Play Cards Against Humanity a few times, and you quickly find out that there are a few cards you can count on to get a reaction every time—and a few duds. Maybe you struggle with celebrity card pairings, but get a situation like, “Mr. Clean, right behind you,” or “Sexual tension” and you can make magic happen.
What makes this possible is the way CAH expects the reuse of specific words, phrases and idioms, but creates new meaning by providing a multitude of contexts—some artful, some crude, and some even highly entertaining. It’s all about creating content experiences that resonate with your audience without having to make things up as you go along. There’s a rhythm and consistency because it’s all the same, without needing to be the same thing to everyone. An expectation is set, but it’s not always met. That’s a good thing. And herein lies the virtue of CAH’s success as a platform for creating delightful content experiences.
Surprisingly, it shares an M.O. with what some are calling an integral part of Content Marketing’s future: Intelligent Content.
Nearly everywhere you search for info on intelligent content, you’ll find the definition from Ann Rockley:
Intelligent content is structurally and semantically categorized and therefore automatically discoverable, reusable, reconfigurable and adaptable.
But what does this have to do with CAH?
At it’s essence, CAH enables discovery, reusability, reconfigurability, and adaptability every time it’s liberated from its box.
We discover the random combination of reusable cards we receive at the beginning of the game so that we can reconfigure card pairings to adapt to the preferences of the card czar.
Cards are “structurally and semantically categorized” by virtue of being a white or black card.
When a player takes his turn being the Card Czar, he always uses the white cards to ask a question or pose a scenario. The other players use the black cards to respond. It sounds pretty basic, but imagine how different the game would be if the Card Czar came up with his own phrase or scenario each time, and if the other players wrote their own responses. The game that functions to coax the players into a “despicable and awkward” experience would then be entirely unpredictable. Kindness and sweetness might ensue, but that wouldn’t be against humanity at all.
And just like the game, when content isn’t categorized, and discoverable, reusable, and adaptable, it becomes infinitely more difficult to manage where it belongs in the content experience.
While a certain random experience is a part of what makes CAH so fun, in other contexts we’d prefer to be able to control where and how we use each content piece. If each content piece in CAH were organized according to its category, we could add predictability. In a dream version of CAH for content marketers, we could imagine tagging each card with metadata, such as politicians, celebrities, bowel movements, sexual innuendo…you get the idea. By being able to find the card with the theme most appropriate to the moment, we would be more able to respond to a momentary mood shift in a game.
This is something we can achieve in real-life intelligent content scenarios, making us more adaptable to shifting needs, while still maintaining ease and predictability.
At its best, intelligent content is catered to the customer, who receives it in their time, in their place, and on many devices. Or, as Robert Rose writes in Connecting Content Marketing Experiences, it provides the right value, to the right audience, in their time.
You can see this play out in CAH. Whatever card you've chosen, you play it because you think the Card Czar will enjoy it most. Of course, they also receive it in their time and place. There’s never a stagnant moment. The same card could be played at a different time, with a different group, even to the same player, and create an entirely new content experience.
In this sense, the white card (the content) adapts to the black card and the player holding it—the channel. Different games and groups serve as fresh places and times to present content for new experiences.
Now, imagine you’re selling that ubiquitous widget. In this case, your customer’s main concern is compatibility with other widgets. Think of how often you’ll need a description of that widget—and its compatibility with other widgets—across your company. The specs have to adapt to different contexts, but you’ll always need the same information. You’ll need it in the training materials, in the product manual, and in your online catalog. You’ll want it at your fingertips for the blog you write, the interactive iPad game at the trade show, the slide show you show to the distributor, and the flyer he prints at the counter to hand to his customers.
And when the customer is at home mulling over his prospective big purchase, you’ll want the data to be consistent as he searches for it on your website, whether browsing from the desktop or mobile device. You’ll need all of these elements to automatically update when a new compatible widget comes on the market too so that when he finally decides to buy, he’ll be reassured to find the right specs before the widget lands in his basket for purchase and he successfully installs the compatible device according to the up-to-date manual he receives when the box arrives at his doorstep.
Centralized cross-checking and a lot of cutting and pasting would do all of this in the past, but with Intelligent Content, thinking ahead and planning saves time later, while keeping the content consistent. By strategizing for all the content elements you’ll need, you’ll create content you can find and reuse. You’ll discover that a few simple categories (and strategic on-demand printing) will let you produce the content everyone needs, when they need it. And not every content element will have to come across marketing’s desk when there’s a change because you’ve created content that will automatically update—a passel of strategic black cards to match each new white card situation.
We understand that the same cards in CAH can create unique experiences in different games. Let’s say that the group playing a game represents a brand, and we’ve got two groups playing: a group of comedians and a group of engineers. Just because these groups are playing the same game, doesn’t mean they’ll get the same experience. And you might think you’d know what that looks like, but if you’ve played CAH, you know you don’t.
Now let’s say that those two groups are departments within the same brand. The experience can be so different that it might not feel like they’re playing the same game. That’s where those silos can begin to form. Customers can’t help but notice the inconsistency. It plays a role in defining the experience for them, and it will ultimately reflect on the brand.
The departments within your business each provide their own unique value, and Intelligent Content can provide a framework to pull all of that value together, while keeping the brand’s voice intact.
It may sound overwhelming, but investing the resources to create an intelligent content strategy will not only enhance your customer’s experience, but can make your life as a content marketer that much easier.
When the structure is in place and the strategy is integrated, your content can be adapted and taken further, while maintaining a consistent voice. Ann Rockley, Scott Abel, and Charles Cooper lay it out nicely in Intelligent Content: A Primer:
“When companies recognize that the content they create, regardless of who created it and for what purpose, has a direct impact on customer experience, silos [between departments] come down. They start thinking strategically and discard old models. Collaboration becomes the norm. Customers notice.”
And this is just another way content can become the connective tissue that creates silo-busting business value.
We’re only scratching the surface on a very complicated issue. Many organizations face the daily demands of high volumes of content, nearly direct interaction with their customers, and an ever-changing relationship with the technology they use to make it happen.
Fortunately, there are a lot of places to help you get started so you can move forward with your own intelligent content strategy:
Get Smart About What Intelligent Content Really Means by Andrew Davies
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Intelligent Content by Victoria Hoffman
Get Smart About Intelligent Content by David Hillis
10 Steps to Create Intelligent Content This Year by Julia McCoy
As content strategist Ben Barone-Nugent suggests, “[t]he reality is that the failure of content marketing is in the belief that content exists in a vacuum.” It doesn’t. It exists everywhere and crosses all touch points within our organizations and with our customer. Intelligent Content allows us to add order to our own, and our customer's, universe of content experiences. And we have the opportunity to do so to great effect.
When you’re not the Card Czar, how will you play it? With Intelligent Content, you can play “Mr. Clean, right behind you,” or “Sexual tension” every time, and not leave the creation or impact of well-crafted content experiences to chance.