The bank robber’s guide to creative content marketing

Rob Philbin

VP Earned Media, Jellyfish

On Saturday 6th August 2005, a group of burglars tunnelled into a Brazilian bank, closed for the weekend.

The theft was undiscovered until Monday, when the bank reopened.

90 days earlier, the group rented a commercial property two blocks away and began tunnelling from there.

Each day, they removed van-loads of soil from the property, under the disguise of a landscaping company.

By the day of the robbery, the tunnel was 13-foot underground, lined with wood, plastic, lighting – and even fitted with its own air circulation system.

The money in the vault was untraceable, as the bills were not numbered sequentially – information the criminals seemed to already know.

They walked away with over 70 million US dollars, in Brazilian real notes.

Were they outright lucky? Or did they stack the odds in their favour?

I lean towards the latter.

And you can look at creative projects in the same way.

There is no way you can guarantee success for your next big creative project. But you can do everything in your power to stack the odds in your favour.

Rob Philbin, Head of Organic Performance

The bank robber’s guide to stacking the odds

Let’s get this out of the way – I do not condone the Banco Central robbery of 2005, nor do I condone theft in general.

But I admire the planning.

There is no way those robbers could guarantee success on that Saturday.

And there is no way you can guarantee success for your next big creative project.

But you can do everything in your power to stack the odds in your favour.

To understand how, let’s first look at how the robbers get started …

Here’s a conversation between Neil (a professional thief) and Kelso (a criminal mastermind):

‘What is it?’

‘It’s a bank.’

‘How many guys?’

‘About three, or four, plus a driver. You walk in, knock ‘em over, and walk out. They hit three hold-up alarm systems. Two Telco and a cellular. But the signals aren’t going anywhere because … the night before, you cut in and trick out the alarm system to turn itself off 20 minutes before you enter.’

‘Architectural, electrical plans?’

‘I got that. I got the boards already built. They go into the CPU. I have a printout of the bank’s cash flow for the past two months.’

‘How’d you get this information?’

‘Just comes to you. This stuff just flies through the air. It’s just beamed out all over the place. You just have to grab it. I know how to grab it.’

Kelso’s final line here is your secret to stacking the odds.

— Side note: this is a fictional conversation from the 1995 movie, Heat. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending how you look at it), I don’t have access to real-life bank robbers. So, for now, this is the best insight I’ve got for you on how they plan their heists. —

The information you need to all-but-guarantee success for your next project is also beamed out all over the place.

Here’s how to grab it.

Stage 1: Ask the right questions

To start, let’s clarify what we’re looking for:

  1. Who is the target user?
  2. What device are they likely to be using when we reach out to them?
  3. What social channels are the most important to this user?
  4. What are the common characteristics across the most shared content in this space?
  5. What emotion is evoked from the most shared content in this space?
  6. Who else is producing content like this right now?
  7. What other websites are frequented by this user?
  8. What is our budget?
  9. How much time do we have?
  10. What would success look like?
  11. Are there any technical obstacles we need to bear in mind?

Some of these questions seem simple. But simple can lead to complacency.

One misstep and the cops are onto us the project could be doomed before it’s even off the ground (i.e. your target user could be far less active on Twitter than you think, so any “hashtag campaign” ideas are not gonna help to stack the odds).

Knowing the questions is the starting point. Finding the answers is the hard bit.

Do not, at any cost, compromise on the customer profiling stage by drafting up a person document based on what you reckon is correct.

Rob Philbin, Head of Organic Performance

Stage 2: Find the right answers

There is a ton of work that goes into this part. Hopefully, with these pointers I’m about to share on the first few questions, you can get started right away.

Question: Who is the target user?

If you’re the brand, you already know half of this. But there is a lot you can confirm about your customer by taking the following steps:

  • Hire a specialist agency to match your customer data against up-to-date consumer information (organisations such as CallcreditExperian, and Acorn offer these services)
  • Cross-reference this updated customer profile with demographic data available in your Google Analytics account, Facebook Insights tab, and Twitter Demographics tab (no expenditure required for this part)
  • Create a persona document, which is based on all the data gathered so far (age, gender, attitudes to finance, house type, family composition, wealth, interests etc)
  • Run the persona document by your colleagues who talk to these people most regularly and confirm/edit/add to the insights contained
  • Do not, at any cost, compromise on this step by drafting up a persona document based on what you reckon is correct

Question: What device are they likely to be using when we reach out to them?

The important word here is ‘likely’. You can’t know for sure. But you can make an informed decision based on reviewing the Mobile tab in your Google Analytics account.

Same goes for your Facebook Insights – just review the data inside this platform from the ‘By Device’ point of view.

To go one step further, look at your AdWords activity to see device-level interactions by keyword.

Bundle all this data together to give yourself the best possible indication of the most likely device used by your target user.

Extra tip: If your demographic data gathered in the step above shows that your target user is aged 25-34 and is more than likely female, you can create a filter for this profile in your Google Analytics account. This means the data that is then served via Google Analytics is based entirely on engagements with only those who match your target age and gender.

Question: What social channels are the most important to this user?

Your traffic by network referral in Google Analytics can give you a steer on the answer to this one.

Access this by clicking the Social tab on the left and then ‘Network Referrals’.

But don’t stop there – review the frequency of engagements with your brand across each social channel. Then investigate competitor pages/accounts to see if there is a pattern.

Bear in mind that low engagements on your Facebook page don’t necessarily mean the person isn’t an active user of the channel – this could be due to your own Facebook content not quite hitting the mark.

You can also use third party tools such as BuzzSumo to quickly interpret the most popular social channels in a particular sector or for a specific topic (or even a specified website).

For example, I have typed ‘bank robbery’ into the search function of BuzzSumo and we can see here that the majority of shares for content on this topic comes via Facebook:

Of course, the likes of Instagram and Snapchat aren’t traceable in this platform. But if our goal here is to reach people with content placed on your website – then we want to be looking at the traditional platforms primarily.

Question: What are the most common characteristics across the most shared content in this space?

There is no tool to give you the answers to this. It is a manual step. And one of the most important.

To start, use those top links from your BuzzSumo search and review each piece of content in isolation.

You want to extract details like the type of imagery used in the content, the tone of voice, the angle itself, the political leaning, the people mentioned within the content, the websites upon which they are placed, the links they feature within the piece and almost anything else you can pull out.

By doing this across a number of highly successful content pieces, you can start to notice similarities.

And this list of similarities becomes your blueprint for success.

Extra tip: You’re also keeping an eye out for the one thing each successful piece is NOT doing … yet. And this could be your winning ingredient for beating the competition.

You may have noticed a pattern here – the answers to each question are available. The information is ‘beamed out all over the place’.

You just have to go out there and grab it.

My team spend about two weeks on Stage 1 and Stage 2.

And that time is essential for the success of Stage 3 …

Stage 3: Plan every detail

As you’re reading this, there is a room full of marketers somewhere having a ‘creative ideas session’.

They’re sharing the hour in a room together – coming up with on-the-spot concepts based on nothing but their brain’s ability to float an idea to the surface that might fit.

They have skipped (or ignored) Stage 1 and 2, in the name of speed and volume.

These marketers are not stacking the odds in their favour. They just might get out alive. But I won’t be robbing any banks with them soon.

With all the information gathered in Stage 1 and 2, you now have everything you need to build what we call ‘THE WALL’.

We call it that because we actually use a wall to map out the entire operation.

Every answer from Stage 2 is written on the wall in our room.

And every idea generated from this point on (we spend the full day doing this) must answer to THE WALL.

This way, ego is removed from the equation. And the winning ideas are winning because they match with precisely what our specific target user is looking for.

Therefore, every winning idea has the odds stacked in its favour.

— Side note: This information comes back into play when you’re planning your promotional strategy – and your personas for any paid advertising are readymade, too. –

It took three months for the crew in BRazil to tunnel through to the bank. They might have succeeded by shooting their way through the front door. But they ramped up their chances by investing the time beforehand.

Rob Philbin, Head of Organic Performance

Time to rob the bank

I’m sorry. I haven’t shared everything we do for our creative projects here. But hopefully you have a lot to use for your next creative campaign.

Just remember, it took three months for those guys in Brazil to tunnel through to the bank. They might have succeeded by shooting their way through the front door. But they ramped up their chances by investing the time beforehand.

Good luck with your next campaign – but if you want to rely on more than just luck, you can learn all about strategic content on the Jellyfish Content Marketing training course.

Note: This method was used for “Project Bookshelf” – a campaign created and executed on behalf of AllClear Travel Insurance. The campaign was awarded with ‘Best Digital Marketing Campaign – Finance’ at the Northern Digital Awards on 31st January 2018