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Classic vs. Evergreen – By Robert Rose

Quality vs. Quantity

Marketers often talk about quality vs. quantity in content marketing. And when we talk about the former, the topic of “evergreen” content frequently comes up. Great “evergreen” content is timeless. It remains always relevant to audiences. Conventional wisdom says that higher quality content is more evergreen in nature. In fact, you’ll find many articles on content marketing that simply make the terms “evergreen” and “quality” synonymous.  

Evergreen is NOT equal to Classic

 I was working with a client last month and the topics of both evergreen content and quality came up. We got into a discussion about the difference between the different approaches of creating evergreen content. Our discussion centered on the fact that “timeless” content does not automatically mean that the content will stand the test of time. Nor does content that stands the test of time have to necessarily be “timeless”.  Put simply: “evergreen” content and “classic” content are different.

 For example, when we create that an evergreen Christmas holiday recipe video, or that “how-to” infographic on SEO, or the instructional white paper on how to manage an enterprise software implementation, we typically remove (or never put in) anything that boxes us into a particular time in which the content has been created.  We address our chosen topic thoroughly and attempt to create something that will be relevant for any one of our chosen audiences at any time now or in the future.

What classifies as ‘Classic’ ?

 But creating something that will become a classic requires something more. It requires that we create something of lasting worth, or of the first or highest quality. This is different than simply evergreen. This is a subtle but very important distinction.

 I love how author Italo Calvino described a “classic” in his essay on the subject Why Read The Classics? put it. He said “a classic” is something “which even when we read it for the first time gives the sense of rereading something we have read before.” A classic, he says, is “a book which has never exhausted all it has to say to its readers.”

The LEGO movie – The perfect branded content?

The LEGO Movie is a perfect example of high performing branded content. But what makes it special is not the fact that the movie is evergreen content. The LEGO Movie is deeply creative storytelling, with a very distinct point of view. And, in fact unlike most “evergreen” content, it features very trendy, topical characters. Despite that, The LEGO Movie is something families watch over and over again. The movie never exhausts all it has to say to its audience. Being a classic that can stand the test of time is why it has warranted sequels and spinoffs and is a core piece of the LEGO content strategy.

Why does this matter?

Well, when I was with my client, discussing the difference between classic and evergreen I asked (without irony mind you) if they could envision creating a thought leadership paper that was not only timeless (or evergreen), but something that people enjoyed so much, that they would go back and read it again and again.  

Everyone laughed, because they thought I was joking. But I’m serious. Can we actually write a “classic” thought leadership paper?  Would it be possible to create a “classic” video series on SEO.  Can we create a “classic” Holiday recipe?  

Evergreen is Discoverable but Classic is Timeless and Ongoing.

Evergreen content is timeless in that it constantly provides new audiences a relevant value. They discover it. Classic content not only provides new audiences with relevant value, it goes one step further. It provides existing audiences with ongoing value. They can continuously return to time and again.

 Just one quick example of this. Our “What is  Content Marketing” page on the Content Marketing Institute site is, to this day, the most popular page on our site. Now, you might say “well, of course it is – the Google SEO on that page has it as the number one organic page for the question.”  You’d be right. But would it surprise you to know that when we look at the Web Analytics the return vs. new visitor is almost 50%/50%?  That means it’s become a go-to resource for marketers who continually return to it. 

Content That Hooks

I continually return to Theodore Levitt’s paper Marketing Myopia to refresh my marketing chops despite its analysis of industries dated more appropriately to the 1960’s.  The “Dumb Ways To Die” content marketing effort by the City of Melbourne Australia’s Metro organisation, continues to get tens of millions of views each and every year despite being almost 7 years old in 2019.

 And, of course there may be no better example of a classic content marketing effort than John Deere’s The Furrow Magazine.  It’s not only been publishing continuously for the last 124 years, but subscribers routinely save issues as collector’s items. These same subscribers will revisit articles, even those from years ago. The content is both timeless, and classic.

Like all good things – Classics take time

Now, of course, we must acknowledge that we can’t really know if a piece of content is a classic, until it – well – becomes a classic. It must stand the test of time. And for that, you need time.

But as we look to create strategic, high quality content, what we can do is focus on the importance of great storytelling, exploring topics deeply, creating distinct points of view, and not necessarily being afraid to use topical examples to help us tell a story. We can focus on creating content that people will want to revisit again and again.

 That’s a classic.

Looking for help creating your classic piece of content? Contact us to discuss how we can get your content from evergreen to classic.

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