Category: Big Data and Analytics

Why context marketing will rule the next decade

context marketing

By Mathew Sweezey, {grow} Community Member

Wearing a t-shirt, slub jeans, and a new pair of sneakers, he said it first: “If content is king, context is god.” While I’d love to have been the first to utter those words, Gary Vaynerchuck beat me to it. But what is “context?” And why will context marketing revolutionize business in the next decade?

Context is the reason why a person takes action.

Let’s be honest, no consumer ever said, “I want more branded content!”

No, people engage with our content because it helps them achieve a goal in a moment. The goal could have been to answer a question, escape reality, learn, laugh, etc. It is the context of the experience, not the content, that drove the engagement.

Context marketing is a new method of marketing where brands breakthrough by crafting experiences to meet a person in that specific moment of need, and help them accomplish the task at hand. The trust built from that interaction guides the individual to the next stop on their journey, creating motivation and driving demand.

Context and Lego Land

Lego knows that along their customer journey, many parents have a hard time determining which set of toys is the best fit for their child. This leads many parents to visit the online Lego store and leave without a purchase. In this specific moment of the journey, Lego needed to create a contextual experience to break through the parental confusion and motivate action.

Enter Ralph, Lego’s gift-buying bot.

context marketing lego

Ralph was deployed on Facebook to all Lego website visitors who had visited the site but had not bought anything in the past 14 days. The ad invited them to have a conversation with Ralph, who would help them pick the perfect gift.

The experience was a hit. The average conversation with the bot was three minutes, and the sales from the bot accounted for 25 percent of online holiday sales that year. They broke through by focusing in on a key moment of the customer journey, helping them accomplish the task at hand — finding the perfect gift — and guiding them to the next step, buying it.

It wasn’t the copy of the ad or the creative campaign surrounding it that drove the action. It was the brand’s ability to identify the goal of one consumer moment and craft a relevant and helpful experience in context.

Context Marketing — Why now?

Context marketing is happening now because of a seismic shift in the media environment.

Not long ago, content creation was limited to big publishing houses and television stations with broadcast licenses. This was the era of limited media.

But today, consumers and their devices are the largest creators of content noise on the planet, displacing the media monopoly. This is an infinite media landscape that follows a new set of rules.

The first new rule you must understand is that this new source of content isn’t just overwhelming, it’s radically different.

Noise created by brands is typically “messaging” and forced onto the market place. Just think of broadcast ads, unwanted emails, product packaging, etc.

Now think about the content created by consumers. It’s between friends in trusted networks, permissioned, highly authentic, and engaging.

On top of that, there is an entirely new source of content created for us by our devices. Think about the power of a Fitbit to alter the course of a person’s daily and life with a simple notification – “You need to take 500 more steps to reach your goal.” This device-driven content can have a profound effect on the consumer.

Context marketing and consumer behavior

The infinite media environment has changed consumer behavior.

In the limited media environment when access to information was relatively scarce, we relied on our memory to make decisions. Marketing designed to keep us “top of mind” is effective.

In the infinite environment, consumers offload memory to devices. When they need information they seek it out in the moment.

This has turned all decisions into considered purchases. Even the mundane search term “best toothbrush” is growing at a rate of 100 percent year over year. Why? Because consumers trust the information they find over the information we project.

Meeting consumers in those key moments along the journey, and helping them accomplish that task at hand, builds the trust we need to drive them forward.

AI enables the new era of context marketing

Context is now the marketing king because of artificial intelligence. The volume of noise is so high (Content Shock) that without AI, humans would simply be overwhelmed.

This is why every digital asset from Netflix to Facebook is managed by AI. The algorithms are only showing you the content that is contextual to you in the moment, the content that drives the highest engagement.

Context enabled by AI is now the crux of marketing, but how do you create it? That can be summed up in three words; with, not on.

Marketers need to shift how they think about creating content to creating context through co-created experiences. Context is a collaborative effort.

New cookies

context marketing oreoFor example, Oreo wanted to launch new flavors of their iconic cookie. Rather than spending months doing internal market research, product testing, and finally releasing a cookie to the world with a grand marketing campaign, they did the opposite. They asked their customers to come up with the flavors they wanted to see. They gamified it, and the #myoreocreation was born.

Hundreds of thousands of suggestions flooded social media. To keep the excitement going, Oreo engaged with a majority of those suggestions by responding to consumer posts, or in some cases actually creating a one-off cookie for the lucky fan. This created such a stir that when the new cookies were released they were an instant hit.

Context is part of the omnichannel

Working with content in your market is a broad stroke that can include influencer marketing, employee advocacy, and user-generated content. Each of these can be a collaboration between the brand and an individual but you can go further.

At Salesforce, we’ve found a powerful way to work with our market to create a highly contextual experience. We created the Trailblazer community, a place where anyone can upskill around our product, and other relevant soft-skills. We had an idea, then worked with our market to build the community. Now they keep it thriving.

The co-created community helps people continually improve their business, build a larger network, and improve their personal brand. Each day there are thousands of questions asked and answered by customers. More than 14 million badges (certificate of course completion) have been earned. People love Trailblazer so much many have changed their LinkedIn job title to reflect their status in the community.

The benefits we receive are so much greater than just social media exposure and goodwill. Customers who are Trailblazers spend twice as much, and remain a customer three times as long as those not engaged in the community.

The days of marketing being about pure creative genius are long gone. Now marketers must find ways to work with their audience in the context of the moment.

Mathew Sweezey is Principal of Marketing Insights for,  podcast host, multiple award-winning marketers, pioneer of the marketing automation space, and author of The Context Marketing Revolution.





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Why “resonance” is the future of SEO

future of seo

One of the problems in the digital marketing world today is that leaders are using an outdated playbook — especially when it comes to Search Engine Optimization. I think the future of SEO is taking some pretty wild and unexpected turns right now so let’s explore that today.

Content as SEO fuel

The major innovation with SEO over the past few years is that it has largely become a content strategy. Beginning with the “inbound marketing” concept introduced by Hubspot in 2005 and growing into very sophisticated AI-driven techniques today, creating content that can auto-magically bring qualified leads to your site has been a reliable strategy.

But there are a few trends that are changing that and content certainly does not work for SEO like it used to. The future of SEO is moving in a dramatic new direction.

The changing search landscape

Let’s look at the future of SEO and content as it is unveiling itself through three significant trends.

First — voice search. When you search Alexa or Google home by verbalizing a question, you don’t get a list of content sugestions like blog posts or videos. You get an answer. So content has a much-diminished impact in the world of voice search.

It’s impossible to tell exactly how much of the total search pie is going to voice queries, but let’s be ultra-conservative and say 20 percent.

future of seo

When you ask Alexa or Siri to do something for you, you normally don’t get a list of blog posts or podcast episodes in the results. So the implication is that your content is potentially impacting much less of the search market than it did in the pre-voice days five years ago. But wait, it gets worse.

Trend number two — Last month, something very significant happened in the search world. For the first time, more than half (51 percent) of the search inquiries on Google were kept by Google. This means, Google kept the SEO “answers” away from businesses and content creators and directed them to their own knowledge panels, internal properties, and paid partnerships.

Will this continue to grow in the Google direction? The government will have some say over this. Google’s increasing dominance in this space is a subject of a Department of Justice probe. The company owns the dominant tool at every link in the complex chain between online publishers and advertisers, giving it unique power over the monetization of digital content.

So now we have a truer picture of the emerging search world. In the past five years, the majority of organic search traffic that was available to be attracted by your content has been in steady decline.

future of seo content in decline

The main idea here is, the available search inquiries that can be served by your SEO-oriented content has been evaporating over the past five years.

And when we look at the future of SEO … it gets even worse.

Trend three — While the piece of the pie available to organic search inquiries has been in rapid decline, the amount of content competing for that shrinking pie has literally exploded.

When you have more and more content competing for the same search traffic, eventually content marketing is not a sustainable strategy for some businesses. This is an idea I proposed some years ago called Content Shock.

future of seo content shock

This graph from WordPress shows the number of blog posts published each month since the beginning of the content marketing era. You don’t have to be a statistician to realize it’s harder to compete for attention in a world of 80 million blog posts every month compared to one million a month 10 years ago. In fact, your competition has increased by 8,000 percent in a few years. A tough world for an inbound marketer!

Of course, the same thing is happening on podcasts, visual content, and video (there are 300 hours of new video uploaded to YouTube every minute of the day!).

To break through in this environment, you need to either spend more money on quality to win the content arms race or spend more to promote your content. Either way, traditional content marketing becomes more expensive and less accessible for many businesses in this environment.

So is this the end of content marketing?


We just need to think about content and its benefits in an entirely different way.

SEO and the junkyard dogs

I was recently hired by a company in Seattle to conduct a personal branding workshop based on my book KNOWN.

When you think about it, this was an extremely unlikely pairing. If you search for “personal branding consultant,” there are 40 million results. Even if you search for “personal branding consultant Seattle” there are 2.1 million results.

I am not in those top search results. Not even close.

This is not an unusual situation for a small business. I am NEVER going to be in the top search results. Really, the only thing that matters is the top three slots. The top three slots will be won by the biggest, meanest, richest SEO junkyard dogs.

It’s an expensive and never-ending battle that I will never win for terms like “digital marketing consultant,” “marketing strategy, “keynote speaker,” or any of the other jobs that I do.

Chances are, unless you’re the junkyard dog in your industry, you won’t win your SEO battle either. And yet, every company I know is pouring money into content trying to win the SEO battle!

This just makes no sense.

But here I was in Seattle, conducting an awesome workshop. How did my client find me in all this hopeless SEO mess? Through my content. But not through search.

The business case for resonance

The night before my workshop, I had a wonderful seafood dinner with my client. I asked my friend … “Why did you hire me?”

“Your content resonates with me,” he said without hesitation.

Isn’t that an interesting word … resonates.

My content was not at the top of an SEO stack for personal branding. I’m certainly not going to make the Alexa hit parade.

But a person who hired me for this important work chose me because there was an emotional connection that resonated with him on a personal and professional level.

This reveals a more practical and realistic value of content in this competitive environment, and a value that is almost entirely overlooked by marketers today.

At this point, I would like to interrupt myself. Whenever I write a mega-trend blog post like this, I am pointing out an idea that is very broad … and it may not apply to everybody. There certainly is still room today for SEO-driven content, and there always will be as far out into the future as I can see. The numbers I’ve presented here are high level. The true search volume for your industry could result in mostly organic results, especially in smaller niche markets.

The answer to every marketing question is, “it depends,” and that is certainly true here.

But overall, SEO-driven content is probably working less well for most businesses and content that attracts customers due to its authority is becoming more important.

Content and authority

So there are really two basic content strategies you can use to win new business: Content meant to win SEO and content meant to earn authority (content that resonates with readers). And of course, you can have overlap between these strategies:

future of seo

I won the business in Seattle — against all SEO odds — because I ignored SEO. I write for my readers. If I do that well and consistently, I’ll earn subscribers. Eventually, these subscribers will grow to know me, trust me and hire me. I think that is the future of SEO, which is really not SEO at all!

It’s a different way to look at content strategy but for 90 percent of the businesses out there who will never win the SEO battle, content built on authority might be the best and only strategic option.

I’m not creating content to trick you into clicking a link. I am creating content that consistently connects with your hopes and dreams and business needs. I’m building a long-term connection that resonates.

Make sense?

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Illustration courtesy 

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The cookies must die.


There are about 615 million devices in the world using ad blockers. This easily represents the biggest civil rebellion in the history of the world. In a loud, clear chorus, our customers are saying “stop interrupting me with these ads.”

The ad industry’s response has been to try to get around these ad blockers and show people more ads. Which, is the dumbest possible response.

As I was doing research for my book Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins, it dawned on me that consumers have been in rebellion against marketers for more than 100 years.

I thought it was poignant that the first TV remote was invented in 1950.  As soon as there were TV ads, there was a device invented to get around them!

Here’s the lesson we can learn from the history of marketing. The consumers always win. Always.

And the latest battleground is cookies.

Cookies must die

In the digital world, cookies are small pieces of data sent by a website and stored on the user’s computer by their web browser to perform many essential functions. They can be used to verify the account a user is logged in with, record the webpages a user has visited, compile long-term records of a user’s browsing history, and build up a profile of our customer’s interests, preferences, and habits.

Cookies have become the backbone of the digital marketing and advertising industry, enabling tactics like targeting, retargeting, behavioral marketing, programmatic advertising, and much more.

Studies show that ad targeting has been worth more than $25 billion by allowing advertising to more effectively reach relevant (usually) consumers. Many of my customers and personal friends have built their entire companies through the benefit of cookies.

Undeniably, ads that follow you around the web have created a powerful economic engine.

But they also creep people out.

And these spooked consumers have said “no.”

The U.S. Congress, the European Union, the California attorney general and dozens of state governments have said that the cookie-based digital economy cannot stand as-is. This is a violent disruption to our world of eCommerce, much like the rebellion we saw with the ad blockers.

Resistance is futile.

Recovering from the cookies

Last week Google sent shock waves across the industry when it faced reality and announced it would phase out third-party cookies for Chrome over the next two years. This, of course, followed announcements by Apple, Firefox and others.

A post-cookie economy will cause a lot of heartache to retailers and perhaps destroy some business models. As panic sets in, there will be efforts to fight against the changes, or at least find ways to get around them.

Predictably, the advertising trade organizations went ballistic.

“Google’s decision to block third-party cookies in Chrome could have major competitive impacts for digital businesses, consumer services, and technological innovation,” Dan Jaffe, group EVP of government relations at the Association of National Advertiser, and Dick O’Brien, who has the same title at the 4A’s, said in a joint statement shared with Marketing Dive.

“It would threaten to substantially disrupt much of the infrastructure of today’s internet without providing any viable alternative, and it may choke off the economic oxygen from advertising that startups and emerging companies need to survive,” they wrote.

Once again, fighting to keep something in place that consumers hate is an understandable but short-sighted response. It delays the inevitable. The consumers will eventually win.

One possible alternative to cookies is contextual targeting. But if this becomes another way to abuse consumer privacy, we’re just going down another hole that will eventually be legislated away.

We have to get ahead of the curve and learn to go to market in a way that not only respects privacy but helps guarantee it.

We will figure it out.

We’ve all been down this road of disruption before.

I was in a marketing leadership position with a Fortune 100 company the first time the internet dramatically rocked my business world.

I was responsible for selling huge volumes of packaging products to beverage companies such as Coca-Cola, Anheuser Busch, and Coors. These contracts ran into the billions of dollars and the high-stake negotiations could run for 12 months or more.

All that went away in a single day.

In the early days of the internet, our customers started using reverse auctions (also called Dutch auctions).

All of the packaging suppliers would log into the same computer account and place their bids for the annual contract. There was complete transparency. Everyone could see every other company’s bids. And then we watched the price drop like a rock as competitors lowered their bids, minute-by-minute.

Competitive and panicked sales managers countered with desperately low prices as the clock ticked down — an emotional reaction as their high-volume business evaporated in the closing seconds. In a span of 20 minutes — not months of negotiations — an entire annual contract was completed before our disbelieving eyes.

A century-old business model had been disrupted. Sales and marketing in our industry had been re-invented. I literally didn’t know how we could stay in business under those conditions. Maybe that’s how you’re feeling now with the Google announcement.

But we did stay in business. Eventually, we transcended the chaos and adjusted to a new reality. And that’s the way it’s been with every business disruption in the history of the world.

The consumers always win

The lesson is, the best marketers need to get ahead of the consumer curve. The consumer rebellions always win, so stop doing what people hate.


Robo-calls? Stop it.

Piles of unwanted direct mail litter? Stop it.

Lead nurturing (a friendly way to say you’re spamming people until they block you). Stop it.

And cookies? Well, our customers generally don’t want to be creeped out and tracked anymore.

So we’re going to have to stop that too. It may seem impossible, but we will find alternatives.

The new mindset

I recently wrote that the new marketing mindset must move from “change our customers” to “come alongside our customers.”

Today’s customer possesses the accumulated knowledge of the human race in the palm of their hand. We should trust that they can make their own decisions.

So let’s find a way to come alongside them and help them have a life that is meaningful, healthier, more profitable, less stressful, more fun, awe-filled, adventurous, delicious, loving, joyful, and beautiful.

There are lots of ways to do that without violating the privacy of our customers and angering them. Just watch.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Illustration courtesy of

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The ultimate privacy betrayal: Your smartphone is cheating on you


In 2016, you likely heard the lurid tale of Target revealing a man’s high-school-aged daughter was pregnant. Target’s algorithm had noted her Guest ID number making common first trimester purchases and began sending automated maternity ads to the family’s mailbox … All before she’d had a chance to break the news to her parents.

Something like this micro-targeting example reveals the arrogant disregard for our privacy, but it seems like nothing has yet shocked America into revolt … in fact, the situation just keeps getting worse. Instead of respecting customers, marketers have just become better at concealing the deception. Andrew Cole, a Target company statistician, told The New York Times:

If we send someone a catalog and say, ‘Congratulations on your first child!’ and they’ve never told us they’re pregnant, that’s going to make some people uncomfortable… We are very conservative about compliance with all privacy laws. But even if you’re following the law, you can do things where people get queasy.

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), an attempt to replicate Europe’s GDPR privacy standards, comes into effect on January 1, 2020.  However, even when these new, more stringent, standards start, the average consumer will remain unaware of how little privacy she retains.

Your smartphone, your life

The New York Times recently obtained access to an enormous file of cellphone location data.

A whistleblower delivered this data — 50 million data points — without associated names, ages, genders, or other information that would overtly identify cell phone owners, even though anyone who had purchased the dataset would likely have some or all of this information.

Even without knowing identities, the reporters were able to track individuals by their movement during average commutes or by attending events from late 2016 to early 2017. The reporters were easily able to identify celebrities who had entered the Playboy Mansion or the home of Johnny Depp. Of more concern, they could also follow White House staff members, intelligence officers employed at the Pentagon, and DC riot police.

Even worse, they could track executives and celebrities visiting drug treatment facilities, abortion clinics, and massage parlors.

This data is available to anyone with a devious knack for digital breaking and entering.

Many companies are clueless

By now it should be obvious that it takes very little data to make a positive ID on a person … and this is data that is becoming more freely available and commonly breached. One study showed that information easily gathered by the US Census — birthdate, zip code, and gender — would be enough to identify 87 percent of Americans.

I recently received a phone call today that I’m almost positive was actually from my healthcare provider, but because I didn’t recognize the phone number, I refused to provide my zip code and date of birth to confirm my identity.

I could nearly hear the caller rolling her eyes, but my concerns are legitimate. My healthcare provider should not solicit information along these lines, and I’m disappointed with them for their ignorance.

Put down the tinfoil hat and protect your privacy

While going off the grid is not an option for social media marketers, it doesn’t mean that we can’t protect ourselves.

First, there’s the small stuff.

  • Don’t give information over the phone
  • Bookmark your bank, your medical portals, and any sites you use to pay bills
  • Only visit those sites through your saved bookmarks
  • Never click on links delivered via email or text message
  • Create incredibly strong but easy to remember passwords by mashing four unrelated words, using spaces between whenever possible
  • This would work: Twitter Ethics Red Paris
  • This would not: NeverS4yNeverB0nd

Start using technology to protect your privacy

  • Password keepers can be problematic, but you must switch now if you do any of the following:
    • Use the same password more than once
    • Have a password on a Post-it note
    • Keep a password document in Dropbox
  • Keep abreast of data breaches by checking HaveIBeenPwned periodically or sign up for alerts
  • Browse through and try out their free tools, especially Panopticlick
  • If you use sites that provide some anonymity, such as reddit, use throw away accounts for anything sensitive
  • Consider buying a physical key to act as a password. My favorite is Yubikey
  • Try to distance yourself from known privacy offenders such as Facebook, Google, and Amazon
  • Try to utilize encrypted services when possible, such as Apple Messages or Protonmail, and consider using a VPN
  • Whenever possible, use companies that tend to value privacy, such as Apple, Firefox, GitHub, and (though counter-intuitive) YouTube over Vimeo

If you enjoyed this article, I’d like to leave you with a puzzle: given the current capabilities for technology to identify an author through word choice, how many tweets from an anonymous account do you think would be necessary to identify someone? I have my estimate, and I’d love to compare notes! (Assume all tweets are at the modern 280-character length)

KikiSchirrKiki Schirr is a freelance marketer who enjoys absorbing new trends within the tech scene. She switched to an iPhone early this year, even though she suspected her privacy concerns were paranoia. Now she’s less certain. Kiki is most easily reached via Twitter.


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What is the current state of content distribution? The answer is “who”

content distribution

I was recently in a lively discussion about the state of content distribution and it reminded me that this is a topic I haven’t covered in a long time. This was a dominant theme for me when I was working on the 2015 book The Content Code and it’s time to take a fresh look at things. So let’s dig in.

Content shock is alive and well

We are approaching the fifth anniversary of the most popular blog post I’ve written — Content Shock. It went viral because it pricked at the pomposity of the content marketing gurus and proclaimed that the popular notion of inbound marketing just doesn’t work like it used to.

And … it doesn’t.

There’s no denying that my prediction came true. As niches swelled with meaningful, helpful content, it became more difficult and expensive to compete. Social sharing and page views declined and our collective ability to stand out was muted by this hurricane of content competitors.

This suggested that content alone could no longer be the answer to the marketer’s dilemma. Creating more content just added to the problem. We needed our content to move. It had to be seen, it had to be shared. It had to be ignited.

Content ignition — that is the true source of content marketing value! There is no economic value to publishing content unless that content is seen and shared.

So how do we ignite our content? Let’s look at the state of the nation.

First — A caveat. There is no cookie-cutter solution or idea in the marketing world. Every industry, business, and product is complex. So, there are lots of exceptions. Today I am presenting high-level ideas, not specific solutions.

Search engine optimization

For nearly three decades, SEO has been the go-to strategy for content distribution. There is no more intoxicating marketing idea than having high potential customers auto-magically find our content organically through that little search box.

That is the heart of the idea behind inbound marketing, a concept that is much less relevant today than it was five years ago.

SEO is important, and it always will be, but my view it is far less important to most businesses than they think, for a simple reason. To win at SEO, you have to own one of the top search results. So in this never-ending battle for SEO supremacy, there can only be one or two winners in an entire product category.

In essence, SEO is like two big, mean junkyard dogs fighting over the same bone, week after week, year after year. Unless you’re one of those top dogs, SEO can be an expensive way to achieve endless frustration. Another option for content ignition — and probably a better option for most businesses — is to develop content that builds authority.

Authority-based content is produced for the customer, not a search engine, and wins the distribution war if it is good enough to earn customer subscriptions and organic advocacy.

If you want to dive into this idea more deeply, here are resources that can help. In another blog post, I explain the junkyard dog idea and in a second post I break down the two most likely content marketing strategies, including authority.

Promotions and advertising

If we can’t organically earn our way into the attention span of our customers, can we buy our way in through ads that boost our content? That is also getting more difficult.

Here’s a sign of the advertising apocalypse before us. One of the themes at the last Cannes Lions Festival was the desperate push from agencies to get Netflix to show ads. This sad and ridiculous strategy is coming about because of a couple of megatrends.

First, at an increasing rate, content being consumed today does not feature ads. Netflix. Amazon Prime. Spotify. Audiobooks. None of them show ads. Why? Consumers hate ads and consumers always win. Traditional advertising as we know it is dying.

Second, the only place where advertising is growing — digital — is filling up. As the ad inventory declines, the prices rise, making digital ads less accessible for some businesses, or products with slim margins.

Advertising is still a relevant content distribution strategy in some places of course, but it is also a victim of Content Shock — as the competition to standout increases, the cost to compete and distribute that content rises until some businesses will simply have to drop out.

The importance of WHO

So in this weird and noisy world, how do we get our message through? I think the future of content marketing and distribution is found in the word WHO.

Content distribution is a real mess compared to a few years ago. It’s harder to get our content seen and shared and even when we boost it with an ad, people probably still don’t see it or believe it. In fact, trust in businesses, brands, and ads have declined 10 years in a row, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer.

Who do people trust? Each other! We trust people like …

  • Friends and neighbors
  • Business leaders
  • Technical experts
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Influencers and celebrities

I believe completely that this simple fact will dictate the future of content marketing and content distribution.

The key idea is that yes, the WHAT of our story is important, but perhaps even more important is the WHO — WHO IS TELLING THE STORY?

If your company is telling the story through your content, it’s less likely that it will be seen, believed, and shared. But if people I trust are telling me this story, the content becomes internalized and actionable. The content ignites in the very best way — from people we trust.

Content ignition through trusted audiences is the true state of the art in content distribution. If you want to dive into this a little more, in another post I describe how this is an ongoing process of being invited on to the customer “islands.”

The future of content distribution

Marketing success in this new environment means adopting an entirely new mindset. We do not control the message, the pipeline, or the customer journey. The customer is the marketer. How do we help them do the job?

This is a scary and unfamiliar concept. It’s going to be hard to explain to a boss who is still entrenched in 2013. Content marketing success is going to be harder to measure. It’s going to take some bold leadership to accomplish.

But in this world of rapid change and uncertainty, this is one thing I know: We don’t have a choice but to keep moving ahead. We have to pivot and accept these new marketing realities.

The future of content distribution will rely on us creating stories and experiences that are so unmissable and conversational that the customers become the marketing department.

The key to our future success isn’t necessarily the story. It’s who is telling it.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Illustration courtesy

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If marketing is essential, why are marketing jobs going away?

marketing jobs

Marketing jobs are in decline and, on the surface, it might be hard to understand why.

I studied for three years under the famous management guru Peter Drucker and one of his most beloved quotes is:

“Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.”

I happen to believe Dr. Drucker and I believe in this vision.

If you don’t have customers, you don’t have a business. If you don’t have innovation, you can’t retain those customers.

So, if marketing is “the distinguishing, unique function of the business,” why are so many important marketing jobs going away?

Marketing jobs in decline

In a new report, Forrester reports that the CMO position is under attack.

In an annual forecast, the consulting firm points to the elimination of the CMO position at dozens of high-profile brands, including Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg’s, Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Netflix, and Walmart. It also cites the 20-year-old transition to digital as the key force behind the transformation of marketing jobs from brand-builders to data-focused, short-term revenue drivers.

  • Following the elimination of the CMO role at a number of large organizations this year, the remaining marketing chiefs will find themselves in a “desperate fight for survival.” The key to survival will be establishing control over the customer experience in order to provide short-term value.
  • Successful CMOs will no longer be exclusively focused on marketing but will be centrally responsible for “customer obsession” by expanding their control to customer experience, company values, brand innovation, and employee experience.
  • The key marketing task, says the report, is aligning resources so that brand value can be generated and delivered quickly to customers.

What’s going on here?

There are lots of factors behind this “desperate fight for survival,” but chief among them is a disconnect between the traditional expectations of marketing and the new reality.

This is precisely the chasm I described in my Marketing Rebellion book. At most companies, the vision for marketing is completely out of whack with the consumer reality. This is not an easy problem to solve.

The C-suite leaders at most companies are asleep and they don’t know they’re asleep. In fact, most companies are going through a “transformation” on every piece of their business except marketing. The marketing transformation is NOT going to come from buying more technology. It will come as a mindset change and a realization that the customers are in control — the customer is the marketing department.

Businesses must eventually replace their ideas of what drives consumer action with a new and expanded view of their customer expectations, taking into account how the media environment has changed those expectations as well as the value consumers now seek from brands (transparency, purpose, alignment with values).

Marketing must transition from being the “creators of messages” to the “owners and sustainers of the experience.” This requires decoupling marketing from the product (gasp!) and viewing its function as a  long-term pathway to growth, not just a mechanism to boost quarterly sales.

Let’s talk about marketing jobs …

In the new episode of The Marketing Companion, Brooke Sellas and I explore this vital issue. If marketing leaders are in a desperate fight for survival, what can be done about it?

We discuss the megatrends that present an existential crisis for the marketing function:

  • Working toward short-term quarterly goals instead of long-term brand-building
  • Focus on messaging instead of experiences
  • Lack of awareness of fundamental consumer shifts (or an unwillingness to address them)
  • A preoccupation with recession preparedness that may hurt marketing
  • An unmet need to consolidate all customer experiences behind the marketing function

This is one of our most interesting episodes ever!. And it gets even better when we blow the top off this new influencer trend of “sad fishing.” Since when is “anxiety” an engagement strategy? You have to hear this one!

And it all starts with a click:

Click on this link to listen to Episode 176

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Many thanks to our friend Scott Monty for the awesome show intro. Be sure to check out his introspective newsletter Timeless & Timely, where he covers the latest trends and the oldest principles.

Tim Washer is contributing creative direction to the show and he’s has worked for Conan O’Brien, John Oliver, among others. He helps corporations build more creative cultures.

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