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Content Marketing Lessons from South Park. Yes, South Park.

By Meghan SullivanApr 9, 2013

Content Marketing lessons from South ParkInspiration sometimes comes from unexpected places. I had another blog topic slated for today, but was lured in another direction by an unlikely topic: South Park. I like South Park probably about as much as your average thirty-something female. I appreciate the clever humor, the sharp social commentary, the longevity of the show and the obvious business savvy of its creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker. But it can be over-the-top crude and violent, and for that reason it doesn’t often make my Must-Watch list.

Over Sunday waffles, my boyfriend began telling me about an article he’d read earlier that morning from The New York Times about South Park. (Being a thirty-something male, the show has been on his Must-Watch list since 1997.) He went on to share how the article addressed the South Park “content empire,” and the more he spoke, the more intrigued I became.

“Could there be a takeaway here for inbound marketers?” I wondered. Turns out, there were several:

  • Repurpose your content. You can enjoy the kids from South Park in more ways than an episode of the television show. There was a movie, merchandise and video games. Consider how you might extend the reach of your content by repurposing it. One eBook could generate several blog posts, an infographic, content snacks for social media, a video and a webinar.
  • Make your content creation schedule work for you. For years, South Park has run a split season, with several episodes airing in the spring and the rest in the fall. This year, Stone and Parker have chosen to air the full season at once, to free up time for other projects. While marketers do need to remain flexible to produce content around timely subjects, try planning as much as you can in advance and budgeting time for content production, freeing up other parts of the year to focus on other projects. A few ideas produced for multiple channels, as described above, can provide you with quite a library to pull from in the future.
  • Adapt your content to whatever medium is currently being used by your audience. The Times article quotes Stone as saying, “In our first season, you had to show up on Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. on the comedy channel to catch the show. Now, I don’t even know where or how people watch our show,” and “If you tell good stories, the platforms are sort of beside the point.” Writer David Carr then said about Stone, “He went on to suggest that each time a new distribution avenue opens, it has become a window of opportunity for their content.” Marketers should think of their content as platform-agnostic, meaning it is accessible on whatever platform the audience wants to consume it. Repurposing is important here, but another example might be responsive design. A blog built on a responsive site can be easily consumed regardless of whether the reader is using a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone.
  • Own what you produce. I was fascinated to learn Parker and Stone have put up a lot of their own money to fund their projects, even with strong production company backing. That investment has paid off handsomely, but the duo are adamant it maintains a level of passionate interest and control they feel is an important part of producing a quality product. I’m not suggesting marketers crack open their piggy banks to fund a video shoot, but try to pretend like the marketing dollars allocated to you is your money. It’s your name going on a new blog post or eBook. Take ownership like it’s your reputation and livelihood on the line.

By following these takeaways, inbound marketers can build their own content empire. I’ll leave you with another great quote from David Carr’s article:

“If you tell stories that people want to hear, the audience will find you. This is true no matter how fundamentally the paradigms shift, or how many platforms evolve. ‘We’ve been doing it long enough to figure out that content will ride on top of whatever wave comes along,’ Mr. Stone said.”


Meghan SullivanWith a decade of marketing experience, Meghan Sullivan is a Senior Consultant at Kuno Creative and is passionate about developing and executing inbound marketing strategies for her clients. When sheís not doing that, sheís probably curled up on the couchwith her dog and iPad, or exploring Clevelandís incredible food scene. Connect with Meghan on Twitter or LinkedIn.


Photo Credit: laughingsquid

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