Creativity, Technology, And The Future Of Storytelling

What Is The Content Marketing Imperative?

Six months ago, I presented my argument for the content marketing imperative.

I defined content marketing as the gap between what brands produce and what our customers actually want.

I talked about how social media is only 12 years old and yet it has allowed everyone with an internet-connected mobile device to connect with anyone, anywhere in the world. Social media has turned us all into publishers. There is now a massive amount of information being shared every single second.

And so we largely tune out the ads. And yet, we still tune in to great stories, told well. And sometimes, we share things like emojis, animated gifs, selfies – all just mini-stories about what we love or believe or cre about, and that help us to connect with our audience in an emotional way.

I went through the history of advertising. From the first TV ad, through the intentionally misleading propaganda of the mad men era that has led to the general public’s distrust of marketing overall.

(Here is the 18 minute video of my presentation:)

Content Marketing Is All The Marketing That’s Left

Luckily, Steve Jobs came along and showed us that not all ads have to stink. Because he understood that marketing is about storytelling. He understood what Seth Godin articulated when he first heard content marketing defined:

“Content marketing is all the marketing that’s left.” ~ Seth Godin [Tweet This!]

I presented the case for why marketing still has a marketing problem: most people still think marketing is advertising, selling and somehow lacking value.

And all of it comes down to the fact that our audiences are bored. They are bored to tears with all the promotional crap and clever propaganda. They don’t look at or click on banners, they don’t watch TV ads. They don’t answer cold calls. They don’t open direct mail. And they don’t open emails they don’t want.

What’s worse is that increasingly, we unsubscribe from unwanted emails. We think less of brands who interrupt our content experiences. But we are open to brands who produce the kind of content experiences we want.

This is the content marketing imperative: Publish Or Perish! [Tweet This!]

Create Customer-Focused Content Experiences

Brands like Red Bull, Netflix, Amazon, and LEGO are creating entertaining content experiences we are actually willing to pay for. And this is not just for large companies. My own personal blog gets thousands of visits a day and my Slideshare content gets almost as much. But I don’t have a budget at all!

That’s why my big secret to content marketing success is that it doesn’t have to be that hard. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It just comes down to wanting to help your customers with content. That, in turn will help your business.

So seek to become a destination for your target audience. Answer the questions they are asking. Do it for the sake of providing value. And you will build brand preference.

You can check out the slides I presented at last year’s conference here:

Creativity, Technology and Storytelling

The theme for this year’s content marketing summit is creativity, technology and storytelling. I’m kicking it off again with a presentation on how we moved beyond the content marketing imperative.

The rise of new technologies, new platforms, and a whole generation of digital-savvy professionals and consumers is forcing brands to re-thing how they reach their audience.

A recent study by Forbes, shows that only 1% of millennials would be impacted by even a compelling ad. And yet despite a massive amount of data to the contrary, many brands just keep piling on the promotion that no one pays attention to. Brand just need to STOP!


Because the purpose of content marketing is to earn an audience instead of buying it. It’s not charity. It’s good business. But still, we reject the point, often because we have bosses who ask us to create promotional content that largely doesn’t get used and mostly gets ignored when it does.

And so we’re all like “whatever!”

And everyone is confused.

We need to listen to Ann Handley’s advice: take your brand out of the story and make your customer the hero. [Tweet This!]

And we need to listen to Joe Pulizzi’s advice: Don’t build your house on rented land! [Tweet This!]

Brands need to think and act like publishers and that means two things:

  1. Publish content people want, every single day!
  2. Build subscribers and monetize your traffic

The Future of Storytelling

So this year, I decided to open with a video montage that takes us back to the beginning and points to the future of storytelling:

  • Storytelling has been around since man first walked the earth.
  • Stories help us understand the world around us. They teach us important lessons about life and about love and about all the things that matter.
  • Technology has always had an impact on the way we tell stories and on how we reach our audience.
  • Creativity has always defined which stories we remember by tapping into our deepest fears and desires.

So what does the future of storytelling hold?

I believe the future of storytelling is visual:

The future of storytelling is fun:

The future of storytelling is funny:

And the future of storytelling will probably be somewhat surprising:

What’s Next?

I hope you get a sense for why we need to help drive change in marketing. I believe we can and will do better. But it starts with you . . .

Your customers are looking for stories! Will you give it to them?

Check out my presentation here:

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.