CMW 2017 Wrap, Part 2: Coke’s Storytelling, A Pulitzer Prize Winner & Joseph Gordon-Levitt

CMW 2017 Wrap, Part 2: Coke’s Storytelling, A Pulitzer Prize Winner & Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Backing up from her initial report from Content Marketing World 2017, Colloquial Australia GM Zeina Khodr (pictured below) has kindly regurgitated more of what the US conference had to offer.

Zeina Khodr

At CMW 2017, things get a little more complicated. You’re asked to custom curate your own session agenda via a personalised app (awesome), select from up to 16 tracks (mind-boggling), compete with almost 4,000 people for a seat (exhausting) and then spend the day in a constant state of FOMO (high anxiety).

As decision fatigue sets in and the time-zone challenge confused the brain, I managed to figure out a few conference hacks to get through the military-grade door scanners to infiltrate popular at capacity session to hear from speakers who piqued my interest, challenged my thinking and offered a fresh perspective of where this industry was heading.

Robert Rose, chief content adviser for the Content Marketing Institute, opened his keynote by dispelling the myth that content has been commoditised.

“It’s still as hard today to create a powerful piece of content as the first stone drawings,” he said.

“What’s happened over the last 17 years is that the business of content as a product has been disrupted by technology. Technology has disrupted the distribution and there have been many winners and losers.

“We’ve started to see media companies understand that content can serve as a marketing asset, driving loyalty and trust. The goal should be for brands to become audience-first companies and own addressable audiences.”

YouTube megastar Casey Neistat amused the audience with his no-bullshit approach to creating video content for brands such as Nike with a complete disregard for how creative content should be produced (he blew his video budget on a 10-day random journey around the world) and created a video that the marketing folks at Nike didn’t know what to do with it. It went on to have over 26 million views.

“As a marketer, your job is singular: penetrate the bullshit on the screen,” he said.

“The only way to engage people is because they choose to – they have complete agency over what they consume. What you create has to feel real and truthful.”

Coke showcased some of its ‘storytelling’. It was more branded content than content marketing, but nevertheless, Kate Santori made some salient points on how Coke infuses the magic of storytelling into marketing.

It’s not often Pulitzer Prize-winning authors make it on the agenda, but this year Colson Whitehead, best-selling author of The Underground Railroad, delivered a masterful presentation on the business of writing – often self-deprecating, but always honest – about how much impact fiction can really have on changing people’s mindset.

A great confluence of celebrity and relevance continued with Hollywood actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, most recently known for his portrayal of Edward Snowden in Snowden and well-known for his lip-synch battles with Jimmy Fallon.

Gordon-Levitt spoke mainly about his passion for building creative digital communities for collaboration. He believes it’s critical that creative communities be fairly compensated for their ideas and creativity. Gordon-Levitt’s creative platform,, encouraged content creators to share and remix content, and build on the idea of the community to truly collaborate. Any royalties amassed are then fairly distributed back to the content creators.

CM World 2017 occasionally blurred the lines between branded content and content marketing with a smattering of tech talk, while attempting to cater to a wildly diverse audience of brand marketers, agencies, digital folk and content creators. It’s a mega feat to cover so much ground across multiple streams aimed at so many people. Here are the key takeaways that had impact, delivered new insights and provided a clarion call for brands who don’t prioritise and build addressable audiences:

  • The first commandment of content marketing: everything begins and ends with the audience. (@kirkcheyfitz)
  • Advertising is in crisis. This is an epic moment for content marketing, so tell the story better. (@kirkcheyfitz)
  • Content marketing represents the new craft of advertising. Combine relevance, personalisation and emotion. (@dgshulman)
  • We’re in an eight-second attention span world, so when you create your content, you had better create the best answer on the internet. (@dgshulman)
  • Build better mousetraps (websites) and use content as the cheese. (@crestodina)
  • We’re bought up that marketing lies, notoriously and shamelessly. Challenge convention to remove the marketing defence barrier. (@dougkessler)
  • Stop focusing on reach and start obsessing over resonance. (@jayacunzo)
  • Turbocharge the turtle (your brand) and amplify content from the inside of your business out to win new audiences. (@frankmacri)
  • Everyone is creating content, everyone wants to read content, and it’s likely that the majority of it sucks and won’t even be seen. (@zeinakhodr)

And my personal favourite from all-time legend Jay Baer of Convince and Convert, who is also a New York Times best-selling author of five books:

“Stop the random acts of content. Content success is harder than ever, especially since we are fighting the robots. Add the secret sauce of humanity and get more relevant. Don’t waste money on content that doesn’t perform. Have a laser focus on content relevance, trustworthiness, and memorability. You’re competing for attention and being relevant is the killer app.”

After all, you can’t advertise your way out of mediocrity, but you can always tell more relevant stories.

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