the globe are querying a wide range of things: how to cat-proof my tree? What Christmas trees are safe from cats? What do I spray on my Christmas Tree to keep cats away?

Google Trends shows a massive upswing the basic term around late November:

Try A “New” Hero Product

It’s important to jump on trends in content, and hence the cat-proof Christmas tree, retailing at £5000 (oh yes). It comes with a range of features to keep pesky felines at bay and trees unharmed, including remote speakers broadcasting the owner's voice, laser lights to distract, emergency tuna dispensers, and even magnetic paw-proof baubles. All of them at extra charge, of course. It’s pretty out-there and completely made-up - and you can’t actually buy it either.

Likewise for any brand, at minimal cost and design resource, it’s possible to create a new hero product for your own site, underpinned by a detailed product description and simple graphic for the lead image. It’s the same principle as all user intent-matched content, just with added fun.

Where does this sit in the content matrix?

The Content Marketing Matrix is a handy tool for knowing where your content sits, and what you’re hoping it will do. There’s plenty of versions of the matrix lying about online, but it usually categorises assets by overall purpose: whether a piece is seeking (i) to entertain, (ii) to educate, (iii) to persuade, or (iv) to convert.

The inventive spoof product is firmly wedged in the entertainment camp. Its uniqueness will bring Top-of-Funnel awareness in a funny, light-hearted way, but that’s not to underestimate the SEO savviness that lies behind it.

SEO Tactics Of A Spoof Item

This process might sound irritatingly clickbaity, but it isn’t. As with all quality content, everything has to be geared to SEO objectives. It’s vital to ensure that initial keyword research is topical, well-researched and then used for copy that sounds natural; in this case, almost believable. Below are some key queries, along with their average monthly search volume:

  • Cat-proof Christmas tree - 1,900

  • Keep cat away from Christmas tree - 210

  • Christmas tree cat repellent - 480

  • Protect Christmas tree from cat - 20

  • Christmas trees for cat owners - 880

For the above example, they were niche enough to capitalise on and make the space your own. Ultimately, the aim is to guide organic interest to your spoof item, so targeted keywords will help grab quality traffic.

And then there’s the second string in the SEO-Content bow: outreach. Though you’ve only designed what is, in essence, a fun mock-up, what you actually have is a product launch. All you need is a concise, flashy PR hook and an eye for similar developing stories - for example, this year Argos happened to release an actual reasonably priced cat-proof tree - and you have a news stream ready to be tapped.

You can assemble media lists of special interest sites and trend-led gadgetty sites that may cover your new item - flagging the weird and wonderful product for a wide audience who will click through and explore your site.

Evergreen Value Of “Fake” Content

Every content marketer knows the value of having content that can be pushed out at various times of the year. Content that boosts visibility and scoops links tends to be adaptable, versatile and even gain relevancy over time.

And here’s were creativity and repurposed formats meet in the middle. By creating a basic product image and description, you’ve got the bare minimum. But just like real everyday products, there’s no end to the ways you can present them to the public. One tactic is to deepen the believability of the product by getting a design team to make some photorealistic shots of the product and its ludicrous features. Hence, you’ve updated the page and it’s ready to grab even more interest.

Conclusion

The above is a case study and some brief tips on how to devise made-up products that attract traffic. On top of exercising some creative license, it allows content marketers to go beyond the scope of purely information content. By latching onto search trends and answering user intent with something ‘outside of the box’, you can bring traffic to a site and tap into new communities online - this year, you can have your fake and eat it.

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