Admit it, some of us like reading (or watching) fluff every now and again. Fluff takes us to a world that is not our own reality, and let’s us tune out for a bit.
Fluff pieces are stories that don’t have real value or strong content. They are stories that have fun stories, but serve no real purpose except to entertain. Compare WSJ and In Touch Weekly. It’s a no-brainer which one carries fluff.
As I venture into this world of PR and content marketing, learning and writing about best practices on blogging and writing headlines, I notice a lot of fluff out there. Fluff that has managed to receive 40+ “Likes” and reTweets. This made me think about fluff as a form of marketing. Good or bad practice, it is out there, and from the surface, seems to be effective marketing.
Does fluff work?
I have surmised that fluff can be a good marketing strategy, if just to capture initial attention.
Fluff is good marketing:
1) Makes you feel good – Fluff writing doesn’t require a lot of researched data and information. The story tends to be something cutesy or non-consequential. Like an FYI that you can take or leave.
2) Makes you forget current challenges – Alcohol marketers know all about making you forget your present troubles. Notwithstanding that alcohol in itself makes you do that anyway, savvy marketing lets you see the “fun” and party aspect of having a drink (or two or 5). With fluff, you forget, even for a brief moment, present problems. Think about the phenomenon of romance novels and soap operas for so many women.
3) Lets you escape – Tied into my point in #2 above, fluff promotes escapism. Look at an advertisement for a luxury auto. The shots are gauzy, the women and men are insanely hot, and the car makes you feel giddy – all while you are sitting in your living room eating a bowl of popcorn.
However, this is where it gets bad, literally.
1) You get lazy – Since they have no real substance, fluff tends to make you lazy. No fact-checking, no research just makes for a written piece that is sedentary. Since there are no real calls to action to motivate your audience, i.e. to look at your product, sign up for your newsletter, or to even navigate through your website. Fluff pieces are pure brain candy!
2) Doesn’t make you smart or learned – We all know that garbage in, garbage out. Though fluff pieces are fun and exciting, they don’t really bring the reader valuable information. As a blogger, and PR person, I love to read, but I hope to learn from what I read. This is where “content is king” rings true. Articles about Justin Bieber’s hair is pure fluffy fluff! Give me pointers on how to be a blogging sensation that brings me a million dollars by next Friday.
3) Shallow - This summarizes it all. There is nothing truly deep and abiding with a fluff article. The elements of escape from reality and into fantasy (like reading that trashy novel that is secreted under our mattress) does not solve your target audience’s problems or make their lives better. Nothing gained and nothing lost.
The marketing takeaway is that fluff can produce the initial desired result: bring interest to a product or service. Fluff can also be good PR because it makes things look pretty and enticing. But fluff, as the word itself is defined does nothing more than to bring short-term attention. I say use the advantages of a fluff piece, but make sure to back it up with something worthwhile and valuable.