Archive for September, 2012

Note Says Yes

Marketing pros in and out of technology categories share much in common. This piece about the importance of not being a “yes man” in the ad business is equally true for content marketers.

We all want to please our clients and managers, get the most from tight budgets, and be known for quality work. The writer of the content wants the same things but needs to do one thing more: ensure that the right message is actually communicated.  The writer must know when that message is failing to get across, whether it’s falling short or becoming clouded by jargon, which is often the case when it comes to highly technical, arcane prose.

What Laura Lauricella has suggested for advertising account executives in the pharmaceutical business is also good advice for high-technology content creators:

  • Know your brand at least as well as the marketer who’s in charge of the project
  • Be certain of the message and keep it as simple as possible
  • Be realistic about the budget
  • Keep whatever you’re creating consistent with the strategy of the broader marketing objective
  • Be deadline driven.
  • Be an “active” listener who advocates on the reader’s (the customer’s) behalf
  • Deliver candid feedback on all answers to your questions and all comments on your drafts

Does your team proceed by these or similar guidelines?  What more can you do to make them part of your process?



Must say I enjoy my volunteer hours at the Computer History Museum.  The place never fails to fascinate, no matter what your level of interest may be in history or computers.  In terms of the latter, all I can say is that it’s all there — from Abacus to Zuse (as in “Konrad”, one of the several reported fathers of the computer), from the founding of IBM to the advent of Google street view.  And it’s still wowing crowds since its Mountain View doors opened to the public in 2003. Which is testament to the richness of the exhibits and the meticulous care that went into everything on display.  “Content” is what a museum is all about, after all.  You go there to learn, explore, think and reflect based on what’s there and the way it engages inquiring minds and captures the imagination.

You want content?  CHM claims “the largest and most significant collection of computing artifacts in the world”, according to Wikipedia.  Hard to argue.  This includes many rare or unique objects such as a Cray-1 supercomputer, Cray-2, Cray-3, the Utah teapot, the 1969 Neiman Marcus Kitchen Computer, a Steve Wozniak-autographed Apple I, and an example of the first generation of Google‘s racks of custom web servers.  Throw in 90,000 objects, photographs and films, thousands of feet of cataloged documentation and several hundred gigabytes of software. The entire exhibition is also available online.  Start your exploration with a short video in the orientation theater that provides the 30,000-foot view, then proceed right to the exhibits.  They begin with the first calculators.  Not the ones from Texas Instruments, the ones used by the ancient Chinese (see reference to “A” above).  Finish up with “Networking and the Web”.  Before you leave, don’t miss the exhibit that shows how Google street view does it thing(s).  Hint: it’s a contraption that looks like a high-tech rickshaw.  Seriously cool, however.  Just like the rest of the place.

Enter To Sex

There is no app for that.


Got to hand it to Mitch Joel, the noted author and exponent of all things marketing in the digital culture.  Dude was the keynoter at last week’s Content Marketing World*, the conference and expo put on by the aptly named Content Marketing Institute.  There he reportedly declared that marketers should “have sex with the data”, at least according to Jason Miller, in a summary of the proceedings.  Translation: “Move beyond customer intimacy and get right to the good stuff. Customers are not looking for advertising, what they want is a personal experience that is highly targeted and relevant.”   Joel was speaking in the context of technology’s impact on the way things are bought and sold today in the digital world.  And he knows how to market his content. His point was that fundamental shifts in technology and customer behaviors influence the ways businesses market their wares and, while these put the crunch on marketing in general, content marketers are “particularly primed” to take advantage of those shifts.

OK, but it still feels to us like there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors in connection with marketing in the digital culture.  Yes, the technology utilized by buyers and sellers alike today enables speed and nimbleness like no other time: buyers can know things faster when it comes to products and what other people like themselves think about them, while sellers can know more about their buyers and how those products are being used.  “Marketers have to figure out how to create relevant marketing in a world where you’re in direct competition with so many others,” said Joel who asked his audience: “What are you doing to tell a better brand narrative?

In our view, the biggest challenge in marketing, aside from introducing the Next Big Thing, has always been about fostering a better brand.  One that’s different because your product is better, not better because it’s merely different.  “You have to give people a reason to connect with you,” Joel said. “It’s not about just recreating a press release for a blog post.”  No argument here.  But hasn’t this been the eternal mission of marketing?

Which takes us back to the smoke-and-mirrors thing. The fact that marketers now can deliver messages across multiple screens is another in a long series of technology advancements since television gave rise to the 30-second commercial and radio spawned the soap opera (that marketed soap for Procter & Gamble).  Weren’t these simply earlier forms of “content marketing” that gave rise to a closer relationship with customers?  Le plus ca change…

[Wikipedia defines content marketing as “an umbrella term encompassing all marketing formats that involve the creation and sharing of content in order to attract, acquire and engage clearly defined and understood current and potential consumer bases with the objective of driving profitable customer action. Content marketing subscribes to the notion that delivering information to prospects and customers drives profitable consumer action. Content marketing has benefits in terms of retaining reader attention and improving brand loyalty.”]

* Content Marketing World 2012 reportedly attracted 1,005 attendees, up from 631 last year.