When you think of content strategy, comic strips probably don’t come to mind. But, why not?
This week marked the 67th anniversary of the beloved Peanuts comic strip, written and illustrated by Charles M. Schulz, which ran from October 2, 1950 to February 13, 2000. It was, in fact, one of the most popular and influential comic strips in history, and with nearly 18,000 strips, or mini-stories, it was “arguably the longest story ever told by one human being.”1
As content marketers, we too are storytellers. Our content may not garner the massive readership and adoration that the Peanuts received, but our objective is the same: weave a compelling, relevant story that engages, educates, inspires or entertains.
We could debate what made the Peanuts so popular, and perhaps some would even say “I never really got it,” but regardless, its success can teach us a few valuable lessons about creating an effective content strategy:
- Content can be short and sweet. There is a place for longer forms of content, such as white papers and ebooks, but more concise content can be very effective. In four panels, with limited verbiage, the Peanuts managed to convey “philosophical, psychological and sociological overtones”2 and create complex characters, not to mention provide a chuckle. Considering today’s barrage of information, coupled with limited attention spans, shorter forms of content, cleverly crafted, can often break through the clutter and appeal to a wider audience.
- There’s a child in all of us. The Peanuts focuses entirely on a group of children, where adults exist, but are rarely seen or heard. Yet, the biggest fans of this comic strip were adults. Why? Because adults can relate to the adventures and struggles of growing up. By appealing to the child in all of us, Schulz found common ground. As adults, we are faced with responsibilities, worries, and serious subjects on a daily basis, and therefore, often welcome a break in the form of something lighter and more entertaining. Content needn’t be “just the facts” or written without humor to get the point across. Lighten up!
- Use characters or situations that people can relate to. If you were one of the Peanuts gang, which character would you be? Are you the gentle, insecure and lovable Charlie Brown, who tends to over think things and has bad luck? Or, do you see yourself as Charlie’s loyal friend, Linus, who always means well and is the perpetual peacemaker, with amazing insights? Hopefully, you don’t identify with the bossy, crabby Lucy, who is often mean and sarcastic. The point is, Schulz created a cast of characters that a wide range of people could relate to, whether in their own personalities or the personalities of others. The most effective content is relatable. When you provide examples of common issues or problems and then offer solutions, people become engaged. When you offer case studies or testimonials, other folks in the industry can see themselves benefiting from the products or services you offer.
- Keep your audience coming back for more. Didn’t we all want to see Charlie Brown finally get to kick the football before Lucy pulled it away? Weren’t you curious to find out if Linus ever really saw the Great Pumpkin, or what crazy new adventures Snoopy and Woodstock would embark on? Keeping people engaged is the key to a successful content strategy. Whether you post a weekly blog, conduct a series of educational webinars, or provide content that helps move prospects through the buyers’ journey toward a decision, you are building a relationship with your audience – one that you hope lasts a long time! Consistency is key.
As marketers, we may never achieve the kind of worldwide audience and longevity of the Peanuts, which at its peak, ran in over 2,600 newspapers and had a readership of 355 million people in 75 countries, but we can and should adopt some of the secrets to its success.
(Now, in case you’re wondering, I identify most with Marcie, a lesser-known character who is Peppermint Patty’s best friend. Marcie is a bit of bookworm, and much to her dismay, athletically challenged. She loves music and can sometimes be a little goofy. Yep, that’s me.)
To discover more ways to create an effective content strategy, visit our website at www.spryideas.com or call Jeremy Sterling, Director of Marketing at 734-546-5434.
1Brooks, Katherine (October 2, 2013). “10 Of The Best Snoopy Moments To Celebrate ‘Peanuts’ 63rd Anniversary.” Huff Post Arts & Culture, 2013.
2Comic Strip: The first half of the 20th century: The Evolution of the Form.” Encyclopædia Britannica, 2015.