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How to Stand Out: a Content Marketer’s Guide – AWESOMEISM

Let’s continue the work we started over the last two weeks, talking about how you can get your content to stand out from the torrent of other stuff that’s been coming down the line lately. This week, we’re talking about awesomeism.

In an excellent article called “The Cognitive Processes Mediating Acceptance of Advertising,” Peter Wright, Professor of Business Administration at the University of Indiana, proved via experimentation that the most common reasons people discard an advertisement off-hand are

  1. Internal Counterpoint: When the person receiving the advertisement encounters information that is contrary to an existing belief system. For example, if they hear “SEO is dead” and they do SEO for a living, the choice between ‘believe your claim’ and ‘believe that their job is secure’ is a pretty obvious one for them: they’re going to discard your claim.
  2. Source Derogation: When the person receiving the advertisement recognizes the source of a particular claim as one that they believe they should distrust. For example, if they hear “SEO is dead” from the CEO of an offline advertising firm, the rather obvious interest that CEO has in convincing others of that claim will cause them to discard the opinion of the CEO (unless they already have an internal belief structure that encourages them to accept the claim.)

This is important to our point here because, especially on the Internet, the only “source derogation” you need to be completely discarded is to find yourself wearing the identity of “that company trying to sell me something.”

Being an Awesomeist
In today’s massively over-commercialized world, if you come across as any kind of advertisement at all, you might as well be yelling “APPLY DIRECTLY TO THE FOREHEAD!” over and over again for all of the buy-in you’re going to get from the audience. But how do you make your content useful to your business if you’re deliberately avoiding business when you create your content? By being an AWESOMEIST instead of a “content creator.”

See, when you focus on the awesome, whether it’s ‘awesomely good’ or ‘awesomely bad,’ you turn that cognitive load we mentioned in part I against the consumer. Cognitive load has a ‘dark side’ in advertising, which is that if you busy the consumer’s brain with something other than your commercial message, they’re dramatically less likely to have those internal arguments — or even to consider the source long enough to mentally discard it. Fill your targets’ brains with awesome, and your commercial message seeps in through their unconscious rather than their active brain — which is where the most successful parts of content marketing happen.

Awesomeism I: Create To Entertain

If you create content that is entertaining, everyone will love you for it. The fact that you’re a business need only be a footnote — or it can be the entire focus of your content. I’ve brought them up over and over again, but seriously people — if Dollar Shave Club can create that video and win ten thousand customers, so can you. If Honda can create The Cog and sell ten thousand cars without saying a word, so can you. When your contents first purpose isn’t to make money, but to make people laugh or stare in wonder, you make money in the end regardless.

Awesomeism II: Create to Provoke
Equally potent: creating content that gets people upset. Not upset with you, but with you and upset. Band you and the consumer on the same side, together, against a common enemy (be it an actual entity, an abstract, or even a complete strawman — the identity of the enemy is actually the least important part.) Heck, in one famous example, a business banded together with the customers against itself. The key here is to bypass the ‘ignore the advertising’ instinct by creating content that is on the customer’s side. Nail that relationship right off the bat, and you instantly become awesome.

Awesomeism III: Create to Inspire
Perhaps the most difficult kind of content to create is the kind of content that motivates. That’s why there are people who make a living just being motivating. But once again, it comes down to bypassing the logical circuitry that performs the advertising-ignoring by engaging a more primal form of interaction. Create content that tells people what could be in a way that matters, and encourages them to imagine. I put that word in bold because it’s actually that important — it doesn’t matter how much you tell people that things could be better; if they can’t imagine their life being different, you won’t achieve the awesomeism effect.

Next week: standing out by creating content as a distraction. Yep, we’re going to delve into the Dark Arts of content marketing. See you then!

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