Cleveland, Ohio is famous for being the birthplace of rock and roll, but this past week, it proved that it’s also becoming a hub for one of the coolest industries of the 21st century: Content Marketing. Over 2,000 marketers flooded the city for Content Marketing World, ready to learn, network and collect the best schwag.
Now, at first blush, you might think: “Wow, what could be more different than rock and roll and marketing?” Honestly, when my coworker and I landed at the Cleveland airport, we had the same thought. But the more time we spent familiarizing ourselves with the two topics, the more similarities we started to see.
But like all good marketers, I wanted my intuition to be backed up by data. So, on Wednesday night after the conference ended, some coworkers and I braved the thunderstorm (like rockstars) to check out the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Here’s what we learned.
This year at CMW, one of the biggest recurring themes was the idea of personalization, or delivering “the right message to the right person at the right time.” It’s because as storytellers, we’re nothing if we don’t have a real connection with our audiences. Or as Les Paul, iconic musician and inventor of the electric guitar put it, “whatever I play, I play to say it. I’m telling a story, sending out a message. And the people tell me in no time at all whether they received that message.”
Rock and Roll isn’t about playing for playing’s sake, it’s about playing to create an experience for the audience. The same is true of marketing: It’s not actually about expressing yourself (or describing your products, or promoting your brand) just for the sake of it. Unfortunately, so many of us are pushing to hit goals (x blogs a week, y leads per quarter) that don’t reflect the most important metric of all: Did you connect with the audience?
Unsurprisingly, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has an entire room devoted to Elvis, since he’s the King of Rock and Roll. However, it turned out that one of my coworkers really dislikes Elvis, so she breezed through that room and moved on to exhibits she liked better. Initially, I was shocked. How could someone not care even a little about Elvis?! It was a good reminder that different audiences have different interests, and you need to make sure that you’ve got great content in every category.
There’s a reason that “what kind of music do you like?” is a question that we ask people when we’re getting to know them. As a marketer, when it comes to engaging your audiences, you need to make sure that you understand the things that matter to them and how they like to communicate. Then, create content to fill the different buckets and make sure it’s accessible to each audience segment. (The Hall of Fame did a great job of this, and fortunately for my friend, the Seattle alternative rock room was only a few steps away!)
One of the first exhibits in the Hall of Fame allows you to see the influences of some of the world’s most famous bands. You might not guess that Guns N’ Roses credits Elton John as one of their greatest inspirations, but it’s true. And throughout the whole museum, we saw song lyrics scrambled on random pieces of paper. Basically, you never know what will spark an idea or when an idea will strike.
That sentiment is even more true for content marketers. Another recurring thread at CMW was content marketers shouldn’t limit themselves to getting ideas from the marketing team. They need to communicate with sales, product, prospects, customers and partners – and they need to be riffing on concepts and creating collateral that represents all those different areas. And of course, they always need a way to jot down thoughts, because you never know when the subject line of your next brilliant blog post will strike.
One glance around the expo hall this year confirmed what we’ve all known for a while: when it comes to marketing technology, we have more choices than ever before. Whether you want to curate content, personalize content, measure content, host content, distribute content or even create content, there’s a technology out there that can help you do it, often delivering a drastically different (and improved result.) It’s empowering and exciting, but it means we need to be open to doing things differently than we have in the past.
But as we’ve seen, there are certain principles we’ll carry with us no matter how the technology changes. There was a period when we thought that the SEO algorithm would determine everything about what we wrote, but even that algorithm is slowly being corrected to ensure that we get to focus on what matters: the right story.
I thought of this when, after cases and cases filled with guitars, we arrived at the Electronic Dance Music (EDM) room where we got to feast our eyes on Skrillex’s laptop and MIDI controller. (Well, first I thought, “I have a laptop, too. Content marketing is so rock and roll!”) Although we’re used to music that’s been created in a certain way, ultimately, the tools, the medium and the platform are not the most important things. They are certainly changing so much about who makes music and how it sounds, but the point is still, as Les Paul said, “play it to say it.”
Technology is having a huge impact on both content marketing and rock and roll, but the most important thing always has been and always will be the story.