Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department. – David Packard
Over the last few years my attention has shifted, like many of us, to content that interests me rather than passively consuming whatever is on the telly.
Few of us watch live television any more – and that’s led to a change in the way we look at things around us, including the businesses we buy from.
Many of those businesses haven’t realised that yet – but what would they be thinking if they did?
Well, the first question you might have is why would someone listen to your marketing messages?
Given everything that is out there, how would you position yourself?
Now, leave aside the stuff that falls into the commodity bucket – where there is underlying demand and it’s a matter of price and convenience.
Rice and beans and oil, for example.
But if you’re an agency or a consultant or a technology firm – what is it about what you’re saying that is going to interesting?
When I look back at the content I’ve gravitated towards in the last couple of years, it feels like it falls into two buckets – entertainment and education.
The distinction is not always obvious – so let’s see if there are any characteristics that stand out.
If you look at your YouTube feed or social media you’ll probably see that there is some content that is all about a brand – a personal or corporate one.
I think stuff like Gary Vaynerchuck’s work or even Tim Ferriss might be in this category – it’s about an individual who is generating the content – either themselves or with their team.
You buy into them.
Now, some of this material might be put across as educational – but I wonder if that’s right.
Let me come back to that in a minute.
Content that is educational is about the user, the learner.
It’s about other people and what they get, what they can do as a result of this thing you’re doing for them.
In entertainment, I think the messaging is brand centred.
In education, it’s user or learner centred.
Now, why do I say that.
With entertainment based approaches, what people want is your time, your attention.
The stuff they create is designed to get your interest and keep it – so you see a host of attention getting tactics.
We don’t need to list them out, but high energy, high status, use of colours and sound – all the things that make your reptile brain turn and focus.
An educational approach should be, however, about outcomes.
You want the participants to change in some way, preferably a specific and measurable one.
With entertainment, you might like them to change, but it doesn’t matter that much as long as they give you their attention.
I think this distinction is an important one.
If the creator is producing content but is too busy to care about crystallising outcomes for the consumers of that content – then it should be classed as entertainment.
If you don’t make change happen for your users – then you’re in the business of giving them a good time.
This does not mean that entertainment is a bad thing – by no means at all.
It’s a gift – the gift of inspiration of insight – the gift of belief that you can do what the person in front of you did.
Education, on the other hand, is about the transfer of a spark from the teacher to the learner – it’s about igniting a flame.
A flame that the learner can use to further their own work.
Now, you could argue that the content that I class as entertainment could ignite that flame – if the learner only could be bothered to do it.
But, I think that it’s only when it is ignited that you move from one side to the other – when you care that it actually happens.
On this basis, many of the classes you took could be termed entertainment – after all you sat in a room while someone droned on and neither of you cared if anything happened after that.
As long as the fees were paid.
Here’s the thing.
I didn’t really understand what education meant – after all, few of us are taught how to teach.
But when you start looking into it you realise just how much we have to learn to teach well.
So, when we think our marketing is “educational” we’re probably wrong.
If you think this isn’t the case, ask yourself this question.
In your business do you ask yourself, “What can we do for our customer?”.
Or do you ask, “What can our customer do with us?”
The subject you put first is the person you put first.