Content Marketing Lessons From A 9th Grade Mixtape

Modern marketers recognize that search and social are the gateways to consumers, and quality content is the means of discovery. As companies create communication plans to meet consumers' needs, marketers face an important decision -- should they curate content from leading publishers and share it on their digital platforms or should they create their own original content? There are advantages to each approach, but it is only through original content creation that marketers will make meaningful, lasting impressions.

I found the limitations of content curation many years ago. Back in the 9th grade, I meticulously constructed mixtapes for the girls I had crushes on. Through curating music, I used the voices of others to express my feelings. Meanwhile, my buddy Andy taught himself how to sing and play the guitar. He started a band called Pizza. I spent the weekends alone in my room, singing along to Babyface while Andy and his guitar fought off attention from girls. So what can marketers learn from this?   



Lesson 1: Originality gets noticed first

Curated content can’t help marketers reach new consumers through search. In fact, search engines penalize Web sites that publish duplicate content and encourage webmasters to block syndicated content from their indexes. Marketers seeking to reach consumers through search should follow the core principles of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and make their Web sites stand out through original content.

Lesson 2: Memorable content wins

Original content can have a profound effect on people. Created properly, it can strike a chord with audiences, pushing them to share the content with their social networks. In order to be genuine and strike the right chord, marketers must know their audience inside out. Girls may not talk about my mixtapes today, but they likely remember the songs Andy played for them after school.

Lesson 3: Content creators are the best promoters

While I poured over my record collection alone, Andy teamed up with three of his friends to write music. Not only did he have three band members who helped him create the music, but he also had three other people who cared about promoting it just as much as he did.

Marketing managers who focus on content curation often work alone. They are also unlikely to aggressively promote their content feeds authentically. Those who focus on original content creation typically leverage their personal networks to increase reach.

Lesson 4: Don't neglect curation altogether    

It's fairly easy to select a few great songs to make a mixtape. Content curation provides brands with similar results. It's easy to surf the Web and repurpose articles. However, there is a limit to how frequently a brand can do this before they dilute the user experience.

Curation in combination with original content can be quite powerful. For example, Cisco elevates its brand by presenting its original content directly alongside content curated from leading publications on its Futurist Feed Flipboard.

Content creation humanizes your brand

Your ideas are unique, and content marketing gives you a voice. When you pay attention to your audience, you know exactly what to say to them. It’s a matter of showing customers that you get it. Put yourself in their shoes, and you instantly humanize your brand through honest communication.

Reaching and engaging consumers online isn’t all that different from trying to impress a girl in high school. You can give her something she’s seen and heard before -- or you can create something new to show her you’re unique and different from all the others. If I could go back to high school and do it all again, I’d definitely join a rock band.


3 comments about "Content Marketing Lessons From A 9th Grade Mixtape".
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  1. Steven Sevell from Sevell+Sevell, Inc., September 25, 2013 at 6:06 p.m.

    Great article. Love the angle from which the lessons you shared was learned! Thanks.

  2. Michael Gerard from Curata, September 26, 2013 at 8:56 a.m.

    I like how you've integrated your 9th grade experience into the story John, but I'm sorry, I'll have to respectfully disagree with your post. . . especially your comment that:

    "It is only through original content creation that marketers will make meaningful, lasting impressions."

    Too many marketers today are under the impression that they can be the sole source of original content for their audience. Best-in-class marketers (e.g., IBM (, Adobe (, Intel ( have already come to the realization that to best meet their audience's needs, they need to complement their created content with curated content. Buyers want to view different opinions and perspectives as they read your own created content; and if you can deliver to them the best that the Web has to offer along with your own insight (i.e., through curation), then you've increased your value add and audience engagement.

    You hint at this in your Lesson 4, but neglect to give proper notice to marketers that the next stage of evolution in content marketing is to better leverage content creation by complementing it with content curation.

  3. John Shea from Skyword, September 26, 2013 at 10:49 a.m.

    Thanks for the comments Michael and Steven.

    Michael, Are you more interested in a playlist from your local music store or one from your favorite musician? IMO, you have to create great content to earn credibility and only then can you unlock value from curation.

    I agree that a good combination can be very powerful. However, I have a different read on the evolution of the landscape than you do.... Because curation is so easy (thanks in part to companies like yours!) most marketers have started there and are only now realizing that if they want to drive improved search visibility and more meaningful engagement in social -- they need to put more effort behind telling their own stories..

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