Don’t Be a One-Hit Wonder: Content Strategy Ideas from a Folk Song’s History

Don’t Be a One-Hit Wonder: Content Strategy Ideas from a Folk Song’s History

Ever heard the song “Blues Run the Game”?

I first heard Laura Marling’s version on a Spotify binge, but recently I heard Jackson C. Frank’s version and haven’t been able to stop listening.

It’s one of the more popular mainstay folk songs (according to the people in my life who’ve been listening to folk longer than I have). Over the years, it’s been covered by artists like Simon & Garfunkel and Nick Drake.

Each musician has a slightly different spin to it, but the original integrity — the original message — of the song stays intact.

We treat a lot of our content in a similar way. Lots of times, we “cover” certain things about a message while “personalizing” other elements, depending on who’s making the piece or who the client is.

Because, well, there are just some things that are worth repeating. Whether it’s the wording, the structure, or the format, when you find something that works, don’t be afraid to “cover” it.

1. Lyrics

In every version of “Blues Run the Game,” the lyrics remain the same — but that makes sense, because lyrics are basically the skeletal structure of a song. Change the lyrics, and you change a lot.

What if, instead of Frank’s lyrics:

Send out for whiskey, baby,
Send out for gin

Laura Marling had sung:

Send out for vodka, baby,
Send out for wine

First of all, the rhyming structure would be completely thrown off. But there’s also a completely different vibe with vodka and wine than with whiskey and gin.

Marling knew it was worth keeping the lyrics the same. Because whenever you’re making content, it’s vitally important to know which words you should reuse.

Every word choice in a song is valuable — just like every word choice in a Facebook ad, email, or landing page is valuable. That’s why we run tests on our Facebook ads to make sure we’re getting the biggest bang for our word buck.

And once we land on wording the data supports, we keep it and repeat it.

A person strumming a guitar. Sometimes the best things in life are worth repeating, which is probably why cover bands exist.

2. Tempo

Simon & Garfunkel use harmonies and a slightly faster tempo, while Frank’s version is sung at a slightly lower octave and is a bit slower.

That’s one of the main differences between those two versions, but those subtle changes make sense when you think about who’s performing the song. Slower and deeper fit Frank’s music just as much as harmonious and faster fit Simon & Garfunkel’s.

Sometimes you have to speed up the content flow of your message. And sometimes you have to slow down, dig a little deeper, pull on the heartstrings instead.

What’s worked for other companies or objectives may not be the best fit for how you and your company need to get your message outNot every audience responds to the same delivery the same way.

So don’t be afraid to maintain your message, but tweak your content flow from time to time. 

3. Instruments

Most covers of “Blues Run the Game” primarily feature the guitar and some wonderful, folksy finger-plucking. That’s probably because the song really lends itself to being used by that classic instrument of the blues genre.

But the song would hold up even if a musician decided to use, say, a piano. The message stays the same, even if the instrument changes.

When we’re promoting a specific sale or even just a new car model, we use multiple instruments to tell the same story. Facebook ads, blog posts, pillar pages, and emails all sing in harmony to get the message across.

We choose our instruments because we know they fit with the feel we’re going for and because we have the skill to play them as they need to be.

If the instrument fits, play it.

Someone playing the guitar, tightly focused on the fingers. If the instrument fits, play it.

The Moral of the Story

Don’t write a whole new song every time you need to get a message out!

Your content, platforms, and general vibe (read: brand) are best utilized when you build them into your message strategy over time.

Don’t be a one-hit wonder. Embrace the cover life.

Oh! And subscribe to our newsletter to get more marketing insights.

P.S. In case you missed it last month, we’ve been learning a lot from musicians lately. Check out Matt’s post about some marketing lessons from Questlove.

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