Thursday, October 02, 2014

What Kevin Spacey said about content marketing

His top three tips for marketers and how they apply in financial services


Joe Pullizzi, founder of Content Marketing World welcomes Kevin Spacey (House of Cards, American Beauty, The Usual Suspects @KevinSpacey) to Cleveland’s CMW 2014

You’re probably thinking what I’m thinking: why the hell would Hollywood legend Kevin Spacey care about content marketing, much less talk to 2,500 marketers about why it matters?
The short answer is a shared passion for good stories.
Stories that contain conflict, stories that are authentic and stories that connect with our audience.
Content Marketing World
A little over a week ago the world’s largest gathering of content marketers invaded Cleveland’s centre and spilled over into the city’s outer suburbs in order to learn about the latest, greatest in content marketing. I was there with a narrow focus – to find out what we in financial services, wealth management and professional services in Australia need to learn or adapt from others who (frankly) lead. With a particular interest in search engine marketing (SEO), analytics (Google analytics but also the wider tool set) and lead nurturing for the finance sector I picked those sessions. Most sessions were great and are entirely translatable to our sector. More on that another time, but for now let’s focus on Mr Spacey’s wisdom…
What makes a good story?
With remarkable generousity Kevin Spacey took the audience on a journey through parts of his own career and his experience as a storyteller. He singled out conflict, authenticity and audiences as the three critical ingredients in the magical mix that makes good narrative.
And in that regard, we’re not so different: Kevin Spacey and marketers in financial services who ‘get’ content.
Conflict, he said, is “the essential thread of own lives…that tension between who we are, and who we want to be. How we respond to life’s events and which roads we choose often define our lives”.
This thought is so very evident in “House of Cards” where characters make choices that increasingly take them down a certain kind of path – often successfully, but with bloodless calculation and in a way that defines their character and narrows their future options as their own choices box them into increasingly narrow ways of being.
Sidebar: I’d argue financial sector brands face a similar defining set of choices right now about their marketing, content and online (social, search and the whole shooting match) direction. The choices we make now (for example about content marketing) could (in good or bad ways) define who we’re able to be in the future.
“Choose with care” might well be a financial services digital marketer’s motto as well as those Machiavellian House of Card characters’.
Spacey described how a decade ago he was interested in doing something outside what he’d already achieved, chosen and was expected of him. He took on the role of Artistic Director at London’s famous Old Vic theatre. Spacey describes the move as “something challenging, at the edges of my experience, that made me a better actor.”
“Our stories become richer and more interesting when they go against the subtle order of things to achieve something different and unexpected,” said Spacey of his personal journey, but also of the journey characters take in film.
And what is that idea, if not analogous to marketing’s “differentiation” holy grail? Seth Godin said it all when he asked us to make our businesses Purple Cows. While that’s a lot less subtle than Spacey’s message, it’s still asking us to buck the trend, be different – resist the usual.
“In an environment of spin, how do you keep in mind something that feels genuinely authentic to an audience?”
It’s a question for film-makers but equally relevant to financial services marketing – especially the corporate affairs folks telling a corporate or solution story.
The answer is good content. Whether film, TV or marketing, it must be narrowly conceived for, and delivered to increasingly niche audiences – so it really meets a need, solves a problem, delivers value. Spacey cites Netflix as a business that embraced brand and target marketing. Brands need to do the same.
Lose sight of our audience and we lose the game says Spacey. “We must strive, as Buzzfeed has done, to give them good stories…device and length are essential to understand. The audience doesn’t care about the platform, they care about the content”.
All true. For the finance industry, and creatives seeking to touch the hearts of viewers. These are the viewers who most likely are device hopping, time shifting and on the move as they consume content.

We’re all, in the end, talking to the same people.

How well we do it determines whether or not we deserve a first look, a regular read or cult-TV series addiction status.
Can your content cut it?

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