Show don’t tell – Dark Souls and the value of content marketing 

Whether a consumer is presented with a masked figure with a penchant for existential dread or an incisive piece of analysis on the current real estate market, you can be sure that thought and conviction were requisite components in the creation of their experience. “Show don’t tell” has become something of a mantra for game designers and marketing specialists alike, and with good reason: if the creative behind any form of content can effectively communicate a message in a way that demands real engagement they have achieved what many fail to do – interest their target audience. Two examples of note in this regard are Hidetaka Miyazaki, president of FromSoftware and the director behind the lauded Souls series of video games, and Rightmove, a UK based real estate site. This comparison may seem a strange one, yet the methodology of the two can be aligned with relative ease, and doing so will hopefully illustrate the importance of demonstrative communication: showing, not telling.

So why Dark Souls? For those unfamiliar with Miyazaki’s work, it’s a smash-hit series with a focus on open-world gameplay featuring intersecting paths and a gothic visual style replete with fallen monarchs and corrupted cities. Oh, and it’s considered to boast some of the hardest challenges in modern video games. What’s particularly special about the Souls titles is the way they present the player with information; aside from an initial cutscene detailing some basic context, very little is spoon-fed. This leaves the player with the task of not only overcoming fantastical knights and monsters, but also the opportunity to unpick the rich and often ambiguous narratives that make these entities so engaging. To get to grips with the forces at play in these worlds they must look for small details in the environments and read the descriptions of the various weapons and items they come across – a process that is (perhaps surprisingly) incredibly immersive. This show don’t tell approach to story has resulted in both snowballing sales driven by positive critical reviews and word of mouth and the development of a sizeable online community centred around the sharing of theories about the game’s lore. Here, brand loyalty is instilled in a consumer by treating them as an intelligent agent who can engage with complex ideas and subtle messages.

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This same principle can be applied to content marketing. The internet has offered marketers a host of new channels to illustrate their worth to consumers. Companies have increasingly made use of blogs, vlogs, podcasts, etc. to express values and ideas. A great example of this is Rightmove, a site that has crafted a multifaceted blog that appeals to those looking to rent or buy properties in the UK. They address everything from celebrity homes and dream properties to housing and rental trends. This shows that they have their fingers on the pulse of the real estate market, on both a national and global level; they’re the first to know that Muse’s Matt Bellamy’s Lake Como home is for sale and they want you to know it. Full breakdowns of regional market changes, a handy school checker function, and informative posts on what dictates property value cement their role as a capable guide through the process of becoming a homeowner. They’ve also racked up a respectable following on social media sharing photos of properties, often with whimsical captions, and consistently create engaging video content. In short, they’ve successfully characterised their business as a simultaneously charming and experienced outfit through the effective use of these tools.

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Regardless of the target audience, people should be given something to sink their teeth into. If your company prides itself on its years of experience in a certain field, then show people that you have this experience – unsubstantiated claims and slogans can only go so far.  The best content marketers can demonstrate a business’s culture and expertise through the use of a blog or series of videos, just as an adept storyteller and designer like Miyazaki can enthral a gamer by immersing them in a rich world that doesn’t dump chunks of clunky exposition on them every five minutes.

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