Why Shopper Marketing NEEDS Content Strategy

I have been thinking a lot recently about the intersection of shopper marketing and content strategy. For the uninitiated, shopper marketing focuses on the actual conversion as opposed to top- or mid-funnel activity like awareness or arguably engagement. 

While not necessarily confined to in-store, retail activity, most agencies that specialize in shopper marketing focus on POS (point of sale). On many shopper marketing agency sites, you will see a lot about packaging, signage, displays, etc. Some work with or have bolted on a PR component to make further hay out of any special event. But I find few agencies that embrace a rigorous strategic component BEFORE diving into the in-store marketing. Of the top 10 search results that include "shopper marketing," only one ("shopper marketing research") contains an element of messaging or strategy. (Not definitive evidence, I realize, but illustrative at least.)

Content strategy can add a lot to shopper marketing; likewise, content strategists can also learn a lot from shopper marketers. I will get more into why shopper marketing agencies need to embrace content strategy later, but let's take a look at how user behavior has changed in the last decade as it will likely point toward how agencies must evolve to meet demand.

We Sure Don't Shop Like We Used To

I cringe at these citations, but bare with me. The wikipedia entry for shopper marketing cites several stats, including:

  • 70% of brand selections are made at stores (GMA Online, 2007)
  • 68% of buying decisions are unplanned (MediaBuyerPlanner, 2006)

These stats describe a free-wheeling retail experience which is unfamiliar to me, at least. Now, let's look at some more recent figures from The Zero Moment of Truth.

  • Consumers are viewing much more content online before making a purchase decision. In 2010, consumers consulted 5.7 pieces of content online before making a purchase. That number almost double in a year. In 2011, the average was 10.4 pieces of content. You can bet that the number of pieces is only increasing.
  • Consumers are spending more time with that online content. In 2010, 9% of a consumer's research time was spent online, pre-POS. In just a year, that almost doubled to 17% of research time in 2011. Again, bet on that figure only increasing.

So, if consumers are investigating pre-purchase more and more, why would many shopper agencies cede that territory to focus on POS? Short answer: they shouldn't. Enter content strategy.

Content Strategy <3 Education

Awareness and engagement are easy answers to the pre-purchase conundrum, but they are also vague. In my opinion, educational content is where shopper agencies should develop their offerings and content strategy is perfectly positioned to define educational content: what already exists, what consumers want to know, the type of content they prefer, channel of choice, content cadence, etc. (Educational content definitely hits awareness and can also hit upon engagement too, of course.)

Paco Underhill, author of Why We Buy, had this to say on the topic (emphasis mine):

"If you have no real basis for comparing one product to another, the normal instinct is to buy what's cheaper. But if a store sets itself up to educate shoppers, even just a little, a certain number of them will spend more than what is absolutely necessary." (Updated version, page 190)

I was recently working with a big-name brand who offers home appliance repairs, digging into their content and investigating what leads up to this brand getting a call to fix a dishwasher, air conditioner, etc. After performing a content audit and mapping out the user journey, we were able to discern exactly where this brand was supporting the consumer through the funnel with educational content and where they were lacking. (This exercise alone will have a huge impact - they will spend their money more wisely producing exactly the content their consumers need with fewer editorial revisions and served up in multiple channels. This efficiency will save them thousands, if not millions.)

But, when combined with secondary research, we learned that a big problem was that a lot of these customers did not know how to be repair customers. They didn't fix things themselves, but a lot didn't regularly call for repairs either. We needed to illustrate what a repair service call looked like in order to put them at ease. Our job, through content, was to make them better repairs consumers. Truly fascinating!

Content Strategy In Action With Shopper Marketing

There are many ways content strategy adds value to shopper marketing efforts. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Use digital (educational) content to drive to in-store sales. Online orders only count for 11.6% of total retail dollars, but digital can still drive sales into stores. Content strategy can help define customer pain points and determine topics that will help snag the conversion - online or in-store.
  2. Use content to help make decisions (or up-sell) while in-store. With 80% of shoppers using their smartphone while in the store, digital couponing while in-store is occurring more and more. Content wrapped around those coupons help the in-store consumer make purchase decisions and provide the opportunity for retailers to up-sell. Content pre- and post-purchase - based on various data sources - would also be a powerful addition.
  3. Use content to convince and persuade through signage. This poster from the CDC and displayed in Walgreens is a great example of a seemingly innocuous decision that can be changed through educational content.
  4. Use content to way-find or ease the shopping experience. Ideas like a mobile concierge (page 5) would be popular to guide consumers to items they want (whether they are familiar with those items or not) or give location help while in-store. Content strategists could help advise what in-store problems people are expressing online as well as recommend other relevant products to promote.
  5. Use content to create a unique experience in-store. Kate Spade, in partnership with eBay, and others are playing around with digital selection experiences. A content strategist could determine not only user needs at the POS, but also assess criterion consumers use to make decisions to create a decision-making experience that is fun and playful. (TV shopping alone would never be the same.)

The Other Side Of The Coin

Naturally, integration between content strategy and shopper marketing could yield these and many more positive results for clients. I'm able to focus more on the content strategy side of things because that's the world I know. That said, content strategy could certainly learn from shopper marketing practices as well.

One element I would urge content strategists to learn from shopper marketers is that the buyer isn't necessarily the consumer. (Think about beer purchases and consumptions.) Content strategists spend a lot of time thinking about consumers and their needs, but they often don't pay as much attention to behavioral patterns and differences that may emerge. Or content strategists focus only on digital and sometimes ignore anything that falls outside of the digital realm. We can certainly learn those lessons from our friend specializing in shopper marketing.

Comments?

So, what do you think? Please feel free to poke holes in this argument. I look forward to all constructive criticism in hopes of presenting a more clear understanding of how these disciplines can learn from each other.

Grow Up: Content IS a Commodity

The always-impressive Rachel Lovinger wrote about a recent backlash she is seeing to the word "content."

While I haven't experienced exactly what she is describing, I have seen symptoms of this bigger illness - mostly that "content" is so vague a term as to allow the uneducated or uninitiated to play in the space with subpar results. (Basically the same dynamic we saw a few years ago in terms of unique, quality content versus the content farms online detritus.)

Lovinger deftly sums up the issue:

The core problem seems to be a feeling that the word “content” reduces thoughtful, artistic expressions to a commodity. The websites and apps we develop to elegantly deliver words, images and media experiences are perceived as empty containers, hungry for content to be poured into them. Content marketing campaigns depend on calendars that demand to be filled on a regularly scheduled basis. This may give the impression that an effective approach to content is to churn out generic stuff that fits the size and shape of the container, and meets the deadlines.

Content Isn't Art

While I certainly share a distain for garbage content or even the practices that produce it, it also got me thinking about the other end of the spectrum. There will always be those who try to churn out a crappy product (content, in this case) faster and cheaper. But there are also those on the other end who do as much damage by elevating content to an artistic expression

I fall into the pragmatic center. I tend to agree with Lee Clow that an advertisement is a piece of communication. Content may require someone with artistic sensibilities, but it is not art. Content IS a commodity. 

Why am I so emphatically "reducing" content to a commodity? Because I've tried to sell just an idea to a client. It never works. They might agree, but agreeing to something as imperceivable as an idea is never something that can be approved by a corporation. 

The success I've had with content marketing is, in fact, largely because I can package up content programs into commodities. Looking over current content to see what you can repurpose is a good idea. But a content audit is something a client can buy. BIG difference. 

I see sweet, well-meaning agency folks fail consistently because they simply don't give a client something she could actually purchase.

We work in a business with a lot of vagueness. Even our most concrete metrics don't tell a clear story all the time. (For instance, does time on site mean that a viewer is really interested or does it mean they're confused and can't find what they want right away?) We're at our best when we eliminate vagueness for our client. That's the way to truly become a strategic partner.

Commoditize Your Content Strategy

I'm not a business guy. I'm an English major. I don't get friendly with the numbers side of our business all that often. But I am also a problem solver. And the only way to solve the client's problem is to convince them to do what you know needs done.

So, give your idea a name. Consider additional components that might go into that commodity. Think about how long it will take, what is in scope and out of scope. Outline the goals and what documents you will deliver at the end of the project. 

A client needs to buy a commodity, not an idea. Ideas are great for art. But we're in the business of provoking action. That requires a commodity. And in our case, that commodity is content. Long live content commodities.

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Please share via your social network (links below). Also, stay tuned for part two where I discuss what isn't a commodity: strategic leadership. Fun times!  

Why I Give Content Strategy Knowledge for Free

I give away a lot of content strategy and content marketing knowledge. I share blog posts, speak at conferences - heck, I even list my cell phone number on my contact page. Why would anyone give this much knowledge away for free?

It's not because this knowledge is valueless. Far from it. But I really believe that sharing the results of a skill does not transfer that skill. Watching a juggler and hearing her juggling stories does not make me a juggler. In that same way, I don't worry about other content strategists stealing my work; rather, I think the world is a better place the more people talk about content strategy.

Here's why "stealing ideas" is difficult in content strategy:

  •  Publishing mindset: Even if a competitor had all of my secrets - every deck I've done, every talk I've given - they still couldn't make it work. Only those with a publishing mindset truly understand why consistent, compelling content works and how to sell that in. 
  • Editorial mindset: Even if they could make it work, they likely couldn't keep it going. An editorial mindset is required in order to keep content fresh and engaging over time. 
  • Content strategist mindset: Even if they could convince clients and make content work over time, they likely wouldn't have the patience to audit in order to repurpose content. Most folks spend way more time and energy creating new content because it's fun and sexy. But it's often more cost effective to repurpose, but that takes a heap of diligence.
  • Agency mindset: Even if they could sell through content marketing, make it work over time and audit effectively, they likely couldn't translate that to other disciplines. Even a wise content strategist needs to understand user experience, information architecture, (some) design and copywriting. Knowing how these pieces work together is essential for actually building something of use.

I'm not special by any means. There are actually a lot of folks who have these same skills and experience. But those people are just as busy as I am. There has been no recession for digital content strategists, believe me.

The reason content strategists tend to share unreservedly is because the effort it would take to steal our work or ideas is actually more than the effort to apply those lessons to your own work.

I learn from other content marketers all the time. I take scraps of ideas that I then use in my work, but this happens in every endeavor. Delve into art history, as just one example, and you see "experts" building off of those who came before them, but crafting something altogether new in the process.

In the end, content marketing is a service, not a product. We are the catalysts of internal change management. We develop frameworks and processes and calendars. We may commodotize these into products, but our value comes from our service.  

That's the reason that the more I give away, the more I tend to receive - be it receiving business, insights, connections, etc.  You can't steal service. So, why not prove your worth and give knowledge away for free?  

Can The Crowdsourcing Business Model Survive?

CNN recently asked me whether crowdsourcing could survive as a viable agency business model. My answer: No way.

I was proud to contribute to their story, Can Crowdsourcing Reconnect With The Crowd?

CNN's reporter had seen my post denouncing crowdsourcing as the "fool's gold of internet business models." (Though please note - I did follow that post with one about a company that's doing crowdsourcing right.)

The CNN article allowed me to note one particularly egregious element. The crowdsourcing companies that focus on the inexpensive cost of the service will certainly be the first to fail. From the article:

"Really they're just saying 'we can extract creative gold for these folks even less expensively than you were paying before,' which is terrible from an ethical point of view, but also it just won't hold up, because it's not based on strategy or creativity or smart business."

In short, a fly-by-night business model will never deliver the long-term strategy required for businesses to succeed. Some crowdsourcing companies - the ones who see it as a means, not an end - will thrive, but the rest will soon die off.

What do you think? The OMB community would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

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I Work For YOU This Sunday

This Sunday, I would like to help you do whatever it is you do. No charge. No strings.

When I started this blog almost 3 years ago (sheesh!), I did it because I wanted to help. I've slowed down my posting recently, but the urge to help others and share knowledge cannot (and should not) be quelled.

Why The Hell Would You Do That?

Fair question. I've been reading Seth Godin's Linchpin and he mentions the act of giving gifts - in fact, makes a case that our entire online culture is slowly turning to this type of economy. Well, I don't know about the whole web, but I do know that helping folks - YOU - who read my blog makes me feel great.

Godin says:

"I don't write my blog to get anything from you in exchange. I write it because giving my small gift to the community in the form of writing makes me feel good. I enjoy it that you enjoy it." (page 169) and earlier: "The act of giving the gift is worth more to me than it may be to you to receive." (page 155)

It so happened that I read those words this morning on the train to work. After my commute, I read the post, The Meme To End All Memes by Beth Harte and Geoff Livingston. It saddened me that one of their top 10 memes that should die included "#7: Requests for my time suck."

Who moans about people wanting your help? Isn't that why you started blogging in the first place? Ug, it makes me sick to my stomach. Sure, I ignore the Russian "SEO" requests and I've never been truly inundated, but I really cannot fathom responding with such vitriol.

So, I'm trying to counteract one of the memes Beth and Geoff listed. I'm not going to complain about all you people sucking up my time. I'm going to give it to you freely. It's a gift, dammit.

So How's This Work?

I'm setting aside 9am-5pm for you. Whomever you are. I will be available.

If you want help with plumbing, you probably won't like the results. But for questions about online marketing, content strategy, and a tad about social media, feel free to send your queries to OnlineMarketerBlog [at] gmail [dot] com.

For instance, you could ask me to...

  • Edit your business proposal
  • Assess your new ads
  • Do a brief website content assessment - where you should start, etc.
  • Brainstorm business/marketing/writing ideas
  • Develop a blogging strategy

As always, there's some fine print (see the * below), but it's basically a free-for-all. For 8 hours on my day off, I'm yours. How can I help?

(Don't keep it to yourself, either. Share this post through your social network and subscribe if you'd like to receive updates. You can unsubscribe at any time - no skin off my nose.)

*Generally first come, first served. I can refuse work. You don't have to like the results. There is no legal, binding anything associated with this help. Depending on quantity, I may not get to your request within the time allotted. I will keep all names, corporations, and sensitive information private, but I reserve the right to blog about the other stuff.

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Charlene Li's Open Leadership A Must-Read For Ethical Marketers

Charlene Li, formerly of Forrester Research and co-author of Groundswell, does with Open Leadership what so few authors would find possible: making a convincing argument regarding a real and very powerful movement in the zeitgeist, despite it being inherently fuzzy to understand and difficult to prove.

But just because it is difficult to determine ROI, does not mean the elements of open leadership are not effective. From Li:

"In actuality, the activities taking place on [social sites] are inherently highly measurable, but we have not yet established a body of accepted knowledge and experience about the value of these activities versus the costs and risks of achieving those benefits." (page 77)

The Value of Ethics

And not only is this leadership style actionable and (somewhat) measurable, but it also serves as a venue for your personal values. My favorite aspect of this book is the relation of an open leadership style to the leader's own ethics.

Li writes in great detail about trust building, personal values and humility. Social technologies and open leadership simply allows broader activation of the leader's (your) personal values.

When she speaks of humility, Li notes that open leaders accept "that their views...may need to shift because of what their curious explorations expose." (page 169) She quotes Ron Ricci, Cisco's VP of corporate positioning, as saying "Shared goals require trust. Trust requires behavior. And guess what technology does? It exposes behavior." (page 198)

You begin to understand that Li isn't railing against command-and-control operations nor does she dive off into kumbaya territory. But she does convince the reader that a world of ubiquitous social technologies, business transparency, and digital communication will require a different kind of leadership.

Open Leadership Isn't Trying To Be The New Groundswell

As a huge fan of Li's previous book, Groundswell, I couldn't wait for Open Leadership. But they really are two different animals.

I found myself wishing there was more about the inevitability of openness. That - along with KPIs and a few other fundamentals - are given short shrift. Maybe there's not a lot to say. Maybe not many studies have been done.

But unlike Groundswell, which was data-driven and highly intuitive, Open Leadership doesn't provide enough ammo for younger leaders to march these ideas into the C-suite.

In order for these ideas to be enacted, one likely must already be in some position of leadership. While Groundswell provided the facts and figures for anyone to persuade doubters, Open Leadership does not. It's an idea book, not a text book. That's OK - just something to know before you begin reading.

Buy The Book

Overall, I wholeheartedly recommend Open Leadership. It's innovative, smart, and unlike any book you've read before. All that and it's highly convincing as well. Do yourself (and your employees) a favor and read this book.

[I received a free advance reading copy of this book from Jossey-Bass publishers, but that did not influence my review of the book. I profoundly apologize to Ms. Li for a stunningly late review of the book she kindly sent me. Better late than never, I hope.]

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Brian Solis' Engage is Bloated, Boring, and Not Worth Your Time

This is a positive blog and I don't take cheap shots. But when I find a book so disjointed and frankly unusable, I have to mention it.

A lot of people love Brian Solis and I'm sure he's a good guy (this isn't personal). But that makes his recent book, Engage: The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultive, and Measure Success in the New Web (whew!), all the more disappointing.

Engage reads like a few reheated blog posts tied together with twine and gum. Here are a few reasons I don't recommend it:

  • We've heard it all before: I could insulate a house with each book that's been written as a social media primer. Solis offers only rote, near-impossibly-simplistic suggestions in the intro, manifesto, social media 101, 201, 202, 203, 203... Well, there's a lot you've heard before.
  • We've heard it all again. And again: Repetition is useful if ideas build on each other. Solis has few (if any) ideas that build on each other. (Just skip part 3 altogether.)
  • Shotgun, not sniper rifle: This is the most untargeted book I have read on marketing. There's no real audience. This book includes reams of information to the n00b and expert alike, but in such close proximity as to be confusing to both groups. Solis doesn't identify a target and hit it; he loads up with buckshot and prays to hit something.
  • Doesn't add value: There's just very, very little here that is useful to you in any way. For instance, chapter 20 - the "Human Network" chapter - merely collects lists of marketing frameworks without Solis explaining their relevance or reason for inclusion. We hear about McCarthy and Kotler's 4 Ps. Lauterborn's 4 Cs. Shimizu's 7Cs. Heuer's 4Cs of a social operating system. Armano's 4Cs of community. Mishra's 4 Cs of social media. Not to be outdone, Solis ends the chapter with his own 12 Cs of community cultivation. Why? What's the connection? We'll never know.
  • Unusable: Solis provides prisms and compasses and all sorts of visuals. These visuals have tiny elements that make them look well-researched. And while he sometimes gives an outline (chapter 21), there is little explanation of how the heck you can use these poorly-copied visuals. Unlike other books, Engage doesn't appear concerned with being usable.

The Good Stuff

That's not to say there is nothing good about this book. The hidden gems are certainly hidden, but they are there.

If you do read Engage, here are the pieces not to miss: socially-based business (pg. 106), importance of syndication (pg. 114), targeted landing pages (pg. 123), listening (pg. 209), and conversation audits (pg. 222-223). Sure, you have to dig for them, but they are good.

For Reals

Let's be straight: Solis makes way more money than me, people seem to love his advice, and he travels around the world to promote his books. Check out his Amazon and Barnes & Noble reviews - barely a critical word amongst them.

Maybe I'm the only one. Does my cheese stand alone? Or has no one had the balls to mention that the emperor has no clothes?

I'm not trying to start a fight or make this personal - but I truly do not understand the appeal. Engage is a dense, disappointing, unenjoyable slog through the new media landscape. Just avoid it.

Feel free to explain it to me or just tell me how wrong I am in the comments section below.

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5 Reasons Napkin Labs Will Find Crowdsourcing Success For Creatives And Clients

Earlier this year, I wrote about the fundamental flaws of crowdsourcing as a business model. Since then, the backlash against a Wal-Martization of marketing (especially design) through crowdsourcing has grown to a fever pitch.

That's why it is refreshing to find an organization bucking the negative business practices I wrote about in March.

Napkin Labs is a start-up crowdsourcing shop, but one quite unlike 99designs and even less reputable crowdsourcing agencies. I chatted with them when I was in Boulder last week and am elated at their wise, ethical approach to crowdsourcing.

Here are 5 reasons that agencies like Napkin Labs will bring better work to their clients while strengthening bonds with creatives and experts.

(This isn't a post mindlessly lauding Napkin Labs. I have no affiliation with them. This post is simply giving a smart organization some well-deserved props and providing guidance to others in the space who don't want to screw over their clients and the experts who develop their solutions.)

  1. Empowering Creatives: The worst part of crowdsourcing is how much they screw over the people who develop solutions for clients. Napkin Labs has set up a payment system that rewards creatives and experts based on how much their input factors into the delivered solution. If your involvement and smart ideas get incorporated a lot, you get paid more. If you contribute a few nuggets of insight, you get paid less (but you still get paid). Compare this to other crowdsourcing agencies that pay one winner (and not much, at that) while everyone else gets bupkis.
  2. Crowdsourcing as a Means, Not an End: The main point of my earlier post was that crowdsourcing is a means, not an ends. It's a good way to get ideas, but will never replace an agency (or shouldn't). Napkin Labs hits the sweet-spot of solving a client's specific problem through discovery, ideation, and refinement. And unlike other crowdsourcing agencies, they focus solely on products and services. They don't try to be everything to everyone.
  3. Speed Up Innovation: Many crowdsourcing agencies collect ideas, designs, insights, etc. Then they spend a lot of time culling down this list - an exhausting task. However, Napkin Labs has set up a forum for their hand-picked community (you have to apply to participate and approved individuals are frequently hand-picked for particular projects). In a forum setting, experts can discuss ideas with one another - thus good ideas are discussed and bad ideas are ignored organically.
  4. Perspective: Because Napkin Labs solves discreet problems and isn't attempting to take the place of an agency, they can offer the distance or perspective that an agency sometimes can't. It's valuable, from their perspective, even if they discover that the client is asking the wrong question, there is an unmet need being ignored, or the community of experts finds an existing product or service that exceeds the client's plan.
  5. Equal representation: Many agencies create working groups with similar employees (i.e. a design meeting will be populated with designers). But Napkin Labs' forums allows for everyone to be represented at the same time. For instance, what good is the perfectly designed product if it won't pack neatly into a delivery truck? Forums allow designers, writers, suppliers, etc to all play a part.

I think Napkin Labs has a good business model and smart businesses are beginning to take note. But what do you think?

Do you know another crowdsourcing agency who is employing these tactics or others that reward the creatives while delivering better work to the client? What else are they doing correctly?

I'm thankful that Napkin Labs let me stop by and gave me the access they did. But this post isn't pandering due to that appreciation - I really believe they're fixing a lot of the inherent problems I saw in a crowdsourcing business model. And I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Content Strategists and Planners: What's The Difference?

What’s the difference between planners and content strategists? How is content strategy a different discipline and what type of people should lead it? Why are we making a distinction between the roles now?

These are all valid questions. Neither practice is going away, so this is the time to determine the appropriate roles and responsibilities.

But I've sensed some agency angst since these roles share basic principles (likely more so than even CSers and copywriters). However, I only feel qualified to speak for the content strategists, so...

Planners: What do you think about my description of content strategists below? Are we encroaching on your turf? Is there room for everyone? And content strategists: how do we make the most of our relationship with planners?

Whither content strategists?

First, we must understand that the ecosystem has changed. Content proliferation has been exponential, especially in recent years. Everyone is a publisher (evidence: blogs, UGC, smart phones, etc.). And all of this content needs assessed, ranked, and compared; hence, the rise of aggregator sites, search engines, dynamically displayed content, and product reviews.

Maybe a planner used to be enough to handle the volume of content. And for a small site or organization, they still might be. But with over 15 years of content and double or triple that amount ready to be thrown onto the pile, it is time to admit that:

  1. Content is a different animal
  2. Planners have enough on their plates, and
  3. We should each be specialists in our areas.

How are content strategists different from planners?

While similar, planners and content strategists possess different skill sets. For instance, a content strategists needs to possess:

  • A history with words and writing in order to educate and thus inspire the creative process. While planners assess a brand, its competitors, or the industry, content strategists must prepare for text on the page – a different exercise completely.
  • A background in messaging. Content strategists plan for the creation of content that conveys trust, for instance, while still selling. This is only possible thanks to a planner’s insights, but is a separate skill set.
  • Subject matter expertise, be it legal, regulatory, etc. It’s more than research or the insights garnered therein – it’s tangible to creation, guiding creativity through particular hurdles, much like IAs guide designers.
  • Turning philosophy into action. While never diving into the depths of data planners reach, content strategists must be able to seize planners’ insights, but convey exactly how that translates to each page, no matter how (seemingly) insignificant.

The good news is that there is more than enough room for planners and content strategists. The challenge will be to allow each specialist to embrace their role in the planning process.

But what do you think? Is this accurate?

I'd love to hear from content strategists and planners (especially you planners). How are our roles similar and how are they different? What are the ideal skill sets and background of a digital planner?

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks!

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Impulsive Behavior And The Trap You Set For Yourself

Research indicates that the more impervious your audience feels they are to your product, the more likely they are to succumb to it. But does this really work? And how can this be ethical marketing?

I took my nieces to the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier the other day and was shocked by the sign above the ticket window: [something to the effect of] "Go ahead and indulge."

Bleh! This just feels slimy doesn't it? Is it even the optimal message?

Good Marketing Or A Big Mistake?

Probably a mistake, according to recent research.  Sure, it sounds good ("Doesn't everyone want to induuuuuulge?") but it doesn't hold up under the microscope.

Nordgren, Harreveld, and Pligt completed a study in 2009 about the Restraint Bias (PDF). This bias states that the more you believe yourself impervious to temptation (there's the bias), the less you're able to restrain yourself. The more self-assured that a former smoker can visit his old smoking haunts, the less likely he will be able to resist the temptation to light up.

In a very real sense, people set this trap themselves. By deciding, especially in a vulnerable mood, how they will behave, they increase the chances that they will go against their logical impulses. In fact, this study seem to suggest that the more emphatic you are, the less likely you will complete your goal.

However, show a little humility ("Maybe I can't resist and thus shouldn't expose myself") and you might meet that goal.

Ethical Implications

The study dealt solely with tempting "bad behaviors" (snacking, smoking, skimping on studying). This is misguided.

Read the study, but then consider: how could you use these finding to persuade your audience to enact a better reaction? Marketing is no longer devoid of ethics (damn well better not be for readers of this blog), so it's up to us to figure out how to use these findings for the general good.

So you tell me - how effective is the "Go ahead and indulge" message? Might it be more effective as "You're strong enough to resist, right?" (But assuming the product is decent, natch.)

My only concerns with studies like these or more advanced neuromarketing is their being used for bad ends. Before you harness these studies, remember that ethics are a pretty powerful "smell test" for most of the public. You would be stupid to try to sneak something on an ever-more-savvy public.

How would you use this information for good? And then, how would you use this information to totally kick ass?

P.S.: Ug, willpower get more complex thanks to Johnnie Moore and Scientific American. (Seriously, a good read though.)

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25 Content Strategy Blog Posts I'd Like To Read

You read Content Strategy for the Web or maybe just some blog posts on the subject. Maybe you attended the Web Content conference last week or just think content strategy could be for you. No matter your expertise, there's no mistaking: we need more intelligence devoted to content strategy. Here are 25 ideas for content strategy blog posts you should think about writing. How about tackling one this week?

If you do, feel free to link back to this post so your readers can get inspired too. In that respect, props to Chris Brogan and his post, 50 Blog Posts Marketers Could Write for their Companies, for inspiring this post.

Which post are you going to write?

For the content strategy newbie:

  • How did you first hear about content strategy? What piqued your interest that first time?
  • What are the top 3 benefits of a content strategy program, in your opinion. Or what 3 ways will it change the way you work day to day?
  • How are you educating yourself about content strategy? What blogs or books are you using?
  • How does your previous (or current) job prepare you for future content strategy work?
  • Some say that content strategy practitioners are to copywriting as information architects are to design. Have you found this to be the case in your position?
  • How do you explain content strategy to your closest co-workers? What metaphor aptly describes content strategy in your office?
  • From where do you draw your daily inspiration? This could be a person, place, experience, book, or feeling.
  • What do you most enjoy about content strategy? What makes you the happiest in your job?

For the content strategy journeyman:

  • What has been your most successful content strategy effort? What one thing helped it work?
  • How do you explain what you do to your grandparents?
  • What personality traits have you found serve you well? Which ones trip you up?
  • What's the biggest hole in your industry that content strategy can help fill? How is your industry in particular reacting to content strategy?
  • In the latest action movie you've seen, which character would have been most like a content strategist? Why? Is the content strategist the hero?
  • Having had some experience in the practice, what are you most looking forward to in the next year in content strategy? Where are the biggest opportunities?
  • How have you gotten involved in the content strategy community? Have you joined a Google group? Your local CS meet-up?
  • What's been the biggest internal dispute you've had this year regarding content strategy? How about with your client?

For expert content strategists:

  • What are you doing to promote content strategy in your organization? How are you a content strategy ambassador?
  • How has your agency or business implemented content strategy in the last year? What was the impetus?
  • How did your college degree prepare you for your content strategy job, especially since it's highly likely you did not major in content strategy? What path would you recommend to future strategists?
  • What are some new opportunities you see in the field this year? What stands out to make an impact in the next quarter?
  • Failure can often provide priceless insight. What have you learned from recent failures?
  • What's the first thing you do in the morning to prepare for your work each day? How does it help your content strategy work?
  • What processes have you set up in your agency or business to improve your content strategy? What's been your biggest hold-up?
  • How have you customized your offerings to match your client's needs? Did it make the end strategy result better or worse?
  • What leadership are you showing outside of your own organization? How are you expanding your influence for the betterment of content strategy?

Which topic will you take on? Please leave a comment on this post if you answer these, so the rest of the community can read your answer.

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What is content strategy and why should I care?

You've heard about content strategy, but aren't exactly sure what it is. And you don't know exactly how it fits into the agency process. It's OK. We've got you covered.

The video below tells you everything you want to know about content strategy, but didn't know you needed to ask. It's only 3 minutes long. And it uses Post-It notes. Quick and easy.

Check it out below or on the OnlineMarketerBlog YouTube channel. I hope it's helpful - I'd love to hear your comments!

Don't forget to stay subscribed to videos via iTunes. Thanks!

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Heath Brothers' Switch Not Perfect But Definitely Worthwhile

Chip and Dan Heath's new book, Switch: How to Change Things when Change is Hard, is not perfect, but it will certainly be useful to marketers.

The book focuses on ways to harness logic and emotion to guide the way to change (and the path that will help get you there). It's a metaphor that business owners and marketing professionals will find especially useful.

I've already written about this book - you can find it referenced in recent posts - but I wanted to devote the sixth episode of my Marketing Minute podcast to the book.

Find my review directly below or on the OMB YouTube channel.

What did you think of the book? Am I correct in my assessment? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Read up on more of my recent book reviews or buy Switch on Amazon. You can also subscribe to the podcast for updates only when I post new videos. Thanks!

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The One Question Content Strategists Can Never Ask Too Much

Yesterday, I was in a tough meeting. We knew there was a problem. But we couldn't figure out the answer. (Sound familiar?)

We talked about capabilities, functionality, and process. Nothing was clicking.

Taking a recommendation from Switch, I asked a simple question that (for me) turned around the meeting:

If this problem was solved right now, can you describe what it would look like?

Immediately, the conversation changed. Once the goal was identified, all we needed to do was come up with a plan to get there. As strategists, this is our golden zone!

It wasn't until this morning that I realized why this was so important, especially in a creative agency.

Scott McCloud explains the six steps in the creative process in his (awesome) book Understanding Comics. The six steps are:

  1. Idea/Purpose
  2. Form
  3. Idiom
  4. Structure
  5. Craft
  6. Surface

For more details, just buy the book (you should - there's a ton of great theory in there). But creation process aside, just look at those words.

Remind you of an agency at all?

Account folks give form to our projects. Developers build the structures that hold our creations. Designers use their craft to create beautiful surfaces. (I'm taking some liberties with McCloud's list, but you get my drift.)

So where do content strategists appear?

We touch all points in the creation process, but our main impact is felt at the beginning of this process - shaping ideas from insights and determining how to satisfy users as well as the business objectives.

We all get stuck seeing only the trees instead of the forest from time to time. But strategists are required to see above the treeline and point the way toward the goal.

Asking someone to describe what a solution looks like in effect takes them from ground level where they worry about their position, their budget, their resources, their deadlines...and transports them to the end goal. Whew!

Once we imagine ourselves at the goal, it's much easier to turn around and figure out how we got there. There's less clutter. Less in-fighting. More solutions.

As the idea people - designers of the core content experience - it's incumbent upon us to guide the idea-creation process. And sometimes to take that first step, we need to just imagine being at the last step and then figure out how we got there.

What do you think?

Have you found that asking your teammates to describe success has helped guide your strategy? What hiccups have you faced along the way?

I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

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How Bogotá Completely Changed (And Its Lessons For You) Part 2

[Read Bogotá part one for more awesomeness about Bogotá Change and Switch.]

The Carrot Law

Mockus wasn't finished. There were 70 homicides for every 100,000 people - far, far too high.

Instead of trying to confront the whole populous with PSAs, instead of confronting the symptoms by increasing penalties for public intoxication, he simply halted the problem at its source.

Mockus sent out the mandate: Bars must close at 1am. Fewer drunks. Less drunk. In bed earlier.

He called it The Carrot Law - slang for someone who doesn't smoke for drink. And it worked.

Likewise, the Heath brothers assert the power of small changes in Switch. And that these small changes can have a huge impact.

"It's a theme we've seen again and again - big changes come from a succession of small changes. It's OK if the first changes seem almost trivial...With each step, the Elephant [your emotional urge] feels less scared and less reluctant, because things are working." (page 147)

Other tactics complimented The Carrot Law. Police were reeducated in non-violent tactics - not broad "interactions" as a whole, but each small interaction with citizens.

In addition to violence in the community, Mockus also focused on violence originating in the home. Children were encouraged to report offenders in their own families and taught to direct their anger at inanimate object.

The belief in the administration was that violence in the home was just repeated in the streets. This was a full-scale, city-wide re-direction of aggression.

Maybe it sounded crazy went it started. But in the 4 years under Mockus, the number of deaths was reduced by 1/3 and kept going down afterwards.

Enrique Penalosa - A Businessman For Urban Design

Mayors in Bogotá are restricted to one term, so after Mockus, newly party-less Enrique Penalosa became the city's second independent mayor.

Unlike the professorial Mockus, Penalosa was a businessman. But he'd promised to continue the work Mockus began.

Traffic volume was still a problem and Penalosa was pressured to build expensive elevated highways. But that wouldn't have fixed the problem - just moved the problem into the sky.

Instead, he urged rejection of the expensive elevated highways and, instead, poured that money into both improving public transportation as well as completely altering the highways.

When he started, public transportation fought for space amongst the cars and trucks. But in Penalosa's plan, the car lanes became bus lanes. And the buses were refurbished into beautiful modern vehicles.

You could still drive a car, but it'd be even more crowded than before, as you were pushed to the side lanes. And as you're baking in your car, thinking about the gas money you're burning, you'd look over to the bus lanes, gliding along in comfort. Pretty persuasive, don't you think?

Penalosa wasn't cracking down or forbidding anything. Instead, he smoothed the path he wanted people to go on.

People aren't bad; they just usually take the easier route. In this case, quite literally, the easiest route was by bus.

The Heaths cite another executive changing different behavior through similar means.

"'We're taught to focus on incentives by our business background,' say Bregman [a successful change agent]. 'Or even our parents: "Do this or you won't get your allowance!"' But executives - and parents - often have more tools than they think they have. If you change the path, you'll change the behavior." (page 185)

In just 36 months, the Penalosa administration went from idea to the first fleet on the road. The result: less traffic, less pollution, and less class conflict (between those with cars and those without).

Now, 1.6M Bogotáns travel by public transport every day and another 400,000 use their bikes. Overall, traffic has decreased by 22%.

Can't Argue With Results

Mockus, the professor. Penalosa, the businessman. Two very different men working toward their goals through very unusual means.

But you can't argue with the results. These days, 98.5% of kids in Bogotá go to school. Since 1994, homocide dropped 70%.

The tactics outlined in Bogotá Change and Switch work. And they can create change in your life too.

The most important lesson in my mind is that these were men who believed that change was possible - they believed it fundamentally, deep into their bones.

The Heaths call it a "growth mindset." (page 164) No matter the name - and no matter how cheesy it sounds sometimes - the first step in creating change is believing it's possible.

How are you going to create change? Which of these lessons resonate with you?

I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

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How Bogotá Completely Changed (And Its Lessons For You) Part 1

A city in ruins. Rampant corruption. All systems - political, social, judicial - broken.

But, as it turns out, not beyond repair.

You simply must watch the documentary Bogotá Change. It tells the story of how one of the most crime-ridden, downtrodden, disbelieving cities made a transformation - in less than a decade! - to a city on the rise. (For a limited time, this movie is free on Comcast - On Demand > TV Entertainment > Sundance Channel. Watch it.)

Many of the ideas that started working for Bogotá in 1994 are the same as those outlined in the recent book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath.

At their core, both the book and the movie describe how amazing leaders created real change. But each also contains lessons for ways in which you can create change within your own life as well.

The rest of this post will list some of these ideas. But a simple blog post isn't enough. Read the book. Watch the movie.

And then, shake things up for yourself.

"Crazy" Antanas Mockus, His Superhero Suit, And Simple Problems

Antanas Mockus - Bogotá's first-ever independent mayor - was...not a typical politician. He was thrust into the spotlight when he mooned his university, for instance (with a slight nod to goatse, if you watch carefully). He also fought back physically against protesters at a debate - literally swinging punches. This guy was friggin' nuts.

But he was right about a lot as well. He put the philosophy of his academic life into action. He said, flat out, that he wanted to change people's morality. While he might misbehave, he was unshakably moral, striving for honesty in every action. Through this morality, he was able to change his country's behavior.

"I think that he was very clear that through education...that if he educated people, if people were behaving in a different way, then the city would transform itself." -Guillermo Penalosa, Director of Parks & Recreation

How did Mockus change behavior? For one, he dressed up in a superhero suit before publicly picking up garbage and painting over graffiti.

Much like Malcolm Gladwell explained in The Tipping Point in reference to graffiti elimination and fare-jumping stoppage in the New York City train system, Mockus fixed these small, but very public, elements.

As the Heath brothers explain, leaders create big change "by formulating solutions that were strikingly smaller than the problems they were intended to solve." (page 71) Change agents send the message that these small (bad) behaviors are simply not accepted here, which leads logically to other, bigger, behavioral changes.

And when these small behaviors were improved, people feel better about themselves not just as individuals, but as a collective people. Mockus frequently mentions how "we" behave.

The Heath's concur. "[The science] shows us that people are receptive to developing new identities, that identities 'grow' from small beginnings." (page 161) Mockus knew this. Create small change and link it to people's identity of themselves.

Soon, it became known that Bogotáns didn't disrespect their city by leaving their trash around or writing graffiti on the walls. And that meant the public space was to be cared for. That's how big change started to happen.

Traffic, A Thumbs-Down Sign, And Mimes

Mockus wasn't finished. Traffic in Bogota was another problem.

Citizens ignored traffic laws. Chaos ruled the roads. And the traffic cops were even more morally corrupt than average.

Mockus started small. He gave drivers a white "thumbs-up" sign and a red "thumbs-down" sign. How could this solve the traffic problem?

Drivers complimented other drivers by flashing a thumbs-up when that driver obeyed the law. When a driver didn't follow the rules, they saw a lot of red thumbs pointing down.

It's not that people didn't know the rules. It's just that there was no societal pressure to obey them. Bogotans were taking the easiest path (literally).

Mockus didn't stop there. He employed traffic mimes. (Yes, you read that correctly: traffic mimes.)

These mimes scripted proper behavior. They stood in front of trucks attempting to cut in line. They walked elderly citizens across the street, in front of cars that could have plowed through the pedestrians.

Scripting behavior works and the Heaths know it:

"Ambiguity is the enemy. Any successful change requires a translation of ambiguous goals into concrete behaviors. In short, to make a switch, you need to script the critical moves." (page 53-54)

I think it goes even further. Mimes are like children. They're non-confrontational; they can script behavior without raising ire. I think that's a huge component in their successful campaign.

This exercise showed that even the least infraction of the law would no longer be tolerated. It is thought that the mimes had an effect on the level of violence decreasing in the country at around this time.

Not Done Yet

I hope you've enjoyed part one of this study of Bogotá and Switch. Tomorrow, I'll provide a few more examples and reveal numbers describing the effect of these campaigns.

Please tune in later this week to read part two. Subscribing is a great way to ensure you won't miss it!

Update: Here's part 2!

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Why Content Strategy? And Why Now?

Inspiration often comes from strange places.

In Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, author Scott McCloud examines how we receive different types of information and that process relates directly to design, information architecture, copywriting and content strategy.

"Pictures are received information. We need no formal education to 'get the message.' The message is instantaneous.

Writing is perceived information. It takes time and specialized knowledge to decode the abstract symbols of language." (page 49)

Anyone who's ever sat through a client review will understand this. It's not that images or art are less important; in fact, it's the art that usually solicits "ohhs" and "ahhs" from the clients, right?

McCloud is speaking more about our intrinsic speed of understanding. We get a feeling from a picture right away.

But we need to process words - to piece together abstract ideas. With words, it's incumbent that we create the images ourselves, in our own consciousness; we ponder meaning, ideas and symbols. Anyone who has read Roland Barthes' Mythologies knows that this process ain't easy.

What's This Got To Do With Agency Life?

Comics and literary theory? Why should marketers care?

In the same way that images are understood before words in the human brain, so too has the planning and creative process developed in marketing agencies. The halcyon days of 1997 were critical for information architecture. IAs became a staple of the creative agency, a bridge between the client's objectives and the designer's creative vision.

The same thing didn't happen for words. It was easy to understand why you'd want to plot out images. But it took another decade for us to plot out what was written on the page and why. (True, maybe astute IAs and copywriters filled this role until content strategy bloomed in recent years.)

So what's changed? Well, SEO (based on keyWORDS) has blossomed into the main way we find content online. Search engines are ever more refining the way they surface the most relevant content. Our tastes have matured: the internet is no longer the shiny new object - it helps us complete tasks in everyday life. We now use many, many channels to access information and communicate with brands. Findable, useful, contextual, and consistent across channels...online content is more important to our lives than ever before!

It then makes sense that content strategy - a plan for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable, relevant content - would guide many important choices we make as digital marketers.

What Good Is Content Strategy If People Don't Read?

I can already hear the Nielsen-ites protesting that readers don't actually read online. So why should anyone care about content strategy?

This assumes that all content is created equal which we know just isn't the case. Personally, I skim news articles, sure. But if I'm making a purchase, you can be damned sure I'm going to read everything, including the fine print. The quality and importance of the content is in direct relation to how much time we spend absorbing it.

As more and more transactions occur online, it makes sense that content becomes more and more important. After all, we're not marketing random blog posts; we're marketing watches and cars and insurance - things people want to read about.

And even Nielsen admits that more content is needed if you're trying to solve a user's problem.

"If you want people who really need a solution, focus on comprehensive coverage...But the very best content strategy is one that mirrors the users' mixed diet. [his emphasis]"

Your potential customers will engage with you, if you provide something useful and usable. It's a shame that is still so rare.

What Took So Long?

Words aren't easy. It takes a long time to create them and often even longer to process their meaning. Content is both a science and an art.

But it's not going away. Your customers want information...they're dying for it. But not marketing messages you want to push on them.

Consider your audience. Serve up the content they need. Help them complete a task. Your customers will entrust their time to you if you provide quality content to help them do what they want.

Remind me again why it took so long for content strategy to mature?

(Originally published at Experience Matters - my employer's blog. Thanks!)

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Your Marketing Will Suck Without Theory

I played the piano for 8 years when I was a kid. I could sight-read Bach, Mozart...anyone, really. But I was never as good a musician as my friends who understood musical theory. The theory just never interested me. So I couldn't take piano playing any further than I did.

In college, however, I was obsessed with literary theory. Barthes, de Saussure, Derrida, even Foucault - these were my supermen. Understanding the mythologies and iconic systems we use to explain our world to others was fascinating. I hope to spend my retirement exploring these ideas.

Some readers may remember I love comics and graphic novels. I recently picked up Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. He begins the book with a broad explanation of comic theory (yes, there is such a thing and it's really interesting). Citing everything from Egyptian hieroglyphics to the Bayeux Tapestry to Rene Magritte's famous pipes, he begins with theory of - our philosophy of - sequential art.

But today, I'm a marketer. And it's likely that you are as well. How should we interact with theory?

Theory Takes Work

If abstract elements like music, literature, and comics have theory, surely we can agree that theory will be useful for our marketing.

And let's face it - your marketing will suck without theory.

If your designers create something beautiful without knowing how it will sell the product: Fail. If your copywriters dream of being Hemingway rather than John Caples: Fail. If you can't communicate a product's benefits to the consumer: Epic fail.

You must know your craft. We ought to say we "practice" marketing the way lawyers "practice" law. Every day is an opportunity to learn more. David Ogilvy understood this:

We prefer the discipline of knowledge to the anarchy of ignorance. We pursue knowledge the way a pig pursues truffles. A blind pig can sometimes find truffles, but it helps to know that they grow in oak forests. (page 20, Confessions of an Advertising Man)

In other words, you might hit on a "Got Milk?" every once in awhile, but that's no way to run a business.

Study, Study, Study

How much do you study your craft? I'm not talking about skimming through Ad Week while you're on the toilet. I'm talking about really learning it, practicing it, and molding yourself into the best there is.

Ogilvy wasn't charmed by our reliance on art or a flowery sentence. Later in the same book, he stated: "This willful refusal to learn the rudiments of the craft is all too common. I cannot think of any other profession which gets by on such a small corpus of knowledge. (my emphasis)"

Read as much as you can. I'm nowhere near the best at what I do, but I'm trying. I recommend learning from these sources.

But look outside the fishbowl as well. Learning the ways in which our brains operate can make you more persuasive. Learning how and why people make decisions can help you inspire their future choices. Look for inspiration in weird and wonderful places.

What About You?

How are you using theory to improve your marketing? Do you think about the philosophical ramifications of why you do what you do?

I firmly believe that history bears proof that tough practice trumps a fuzzy type of innate "genius" any day of the week. So how are you going to out-work your competitors this week? How will theory make the difference between an impression and a sale? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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Pour Up Some Advocacy - How Whiskey Companies Are Going Beyond Loyalty

I'm more of a walking man than a wax man. How about you?

I was traveling last week (hence the dearth of posts) and had the chance to read a good article in OMMA: Bottom's Up. The article discusses the Maker's Mark ambassador program.

A particular paragraph stood out to me as exemplifying a key differentiator of this program:

"This self-selections process [for brand advocates] seems to have built an influential base, whose value isn't based on how much bourbon they buy, but how they identify with the company [my emphasis]."

At first I thought - is that really that big of a change?

We all have relatives who cling fiercely to their own proclivities. We know Aunt Sarah only puts Bombay Sapphire in her martinis. But Aunt Sarah was never much of a brand ambassador. Knowledge of her preference rarely goes beyond the family dinner table (and rarer still beyond her death-clutch of the martini glass).

Aunt Sarah isn't much of a brand ambassador. But the Maker's Mark program goes beyond loyalty - it's about advocacy. They not only want consumers to buy Maker's Mark - the company is giving ambassadors a reason to tell their friends to buy it as well.

Great, But Not For Me

While the article stirred up admiration for a great program, I was also surprised that it roused some personal brand loyalty and advocacy as well.

You see, for years now, I've been a member of Johnnie Walker's Striding Man Society. I don't know why or how I started, but I've been receiving their emails for several years.

The really odd thing is that I don't drink Johnnie Walker all that much. I make Jack Daniel's-esque paychecks, after all. (However, JW samples will be accepted by mail or in person. Just sayin'.)

But I've become adhered to the brand and I have some ideas why. Here's what the Striding Man Society does right:

  • Exclusivity: Anyone can sign up to join, but the emails always feel kind of exclusive. Design heavy in black, white, and gold give off a luxurious feel and events are often limited to only Striding Man Society members.
  • Active: Speaking of events, there are enough to feel special, but not too many to where you feel like it's another cattle-call (I'd guess maybe 2 per year in major cities). I've been to a couple events and they are a blast. Educational, slick, professional, and usually free. No complaints about any of that.
  • Aspirational: Sure the website and emails celebrate each label, but they've done a good job of positioning the Blue Label as the all-star. I can't afford it now, but you can be damned sure that my father-in-law will some day receive an engraved bottle for Christmas. And that act will make me feel like a true success. That's good marketing.
  • Classy Benefits: Check out the CTAs in the buttons on their "Labels" page. Even the more plebeian Red Label has a clearly defined benefit (versatility), while other labels highlight complexity, intensity, luxury, rarity and balance. It's subtle, but ubiquitous: each label gives the buyer a reason for purchase, something to justify the cost.

Loyalty Is Just Step One

Brand loyalty is often a lifetime association. So, done correctly, it can easily mean millions for the company that does it right. (After all, how much has Aunt Sarah spent on Bombay gin, right? 'Nuff said.)

The Striding Man Society isn't perfect (please don't rely on visuals in email - with images disabled, your emails are useless), but it has fostered some type of adherence, even in this brand propagandist.

More than loyalty, though, it and Maker's Mark are really shooting for brand advocacy. Loyalty is just about your personal brand choices; advocacy indicates loyalty pushed to others in your personal circle. This is truly powerful stuff (and totally apropos in a social media world).

I tell my friends about JW articles in the email newsletters. I bring them with me to JW events. I forward on opportunities for customized labels. In other words, I take this out of just loyalty (my personal buying habits) and into the social space of advocacy (influencing others).

In a way, Johnnie Walker is like my Chicago Cubs. While I can't always afford to get inside the friendly confines of Wrigley Field (or that smooth, squared bottle), I still cheer just as loud. Here's to more strides in brand advocacy and more success all around.

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Is There No Way To Prove The Value Of Content Strategy?

I'm trying to convince non-creative folks about the value of content strategy. I need facts and figures. Bonus points for graphs.

All I need to prove is that the stuff on your website is valuable to visitors. That content matters.

But there is a serious lack of empirical research to prove this. Why aren't there studies done on the value of content strategy? Is the topic too broad? Is it just common sense?

Proving Our Value

As content strategists, we should be able to appeal to emotion, common sense, and hard logic to convince skeptics of our value.

Emotion I can do. We're solving user's problems and creating a great experience. Common sense is a little fuzzier, but it still works - after all, why wouldn't the content on your site be valuable?

But hard logic - numbers and graphs - I'm having a tough time here.

Melissa Rach from Brain Traffic gets the award for closest to the mark, but even this is too convoluted for an internal or client presentation.

Content Strategy, Not Social Media

I can show you a dozen studies - Forrester, eMarketer, MarketingSherpa - that prove social media's worth. The ROI of social media topic is so 2008.

But broader content - not just on a Twitter feed or blog, but incorporating all website text, metadata, videos, etc. - finding hard evidence for that is proving impossible.

Please Prove Me Wrong

I've searched on paid and unpaid professional research sites. I have worked the limits of my Google powers. But maybe you can help.

As a content strategist, how do you prove your value, in real, empirical numbers? What studies do you use? What have I missed?

I cannot honestly believe there has not been a study of this information (and if so, what a huge oversight!). Content strategists are in a battle to prove their relevance. We'll need research, studies, ROI figures, etc to do this.

I would love to hear what studies you've seen or learn how you are coping with this challenge.

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