• Emily Malone

How to make your content marketing cheap, scalable and effective.

Updated: Jul 6, 2020

Kirsty Hulse from Many Minds once wanted to create a structurally-sound pillow fort for a client’s campaign. Yep, you read that correctly — a structurally-sound pillow fort. So who better to ask than an architect, right?

Now, the hardest thing about this funny campaign was asking established, serious architects around the UK to create the blueprints. But luckily, they eventually found two architects who agreed to create them. This was brilliant because, it actually only took 2 days to do and the blueprints were shared a crazy amount online — so that low-cost, low-risk idea turned out to be super fun and effective.

In her talk at this year’s Nottingham Digital Summit, Kirsty explained to us how we can create effective campaigns like this too, without needing to invest too much time, money, and risk. Here’s what we learned.

What is content marketing?

Cool,  funny or useful informative shit on the internet.

The definition of ‘content marketing’ varies depending on who you ask. There isn’t actually a unified definition because it encompasses so many roles: CMO, content teams, social teams, SEO/growth teams, PR teams, UX teams. Kirsty summed it up nicely with the above quote.

The problem

When you look at what people consider the most popular content, it’s all really expensive and time-consuming content assets like videos. This takes a crazy amount of time, effort, energy, and resource. And sometimes the campaigns flop. Or, as Kirsty so honestly put it: “People don’t give a shit”.

So what can we do?

Don’t put all your eggs into one content basket.

Don’t focus on one single thing, because the risk becomes super high. So, create smaller content and try multiple things instead. This minimises the risk of relying on a huge, single campaign that doesn’t work.


A content marketing campaign is made up of an idea, data and an asset.

Ideas hard but cheap. Data is easy and cheap. Assets are the things that can truly get expensive and hard. But all you really need is an idea and some solid, trustworthy data. The asset doesn’t actually have to be super hard and expensive, and sometimes you won’t even need one at all! A great example Kirsty gave was the Greggs Valentine’s Dinner, which managed to get wall-to-wall coverage. Greggs simply advertised a Valentines menu and linked it to an OpenTable page. They didn’t even create a massive asset! All they did was come up with a menu and a way for people to book a table at the event. The genius of it was that it completely spinned their brand on its head, creating a hilarious news story which all the online newspapers and blogs immediately latched onto. It also summoned a lot of ‘I took my date to Greggs on Valentine’s Day – and it was…’ posts for weeks after.

How to pitch the idea

We hire people to not fuck up.

Very few brands give incentives for genuine innovation. Creating interesting, unique and new things in a world where everyone is trained to be very risk-averse is pretty difficult. You just need to make sure you have quantifiable data and ask for ‘consideration’ when you pitch. Don’t ask for a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. It creates a different narrative. Kirsty also mentioned the Columbus Complex; we all want to be the person who discovers something. So her top tip was to make the client realise your thought process. If they can figure out the journey you went on to get to the idea, you’ve got a better chance of nailing your pitch. Tell the whole story and ask questions that help guide them through the process, because then they’ll feel like they were a part of the idea.

The creative process

Try timing yourself and just scribbling a heap of ideas on a page. Kind of like a drunk guy rambling at a wedding and banging into things… wine helps.

Kirsty recalled a time where a paper-shredding client wanted a new campaign. So she had to find a way to make paper shredding interesting… When she boiled down to it, she found that paper shredding is fundamentally about information security. So she then played a kind of word-association game with free-flowing spider diagrams. 

You won’t need your analytical mind yet. Put that in a box for the minute. That comes later.

What you’ll find is different subtopics that you can play around with. You can then put those subtopics into Buzzumo, which analyses and shows you what related content people are reading and sharing online. By doing this, Kirsty found a wealth of data about millennials and how they’re not super concerned about data security. There’s something in that.

How do you find data?

You need to find strong, credible data on the cheap. So where should you look? White Papers are a good shout, and there are lots of readily available information on the internet. Kirsty apparently likes to use DataSearch — a research data search engine for academic links and university partnerships. This gives you loads of incredible, trusted data that you can go away and use for your marketing campaigns. Plus, as a bonus, academics always want their research to be read.

Just make sure you always ask if you can use their research beforehand, and pay them for it.

Great tools that keep content-creation costs low

Something like Slides can help you create beautiful scrolling content, and there are tools to create fake Instagram posts and text messages which can make quick, funny content that gets shared around. Timeline can also help you create quick timeline content if you don’t have a designer to hand. As an addition to Kirtsy’s list of tools, I personally love to use Canva, which is quick and easy drag-and-drop infographic creator. 

3 Key takeaways

All creativity comes through play
  1. We put lots of effort into creating marketing campaigns, and it doesn’t necessarily always pay off. So what we need to do is mitigate it with smaller stuff.

  2. Ideas are everything, because ideas are free.

  3. To get a good idea you need to get away from your desk – go for a walk, do something different. All creativity comes through play.