Why Meaning is the Future of Marketing — and How These 3 Companies Are Pointing the Way

Also published at the Huffington Post. Recently, I’ve been thinking about what comes after the current rage for content marketing. As I argue here and here, I think that over the long term, the over-abundance of content will lead to “no-content marketing.”

But even now, we’re seeing the next step along the way: what we can call “meaning marketing.”

Meaning is what people really seek in most of the content they consume. (The writer in me hates the idea of “consuming” content, but I guess we’re stuck with that term.)

Meaning marketing aims to give them more of it. Here are three examples of companies that practice meaning marketing. Continue reading

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What No-content Marketing Will Look Like

Also published at the Huffington Post. Last time, I argued that while content marketing is still on the rise (e.g. see this Content Marketing Institute report), it will eventually become the victim of its own success.

In a nutshell, I said that:

  • An advantage isn’t an advantage when it’s available to everyone. This is one version of the fallacy of composition.
  • As the supply of something increases, demand falls. Eventually, people will pay not to get it, as in avoiding advertising by buying premium TV, or taking an off-the-grid holiday

So I suggest that when there’s finally been too much content marketing, it will be followed by marketing that reduces or eliminates content: “no-content marketing.” What will that look like? In fact, we’re beginning to see now. Here are 10 early signs and predictions. Continue reading

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What’s Next for Content Marketing: No Content

Also published at the Huffington Post. Content marketing is all the rage right now, and for good reason. In a digital world, people’s attention is divided among a nearly infinite range of media choices. That means it’s harder and harder to push a message at them, the way you used to with traditional advertising and PR.

So instead, you pull, by creating compelling content that attracts customers to you — content marketing.

Hence the explosion of publishing activity by businesses, non-profits and other organizations, through email, social media, blogs, image sharing, games and more.

According to a recent report by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs:

“On average, B2B [business to business] marketers are spending 33 percent of their marketing budgets on content marketing, which is up from 26 percent last year. 54 percent plan on increasing content marketing spending next year…

This year, B2B marketers are most challenged with producing enough content, which is different from years past, when the top challenge was producing engaging content.”

There’s just one problem: it isn’t going to work much longer. Although it’s still on the rise, content marketing is already showing signs of becoming the victim of its own success. Continue reading

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5 Seconds to Better Looking Documents: Get Un-centered

Also published at the Huffington Post: In five seconds, you will be creating better-looking documents: Five, four, three, two –

Stop centering your text!

– One. There, now your documents look better.

Centered text looks OK for some special uses, such as page titles or formal invitations, but not much else. Here’s why:

Centering creates jagged line edges,
which can make a layout look messy, and
it makes the copy hard to read,
because the eye has to jump around so much
from line to line.

You see it all the time, but that doesn’t make it right.

Centering text comes under the heading of “Just because you can do it, it doesn’t mean you should.”

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Paul Ryan is Romney’s Sarah Palin

Cross-posted at Huffington Post. Of all the obvious blunders Republican leaders didn’t want Mitt Romney to make, it was choosing a Sarah Palin as his candidate for vice president. The possibility scared even Dick Cheney.

But that’s exactly what Romney has done.

What, you say? Paul Ryan, like him or not, is a person of substance, and Sarah Palin is, well, Sarah Palin. But if you look at why Romney chose Ryan, and why John McCain chose Palin, it becomes clear.

McCain was seen by the conservative base as far too impure ideologically, palling around with liberals on bellwether issues like immigration, global warming and campaign finance reform. He was also proving to be a disappointing campaigner: lacking a coherent message, committing gaffes and never really firing up any part of the electorate.

Sound familiar?

McCain chose Palin in a desperate attempt to buy credibility with the base of his own party. Same with Romney and Ryan. Romney, a man who apparently has no core, has attempted to hire one.

But what about Ryan’s intellectual gravitas, as compared with Palin’s anti-gravitas? Ryan’s famous plan, the Roadmap for America’s Future, may be radical and heartless, but as the GOP mantra goes, at least he has a plan.

Gravitas? People, Paul Ryan is a big fan of Ayn Rand. This counts as gravitas?

Only in Washington, as they say, though we shouldn’t overlook Star Trek conventions.

As any psychologist could tell you, if you’re obsessed with escaping someone, you are not free of that someone. In fleeing Sarah Palin, anxiously looking over his shoulder, Mitt Romney has run around in a circle, smack into Paul Ryan.

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The World’s Shortest How-To List for Leaders

If you do a search for advice on leadership, you’ll find a lot of lists:

  • “Top 10 Things All Leaders Must Know”
  • “Leadership Advice from 5 Top Executives”
  • “The 7 Deadly Sins of Leadership,” etc, etc.

I almost always find these lists worth reading. But at the same time, I find that in one sense, they all completely miss the point.

That’s because by the very act of making a list about leading, you are making sure that whoever reads that list will not be thinking like a leader. A list is a formula, an algorithm. And the urge to follow a formula is the very opposite of what makes a leader. Continue reading

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The power of content, by the author of Content Rules

In this short interview, CC CHapman gives a really good, clear and concise explanation of the importance of content and how it works on social networks. He emphasizes the power of storytelling, and notes the surprising (to some) hipness on this score of the US Army:

sme_cc_chapman_v1 from Michael A. Stelzner on Vimeo.

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Let’s watch Erato’s “Call Your Girlfriend” go viral, in real time

On Facebook today I came across a video shared by a friend whose musical taste I respect, so I gave it a click, and had that wonderful experience of discovering something great and unexpected. It’s three members of a female Swedish choral group named Erato singing – beautifully – a cover of “Call Your Girlfriend”, by Robyn. The young women are sitting in underlit gloom around a kitchen table, accompanying themselves by using cottage cheese tubs as percussion instruments, with amazing, deadpan skill.

Continue reading

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Don’t vote for anyone who looks like he should be president

A great insight from Moneyball author Michael Lewis this morning on Fareed Zakaria GPS:

Maybe you don’t want to vote for the guy who looks like he should be president. Because the only reason he’s gotten as far as he’s gotten is because he looks like he should be president.

In studying rich and poor baseball teams for Moneyball, Lewis found that rich teams invested in the wrong players — in effect, the players who looked good, as opposed to the ones who actually were good.

It does sound like more than a few presidential candidates, not to mention much of the Senate.

A corollary: If there are two barbers in the shop, ask for the one with the bad haircut.

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Literacy now includes not just language, not just media, but code, too.

…as we’re reminded by CodeNow, featured at WhiteHouse.gov today:

CodeNow focuses on developing the next pioneers in technology by teaching underserved youth foundational skills in computer science and programming with the objective of narrowing the current digital divide. The organization teaches high school students the basics of computer programming and computer science in free, extra-curricular, off-campus trainings and boot camps. Each student who completes their program receives a netbook, mentoring and assistance finding internships.

…and by CodeAcademy.org, offering free programming lessons on the web:

Coding is not just for the chosen few. Anyone can learn with the right environment, resources and dedication.

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