Striving for Classic Instead of Evergreen

Last week I got into a discussion with a client about 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 be “timeless.” 

When we set out to create evergreen content, we typically avoid including anything that pigeonholes the time when the content was created. Instead, we attempt to create something that will be relevant to our chosen audience now and in the future.

But classic content requires more. It requires that we create something of lasting worth, of the first or highest quality. This is a subtle but very important distinction.

Put simply: “evergreen” content and “classic” content are different.

I love how author Italo Calvino described a “classic” in his essay Why Read The Classics? 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 is a perfect example. It offers deeply creative storytelling with a very distinct point of view and – unlike most “evergreen” content – 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. 

It’s a classic that can stand the test of time – it has warranted sequels and spinoffs and remains a core piece of the LEGO content strategy.

Why does this matter? 

When I was with my client, I asked (without irony mind you) if they could envision creating a thought leadership paper that was not only timeless (meaning 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 write a “classic” thought leadership paper?  Would it be possible to create a “classic” video series on SEO? Can we create a “classic” Thanksgiving Day turkey recipe?  

Evergreen content is timeless in that it provides value to new audiences as they discover it.

Classic content not only provides new audiences with value, it goes one step further: It provides existing audiences with ongoing value. 

They can return to it time and again.

I continually return to Theodore Levitt’s paper Marketing Myopia to refresh my marketing chops despite its analysis of industries that date it to the 1960s. “Dumb Ways To Die,” a content marketing effort by the City of Melbourne Australia’s Metro organization, continues to get tens of millions of views each and every year despite being almost seven years old. 

And there may be no better example of classic content marketing than John Deere’s The Furrow Magazine. It’s been publishing continuously for the last 124 years, and subscribers routinely save issues as collector’s items. These same subscribers will revisit articles from years ago. The content is both timeless and classic.

Of course, 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, we can focus on the importance of great storytelling, exploring topics deeply, creating distinct points of view, and not necessarily being afraid to use timely examples to help tell a story. We can focus on creating content that people will want to revisit again and again.

That’s a classic.

It’s your story. Tell it well.

Robert Rose
Chief Strategy Officer at The Content Advisory
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS.

Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.
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Author: Robert Rose
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS. Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.