4 incredible presentations on how to do brilliant content marketing simply

Being a content marketer, I attended the Super Content Marketing event in Stockholm and was looking for fresh, new and inspiring ideas as well as hopefully finding some solutions to some of my challenges. Below is a summary of what I learned and some key takeaways.

Appeal to universal values or carry out smart personalization

Nathalie Nahai, web psychologist, international speaker, and author said that content marketers are confronted with four main problems, being the increasing:

  • Levels of information
  • Number of devices
  • Expectations of a personalized experience
  • Need for privacy

In this environment, she said that brands need to attract and hold the attention of the right people. Part of that is by building relationships with customers and delivering relevant content and experiences.

According to Nathalie, customers are drawn to “love of the same.” Brand communicators should strive to create an affinity between the brand and the customers they are trying to target.

Nathalie used the word homophily, which is a theory in sociology where people are more likely to form connections with others who they consider the same, by sharing similar characteristics, be it socioeconomic, values, beliefs, attitudes, etc. More importantly, Nathalie said that a homophilous source is more likely to be perceived as credible, trustworthy and reliable – something that is incredibly important in an era where trust of media, institutions, and governments is low.

The effectiveness of communications might be higher if brands embraced and practiced the theory of homophily. The idea isn’t anything new, however.

Communicators know that they need to understand and mirror their audience’s interest, needs, problems and such to create content that resonates.

As Anne Handley in her book “Everybody Writes” points out, you need to develop a ‘pathological empathy’ for your readers. Because the stories we relate to most are the ones we feel are authentic and reflect our expectations.

Nathalie said you could use psychological principles to get people to read, watch and share anything and gave some advice on how to create shareable, clickable headlines.

The magic formula for creating a clickbait headline is:

Number / trigger word + adjective + keyword + promise = killer headline


Nathalie Nahai

Right trigger words, according to her, are:

  • Weird
  • Surprising
  • Secret
  • Mystery
  • Effortless
  • Painstaking
  • Strange
  • Outrageous
  • Odd
  • Amazing
  • Bizarre
  • Essential
  • Incredible
  • It’s not what you think

Nathalie then went on about how you can apply two approaches to your communications. You either target the individual and try to create personalized communications and marketing, or you appeal to the broader and more universal values and feelings of your target group.

Regarding the individual approach, she suggests adapting your communications to the personality traits of individuals. In that way, you create persuasive messages that will have a more significant impact on the people you are trying to influence.

The five personality traits and what they are motivated by are listed below.

The big five personality traits

  1. Open – creativity and intellectual stimulation.
  2. Conscientious – Efficiency and goal pursuit.
  3. Extravert – excitement and social rewards.
  4. Agreeable – connection with family and community.
  5. Low emotional stability – safety and security.

However, she does warn that communicators need to tread carefully to not upset the individual by showing a disregard for their privacy. If, for instance, you haven’t obtained the permission of the individual to use their personal data for catering to their needs, you may spook them and cause a case of ‘psychological reactance’ where the individual will be put off your brand and your marketing because of what they perceive as intrusive marketing practices.

Lessons learned from REI Co-Op

Paolo Mottola, senior manager and content marketer at REI Co-Op, spoke about how an American outdoor retailer, REI, uses “disruptive content marketing to move mountains.”

Paolo’s presentation was more of a practical session on how REI Co-Op works with content marketing. Although I don’t work in the B2C space, his performance was nevertheless a good reminder of what content marketing should achieve.

  • People who consume content make for better customers.
  • Make educational content thorough but not boring.
  • Make content for social media entertaining and fun.
  • Take a stand on a point that matters to you.
  • Find the human story.

Interestingly, REI Co-Op publishes 600 to 700 articles a year, have an editorial staff of eight people and work with agencies and freelancers. To streamline their content marketing they use the pyramid approach:

  • Hero content – in their case film and branded content.
  • Hub content – news, editorial, and podcasts.
  • How-to content – educational

Their hero content is their big campaigns aimed at generating brand awareness. Their hub content is their push content and is the pulse of their content marketing efforts. And their how-to content is the pull and evergreen content that answers customer questions. Interestingly, they measure everything based on a cost-per-metric model like podcast downloads or video views and time spent watching. 


Combining data and story to get the best results

Margaret Magnarelli, senior director of marketing, started with an analogy of our marketing campaign being a red balloon. You’re all excited, and ready to let it go, and then all of a sudden it gets lost in the sky with hundreds of other red balloons. Yes, that is the world of content marketing now.

How do you get your red balloon to stick out from the crowd then?

According to Margaret data can help. Data can also help you to connect with your customers. In her presentation, she covered three central questions:

  • Why use data storytelling?
  • How do you use data storytelling?
  • Where do you find the right data?

Regarding point one, she goes to the basics of Aristotle, which I remember learning at university: ethos, pathos, and logos – the three pillars of persuasion. Logos is how you appeal to logic, and that is where data typically comes into play.

However, data on its own is boring, and that’s where the power of storytelling is needed. As Margaret beautifully summed it up to,“Data makes a story more believable. The story makes data more meaningful.”

The story gives humanity, context, and perspective whereas the data provide trust, credibility, and authority. Combined, you have something powerful.

So how do you use storytelling data?

Her approach was:

  • What’s the topic or the big theme of your campaign? Sum it up into your strategy or goals.
  • Who is the audience? Hone your topic to the specific audience you would like to target
  • Decide what stats would make your case at each phase of the funnel.

For example, what data points would you need for the awareness phase to gain their attention around a particular problem or solution? What data points would you need for the consideration phase in helping people realize a need for a product or solution you offer? And lastly for the decision phase, what data will make them understand your product is best based on their specific needs? Finally, you need to amplify the use of your data and include it in all content types and channels.


Margaret then covered how to find the right data. She said you could create, unearth or borrow data and covered the aspects of each. If you had a choice, she said “creating” data – as in collecting new data – was preferable because you could align it correctly with your story compared to unearthing or borrowing data.

In short, her recommendation was decided what story to tell, then determine what data supports it. Or figure out what information you have and see if it shows a good story. To reiterate “Data makes a story more believable. The story makes data more meaningful.”

Purpose-driven communications coming to life

Caitriona O’Connor, group social media manager at Skanska, presented how Skanska works with its purpose and showed numerous examples. The key takeaway for me from her presentation was that yes, a lot of brands, are all proclaiming the higher goal of making the world a better place somehow. In my opinion, it’s a lot of corporate lip service rarely ever backed up in deeds, as she referred to as brand washing.  However, Skanska manages to bring their purpose – We build for a better society – to life through actions. Caitriona also explained that their goal could mean different things depending on the stakeholders. For example, what does a better society say to their partners, customers, talent and community at large? Their purpose takes on a different meaning depending on the context.


So how do you communicate and build trust through purpose?

  1. Understand your audience.
  2. Go from marketing the brand to engaging the human.
  3. Move from what you do, to why you do it.
  4. Take a position on an issue and create shared value.
  5. Cover all touchpoints and make sure the evidence is there.
  6. Change through conversation and get your leaders on board.

“Selling you call them, marketing they call you.”

Jeff Bullas’ had a more inspirational presentation and reminded us, content marketer, not to give up and throw in the towel. He was a great storyteller and kept his audience riveted by sharing his own life stories and experiences working with content marketing as well as what he learned along the way. In his presentation he incorporated a bunch of great sound bites, some of my favorites include:

  • “Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up.” Dean Karnazes.
  • “We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.” Steve Jobs.
  • “Content marketing is two words. Content and marketing. Building trust online is a journey of creation and persistent hustle.” Jeff Bullas.
  • “If you don’t fail now and again, it’s a sign you’re playing it safe.” Woody Allen.
  • “Content marketing is not an expense but an investment in a digital asset.” Jeff Bullas.
  • “Done is better than perfect.” Jeff Bullas.
  • “5 times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy.” David Ogilvy.

One thing that struck me, and my colleagues at sales will probably be infuriated by this, is when Jeff summed up the purpose of content marketing by recounting what a friend of his used to say, “Selling you call them. Marketing they call you.”

Of course, I think this depends on the level of complexity of your products or services, but rightly so, I don’t think anyone particularly enjoys a cold call from a salesperson; I know I don’t.


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