The second reason

I live by a maxim: never do anything for just one reason. Why? Two reasons (of course).

First, it means everything you do pays off twice as much. I used to write a blog for a magazine I edited. It created a digital presence for the mag (back when most trade titles didn’t even have a web site, much less daily content). But it was also a really handy way of creating and exploring story ideas that drew in reader feedback; and storing cuttings from around the web in an easy-to-find archive.

Second, it’s a means of offsetting disappointment. The web site I used to run got hardly any readers. But thanks to reason two, it was well worth continuing with it, regardless. Which, for the 300 or so hardy regular viewers, was great news.

This approach to life ought to be instinctive for content marketers. As a business, you want any marketing you do to influence purchasing decisions. If you’re spending money and you’re not getting any money back, that’s bad business, right?

Up to a point. The thing about great content is that it says something fundamental about your business, your brand, your connections, your mindset. Great content should be born out of deep instincts about where your brand is. It should articulate those instincts and feed back into your brand’s sense of itself.

Here’s a great example of what I mean: Scotts, a clothing company, has a blog. They hired James Brown, the guy who pretty much created the lads’ mag market with Loaded and runs Sabotage Times, to produce the content. And it fair zips off the screen.

(One might quibble with the number of listicles on there, but hey – sharing matters, and people share lists…)

The articles are very light on menswear promotion, and when they do reference clobber (which you’d expect any men’s lifestyle site to do) the Scotts plug is mild. The link at the end of each article is back to the merchant page, true. But this content is not just designed to sell jumpers and shoes.

This content is an affirmation – as much for Scotts’ own people as for its customers – of what the brand wants to be. There is a value in that, even if the microsite never yielded a single sale. The return will be the countless sales that being a lifestyle brand rather than a merchant brand will bring in the future from people who don’t want to be sold to. They want to buy a mode, a sense of self – and casual (pun intended), honest, non-salesy content will give them permission to do that at Scotts.

That takes guts in the marketing department. And hiring Brown – who’d likely tell clients where to stick it if they started forcing “calls to action” into otherwise cool copy about movies, music and sport – is a brave and smart decision that will help them stay the course. It’s a great example of the two-reason rule.

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