For years, I’ve been sharing a presentation slide with clients and creatives that says: NO ONE CARES WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY.
It’s true. No one’s waiting to hear about your new product. We’re bombarded by thousands of messages a day, and most of us would rather be watching Saturday Night Live clips or scrolling on TikTok. So if you’re going to say something, make it bold.
We know that people prefer uncensored, unfiltered content that doesn’t play by the rules… But still, most of what gets made on behalf of brands is both tactical and forgettable. So why aren’t more brands making content that takes risks, genuinely entertains and excites people? Content that’s “real funny, not ad funny,” as Andy Pearson, VP Creative at Liquid Death, likes to say.
Edgy brands make memorable content with cultural relevance. Liquid Death, for example, is disappointed if their campaigns don't get 50% love and 50% hate. This may seem like a risk to some, but in their eyes, if there’s no debate, there’s no conversation. Great storytelling has a protagonist and antagonist, something that both the writers of the Bible and Steve Jobs understood.
Brave brands also ring the register. Liquid Death is a $700M company, and they’re not even four years old yet. Hockey stick growth is very difficult to maintain, and it won’t always be easy, but there’s a lot we can all learn from a brand like Liquid Death.
1. Compete with creators, not other brands. We all love our shows, but short-form social content is earning the most attention these days. This is the truth with most audiences, not just Gen Z. We’re all doom-scrolling, looking for quick dopamine hits. Your brand needs to break through in this environment, and you only have seconds.
2. To cut through the noise, you must make real entertainment, not ads. That should be the strategy with product marketing. Make people care. Embrace tension. You need it to tell a compelling story. Punch something in the nose and make it fun.
3. Yes, you may make your legal department nervous, but start small. Test your way into a bigger and bolder content strategy. Begin with a single execution against a specific audience. If it doesn’t make you nervous, it’s probably too safe an idea.
4. To win today, you need to take a harder look at the rules applied to your work. You need to unhinge your storytelling in much more pronounced ways and speak the language of modern culture, not the language of senior marketing and agency execs.
I’m not advising brands to be assholes or relinquish their purpose and values. I’m advising them to have more fun, take some risks, and hold their brand content to higher standards from a genuine entertainment perspective. We’re all holding on tightly. Time to let loose.