By Paolina Milana
The 2013 Content Marketing World Summit has lived up to its reputation as being filled with folks ready, willing and most able to share their smartest strategies, best practices, and simple “how-tos” when it comes to being successful in today’s world of marketing. Orange was definitely the new black in Cleveland as Content Marketing Institute’s signature color dominated, right down to Joe Pulizzi’s neon orange shoes! While a lot of the information garnered from these past few days further validated my own content marketing strategies, and while some of the stories shared had me in awe, I’d have to sum up my top content marketing takeaways as follows:
1. Secret Sauce is Not So Secret
Back in the early ‘90s when I started out my career as a journalist for the Daily Herald newspaper in Illinois, writing feature stories and a 3x-weekly column, I learned early the power of good storytelling. When I found myself wanting to tell those stories using more than “just” words, I immersed myself in one of the best hands-on educational opportunities, taking a role at a major non-profit in Chicago, The Lighthouse for The Blind. Here is where I got to create award-winning publications, videos, PSAs, and major high-end events. Every story using words and visuals and on-stage live interactions succeeded in serving not only the people with visual impairments, but also the people who had deep pockets and who were wow’d with the “sexing-up” of the charity’s stories in a way that helped to free-up contributions. Creative attention-getting storytelling has been at the core of my career since I started…and today, it’s called “content marketing.”
As Don E. Schultz, Professor Emeritus of Integrated Marketing Communications for The Medill School at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL underscored during his opening keynote: “the secret sauce isn’t so secret, and you find out it’s just thousand island dressing.” In other words, at the core of what we do, nothing has changed…or nothing should have changed. Sadly, Schultz brought to light the fact that consumer preferences for brand were steadily declining, and he identified what changed to make it so. One of the main reasons: “we fell in love with technology and forgot that people fall in love with brands because of stories.”
2. Fail So That You May Grow
Coca-Cola’s foundation is rooted in great storytelling. Who among us doesn’t remember the hippie-looking crowd singing, “I’d like to teach the world to sing…”? What got us all humming that tune back then, thanks to today’s technological capabilities, has us taking the song and the sentiment a step further by being able to literally “buy the world a coke” with kiosks worldwide provided by Coca-Cola. These magical machines allowed someone from “over here” to treat someone “over there” to a little drink, and helped to foster international relations with both the giver and the receiver being able to share messages…and a smile.
Again, it’s not the technology, but the story that has the power to make a difference for the better. Jonathan Mildenhall responsible for leading global creative vision and strategy at Coca-Cola wow’d us all with his inspirational examples of Coke’s storytelling efforts. He also impressed with his humility and transparency at the thousands of dollars spent on marketing campaigns that failed. Yes, FAILED. And lessons learned for Coke and for those of us in marketing: “If you don’t have the right to fail, you don’t have room to grow.”
3. Just TRY
William Shatner, the actor known for roles including that of Captain Kirk in Star-Trek and as the Priceline spokesperson, shined in his closing keynote. Sharing stories that were personal, such as his love of frying turkeys and family (not in that order), and giving us a glimpse into projects he – a man in his 80s – is pursuing with a passion gave new meaning to the concept of “retirement.” Shatner made a point of explaining that his work had little to do with “building brand” and everything to do with just doing what interests you and what you love before your time is up here on earth. Sure, not everything turns out to be successful, but why not just try?
TRY – in today’s content marketing, we often are made to fear “trying” with CFOs and others insisting on data and proof and guarantees prior to anything having a chance of taking off. Shatner capped a conference that spoke to the core of content marketing and that renewed in us all our love of and the power of storytelling with purpose and promise…not guarantees.