NEW YORK, United States — “Being a content creator is like being a venture capitalist. You put out 10 pieces for one to be a success, but that one success — it can be a huge,” explains Drew Elliott, the co-owner and chief creative officer of PAPER Communications, the renowned New York publishing and communications company.
The Indiana-native — who started his career aged 19 as an intern at PAPER magazine — would know. In 2014 he drove 16 million people to the PAPER website in just two days, following the release of a Jean Paul Goude cover of Kim Kardashian which he both commissioned and concepted. Not only does Elliott now partly own ENTtech Media Group, which acquired PAPER in 2017, his ability to ignite a global response to the cover and harness it with his #BreakTheInternet campaign solidified his reputation as one of fashion’s most effective and impressive marketers.
Since then, while starring as both judge and creative consultant on VH1’s television show ‘America’s Next Top Model’, Elliott has proven the success of his formula. From his "Kanye West talking about Kanye West" concept, to creating a “Nicki Minaj-a-trois” and shooting Cameron Dallas before he crossed into the mainstream, he has established himself as an authority in creating content that connects with global audiences. He is also a prescient adapter to emerging audience behaviour and engagement trends.
BoF chose to launch its online education course: ‘Digital Marketing with Drew Elliott’, to give its community access not only to Elliott’s formula to break the internet, but a comprehensive digital marketing playbook — spanning organic and paid social strategies, influencer marketing, video creation and live streaming — created by a market leading professional.
Collaborating with BoF on an online education course was a natural fit for the digital savant. "When I was asked to teach the first course on Digital Marketing, it was an immediate “Yes” from me. I was able to bring the PAPER fun and pop culture to the academic and tools-based curriculum BoF provided. This course is for everyone who wants to get ahead in communications and marketing… whether you need a brush up, or you are just starting your career in digital. Nothing is more important to my business and anyone’s business for that matter than having new talent who are digital thinkers," he explains.
Below, are a selection of excerpts from the #BreakTheInternet course chapter.
Focus on the Content, Not the Result
I believe that virality is out of your control but what is in your control is creating content that is capable of going viral. You’ll get virality if you create amazing content with the right ingredients, but not necessarily because you want it. Virality is unplanned. That's the hardest part of virality. Everyone wants to have it but it's not something that you can plan on. It's a perk. You have to always remember that. If you ever receive a brief that says, "We would like to create a viral video" Tell them, "No, thank you.” It's just like going out and deciding, “I want to be rich and famous,” as opposed to “I want to be an actor or an entertainer.” It's putting the perk before the work so you’ve really got to turn them around and think about it in a different way.
Read the Mood and Respond
There is no better thing to inform you about the internet than the internet itself. You have to know what's happening in the ecosystem of the internet. It's constantly churning out different trends, topics, things that you can really understand and pull out, whether it becomes a meme or whether it's in a trade publication.It's very, very key to stay dialled in to everything that's happening. Youth culture, educationally, academically, you need to be able to really pull all of those together. You need to hear what's going on. You need to be a part of the community that you're entertaining.
One of the great examples is Amal Clooney. When the Associated Press called her an actor’s wife, the internet went crazy and so Paper was able to punk that. Later, when it was announced that Amal Clooney was pregnant, Paper released content saying, "Amal Clooney and actor husband are expecting twins." An example of a fantastic instantaneous reaction that went viral was when the lights went out at the Super Bowl. Oreo tweeted,"You can still dunk in the dark," that was a genuinely viral moment that was reactive because people were watching the Super Bowl, but at the same time the brand was bringing to life their fun tone of voice. They were responding.
Recognise Consumers Want to be Part of a Movement
Consumers love to be part of a movement. They want to see things that are successful and attach to those things that are successful. Specifically if they are emotionally involved in those things. There are certain brands that you kind of bring into your life that are very, very important to you and you want to follow them and when they have explosive success, you want to be there to help share in that success. That’s when we see big viral moments happening, for instance, Supreme. People love that brand. When they connected with Louis Vuitton and did a collaboration, it exploded on to the internet both in images, in stores, in lines, in media. That’s something that actually creates virality around product and then translates into digital.
Harness Celebrities and Influencers
Influencers and celebrities are the rocket fuel of virality. It doesn't mean that if you choose someone with 10 million followers, even a 100 million followers that it will go viral, it just means your chances are higher because it's reaching more people at the onset. Influencers and celebrities can only add fuel to this fire. Remember, micro influencers are also very important inside of virality because they have such a strong, strong connection to their followers. Those followers in turn will then amplify it out to their audiences.
Tailor Content to Existing Communities
Paper was able to create another viral sensation when we worked with Blink-182's Tom DeLonge on a story about his belief on UFOs. People loved the story, not just because he was talking about UFOs, but it was re-popularising someone who was still very, very loved by an extremely engaged fan base. Those things match together, creating all types of stories that were heard from the radio to television, then all the way back to the internet.
Things like forums and chat rooms can create popularity with engaged audiences if those folks have heard it and seen it. By igniting content and giving it to fan clubs you can really start to seed it just as you could seed it with bloggers and other influencers who are going to take the content into the media.