When Content Marketing Institute (CMI), the company my wife and I started in 2007, began to take off in 2011, we received a lot of credit for its originality.
Except, that the entire concept wasn’t even close to being original.
I’ll come back to this example in a second. But, for now, let’s talk about Adam Alter.
Adam Alter is a two-time New York Times bestselling author, as well as Associate Professor of Marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business.
In a recent Prof G podcast, Alter discussed the concept of recombination. The idea is that finding originality today is nearly impossible. In his research with musicians and other artists, Alter states that all the building blocks around creating art have already been developed. So, today’s creator must recombine already developed elements into something that seems original.
When Rock music was first created, was it new? You could argue that it wasn’t.
In the late 1940s, country music and blues were extremely popular. Well, just add electric guitars and a steady drumbeat, and presto, Rock N’ Roll.
I’ve seen so many marketers and content creators struggle to find original concepts. Breaking through all the content clutter out there does not mean you have to be original (which Alter says is impossible). So let’s recombine.
Okay, back to CMI.
First, let’s talk about content marketing. Content marketing was not an original concept. The practice had been around hundreds of years. For example, in 1739, Ben Franklin used content marketing to sell more printing by developing Poor Richard’s Almanack.
It actually went by many names, including corporate media, custom media, custom content, member media and more. But in the early 2000s, most marketing and publishing executives called in custom publishing. I believed that marketers would not embrace any practice without calling it “something” marketing (see search engine marketing or direct marketing).
Okay, how about the idea of calling it an institute?
In 2008 I sat in an American Business Media executive meeting and listened to Peter Hoyt speak. Peter was CEO of Hoyt Publishing, a family-owned media company. Hoyt stated that the name Hoyt Publishing limited many opportunities, so the company changed its name to the In-Store Marketing Institute (renamed later as Point-of-Purchase Institute).
Upon making that change, Hoyt’s revenues skyrocketed. “The institute really caught on and developed into something much bigger than I thought it would be,” Hoyt said. “It has provided millions of dollars in new revenue and profit. Our net operating profit went from 7% in 2006 to 19% in 2008, and we keep reinvesting that yield to further serve the industry.”
Hoyt’s experiences were a direct reason why we changed our name to Content Marketing Institute. Not sexy by any means, but the name change positioned us as immediate experts.
Again, not an original concept at all.
So what’s the point of all this? Simply put, stop trying to be original. It can’t be done.
Instead, let’s take two successful, but independent concepts, and combine them to create something that seems like new. Now that can be your content tilt, or hook, or differentiation.
And it can make all the difference.
Why Did John Krasinski Stop Some Good News?
My wife and I were wondering the other day…why did John Krasinski (from Jack Ryan and The Office fame) stop producing his hit YouTube show, Some Good News?
Well, it turns out he sold it ViacomCBS.
Krasinski’s plan was to do eight episodes during quarantine. After that, he believed his only options were full stop or sell it (so someone else could keep it going).
What I like about this? First, he actually had a frequency plan. Most companies don’t. Second, he sold at the height of the show’s popularity (in my opinion).
That said, it will be almost impossible to duplicate the success of the “new” show under the corporate umbrella. One reason Some Good News was successful because it lacked all corporate feel.
I would have loved to see Krasinski build this out into something big…but hey…I get it. He personally didn’t want to do it anymore, and if your heart isn’t in it, it makes for a terrible life.
Earlier this week Breitbart released a video of a group of doctors claiming some things about COVID-19 that are false. It was viewed 14 million times in six hours.
The video was retweeted by the U.S. President and his son.
Twitter, Facebook and YouTube quickly (but probably not quick enough) banned the video from its networks.
One of my close friends texted the video to me, saying that the “mainstream media” is trying to keep the truth from U.S. citizens by blocking the video.
Sometimes there are reasons I get headaches.
Look, I don’t know which way you lean. You’re an adult and can make your own decisions. But I did find this amazing article in The Atlantic that breaks down conspiracy theories.
“To paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson: The louder someone talks about how ‘the mainstream media won’t cover this,’ the faster you need to count your spoons. Nothing is so flimsy, so overspun, or so poorly sourced that it cannot be made to look like a scandal by conjuring the specter of a vast media conspiracy that’s repressing it. A story’s weakness becomes a strength: Other outlets’ refusal to follow up on it can be depicted as sinister. Viewers are seduced by the promise of access to hidden knowledge, which will ensure that they alone know what’s really going on.”
Back to my friend for a second. He wants videos like these to remain up and let the people decide what is true or not true.
He happens to own a restaurant. My wife had the best response. She said, “what if there was a video going around about your restaurant. The video showed rats and code violations and other things that weren’t true. Wouldn’t you want that video removed?”
My friend’s answer was a quick “of course I would want it removed. It’s not true.”
And that’s all I have to say about that.
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