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‘Bah, Humbug!’ Why Negative Content Turns In Such Positive Results



‘Bah, Humbug!’ Why Negative Content Turns In Such Positive Results

People love to hate Steven Singer.

That “hate” is so pervasive that the jewelry retailer’s website is: The company is so committed to celebrating the “hate” that it doesn’t even own the domain

What’s behind all that “hate” pervading Philadelphia radio and satellite airwaves? (The company says it’s the longest-running advertiser on The Howard Stern Show.) It’s the story of customer feedback (possibly apocryphal) that launched a marketing campaign that’s lasted for years.

It’s also a story about the power of contrarian thinking – a helpful reminder for content marketers.

@IHSS (I Hate Steven Singer) shows the power of contrarian thinking, a useful #ContentMarketing lesson, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Contrarian strategy stands out in a gift-driven market

The website’s History page recounts the origin story: A Steven Singer customer returned 20 years after buying an engagement ring to buy another diamond ring for their anniversary. About nine months later, the couple returned to the jewelry store to show off their new baby. The wife exclaimed, “I love Steven Singer,” to which the husband responded, “Here we go again. We’re up all night with feedings and diaper changes. I HATE Steven Singer.”

(Here’s the audio explanation used in their commercials.)

Image source

Steven Singer Jewelers turned that funny comment into a brand point of view.

A blog post called Why Hate Steven Singer explains recounts why big retailer jewelers hate Steven Singer:

  • Steven Singer Jewelers says it doesn’t discount because it offers the best price from the beginning and mocks other jewelers’ big discount sales
  • The independent jeweler criticizes the lower-quality diamonds sold by the big stores, referring to them by their industry name, “frozen spit.”
  • Steven Singer lets customers upgrade purchases from the company by giving them a trade-in value equivalent to the price they originally paid.

The contrarian messaging continues throughout the site. The site list the business address as “the other corner of Eighth and Walnut” in Philadelphia. Even the Oops message (shown below) continues the theme, declaring, “Steven hated this page … so he moved it. Try these instead.”

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How to craft a contrarian content marketing approach

A contrarian or negative approach can transform your content marketing strategy.

The goal is to get your audience to say, “Wait, what?!”

Subverting the expectations of audiences dulled to similar messaging gives them pause – and entices them to decipher what you’re talking about.

You can apply elements of opposite or negative thinking to individual assets or make it the “voice” of your content, as Steven Singer does.

A contrarian, negative, or opposite-thinking strategy is bold –some people may not understand what you’re doing. Just make sure your brand’s leadership does. Otherwise, they’ll stop it almost as soon as you publish it.

Here are a few ways to put that strategy into action (once it’s approved).

A contrarian or negative #ContentStrategy is bold. Not everyone will get it. Just make sure your leadership does, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent Click To Tweet

Write an unexpected lead

Start small by crafting introductions to articles using opposite messaging. This small step can help you test whether your audience is receptive to this approach.

Try this exercise internally to ensure your team understands what you want them to do: Give the writers an article you already published and ask them to rewrite the lead following the contrarian, negative, or opposite-thinking strategy.


Fast Company published an article with this intro:

After nearly three years of a global pandemic and months, if not years, of working from home, the main thing drawing workers back to their offices is the desire to simply focus on their work. But at the same time, offices in the U.S. have hit a 15-year low when it comes to how effective they are for enabling focused work.

This troubling mismatch is one of the top takeaways from the 2022 U.S. Workplace Survey from the Gensler Research Institute, the research arm of the global architecture and design firm Gensler.

Contrarian-strategy revision:

U.S. workers don’t know what they’re talking about.

That’s the revelation from the 2022 U.S. Workplace Survey from the Gensler Research Institute.

Its survey found the most popular reason for workers wanting to return to the office is to focus on their individual work. Yet, it also finds U.S. offices are at a 15-year low in how effective they are for enabling focused work.

The original version focuses on what people say they want. The negative-strategy version exposes the mismatch between what people say they want and the reality of office environments.

The tone is eye-catchingly negative, and the sentence makes a U.S.-based audience curious to discover why they may be wrong.

Dig deeper for thought leadership content

You’ll attract a bigger audience if your thought leadership isn’t the same old same old. But that doesn’t mean you should take an opposing view if you don’t believe it.

The next time you tackle a thought leadership asset, research what’s already written or said about the topic and how it’s typically expressed. Then, ask if your view on the topic differs from your content competitors’.

If so, brainstorm the possibilities and pick the one most relevant to your audience. If not, you can still create something different by looking for an underdeveloped or unaddressed point or angle on this topic.

When reacting to published research, most people write thought leadership pieces around the first statistic or two. To create something that bucks the mainstream (without taking an opposite view you don’t believe), go deeper into the results. Find different stats relevant to your interest audience and frame your content around that.

You’ll attract more attention if your approach to thought leadership avoids the same-old story, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet


Let’s use the 2022 U.S. Workplace Survey again. The Fast Company article focused on the workplace effectiveness chart presented on the webpage for the report (as the screenshot below shows).

Screenshot showing a research chart near the top of Gensler site page called How can we design a more compelling office of the future?

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Unexpected alternative:

But you can dig deeper into the research to find a fresh angle.

With most people focused on the first or most obvious chart, look for something less expected buried deeper in the research.

The chart at the bottom of the report web page (as shown in the screenshot below) looks at the respondents’ “ideal mix” of experiences for a company workplace. The chart shows the percentages for eight categories: clubhouse, coffee shop, library, creative lab, boutique hotel, residential, conference center, and corporate.

Screenshot showing a research chart near the bottom of a website page.

Image source

A content marketer in a relevant industry could craft a thought leadership piece around the office experiences workers want.

Think beyond content creation

While the Steven-Singer strategy makes sense for content creation, it also can work for other components of your content marketing program.

Marketers often want to know the best time and day to send an email, post to social, etc. You do a Google search and find Tuesdays are the best day to send emails. That same report indicates that the best time to send email is between 9 a.m. and noon.

Of course, since so many others will see that same window listed as a best practice, email inboxes get flooded between 9 a.m. on noon on Tuesdays. Why not send your emails later in the day or on a different day of the week?

Test the alternate send time for a few weeks to see if that opposite-thinking strategy works for your audience. If not, you can always switch back.

Don’t forget about your content formats, either.

CMI’s most recent B2B research found that most marketers (89%) use articles and posts of less than 1,500 words for content marketing. Other commonly used formats include:

  • Videos of any length (75%)
  • Case studies (67%)
  • Virtual events/webinars/online courses (62%)
  • Infographics/charts/data visualization/3D models (61%)
  • Long articles/posts (more than 1,500 words)
  • E-books and white papers (59%)
  • In-person events (49%)

On the other hand, only 17% of marketers use print magazines and books.

That’s an opposite-strategy opportunity. Could you develop a print magazine for your audience? Given how few marketers do, your content would stand out.

If print isn’t feasible, think about other lesser-used types, such as audio content (used by 33% of marketers), research reports (used by 30%), or livestreaming content (16%).

TIP: An opposite-thinking strategy for content formats doesn’t require you to abandon the original format. Look for ways to repurpose content planned for popular formats into less-used ones.

You can apply an opposite-thinking content strategy without rejecting common formats, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Become the most ‘hated’ content marketing

Your content competitors will only continue to grow in the months, decades, and years to come. The need to stand out and attract attention and interest from your audience never goes away.

With that in mind, adopting a Steven-Singer strategy for your content makes sense. And who knows? It might just be the ticket to results that everybody likes.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.


Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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(Re)Introducing your favorite Optimizely products!



(Re)Introducing your favorite Optimizely products!

It’s important to us that you, our valued customers and partners, can identify with the tools you use daily.  

In that pursuit, Optimizely set out to simplify the way we talk about our product suite. That starts, first and foremost, with the words we use to refer to the technology.  

So, we’ve taken a hard look at everything in our portfolio, and are thrilled to introduce new names we believe are more practical, more consistent, and better representative of the technology we all know and love.  

You may have seen some of these names initially at Opticon 2022 as well as on our website. In the spirit of transparency, the team here at Optimizely wanted to make sure you had full visibility into the complete list of new names, as well as understand the context (and rationale) behind the changes. 

So, without further ado… 

Which names changed?  

Some, but not all. For your ongoing reference, below is a complete list of Optimizely products, with previous terminology you may be familiar with in the first column, and (if applicable) the new name in the second column.  

Used to be… 

Is now (or is still)… 



Optimizely Digital Experience Platform 

A fully-composable solution designed to support the orchestration, monetization, and experimentation of any type of digital experience — all from a single, open and extensible platform. 

Content Cloud 

Optimizely Content Management System 

A best-in-class system for building dynamic websites and helping digital teams deliver rich, secure and personalized experiences. 


Optimizely Content Marketing Platform 

An industry-leading and user-friendly platform helping marketing teams plan campaigns, collaborate on tasks, and author content. 


Optimizely Digital Asset Management 

A modern storage tool helping teams of any size manage, track, and repurpose marketing and brand assets (with support for all file types). 

Content Recs 

Optimizely Content Recommendations 

AI-powered and real-time recommendations to serve the unique interests of each visitor and personalize every experience. 

B2B Commerce 

Optimizely Configured Commerce 

A templatized and easy-to-deploy platform designed to help manufacturers and distributors drive efficiency, increase revenue and create easy buying experiences that retain customers. 

Commerce Cloud 

Optimizely Customized Commerce 

A complete platform for digital commerce and content management to build dynamic experiences that accelerate revenue and keep customers coming back for more. 


Optimizely Product Information Management 

A dedicated tool to help you set up your product inventory and manage catalogs of any size or scale. 

Product Recs 

Optimizely Product Recommendations 

Machine-learning algorithms optimized for commerce to deliver personalized product recommendations in real-time. 


Optimizely Web Experimentation 

An industry-leading experimentation tool allowing you to run A/B and multi-variant tests on any channel or device with an internet connection. 

Full Stack 

Optimizely Feature Experimentation 

A comprehensive experimentation platform allowing you to manage features, deploy safer tests, and roll out new releases – all in one place. 


Optimizely Personalization 

An add-on to core experimentation products, allowing teams to create/segment audiences based on past behavior and deliver more relevant experiences. 

Program Management 

Optimizely Program Management 

An add-on to core experimentation products, allowing teams to manage the end-to-end lifecycle of an experiment. 


Optimizely Data Platform 

A centralized hub to harmonize data across your digital experience tools, providing one-click integrations, AI-assisted guidance for campaigns, and unified customer profiles. 


So, why the change?  

 It boils down to three guiding principles:  

  1. Uniformity: Create a naming convention that can be applied across the board, for all products, to drive consistency 
  2. Simplicity: Use terms that are both practical and concise, ensuring the names are something that everyone can understand and identify with  
  3. Completeness: Develop a framework that showcases the full and complimentary nature of all the products and solutions within the Optimizely suite 

 As the Optimizely portfolio comes together as a complete, unified platform, it’s important that our names reflect this, as well as support our 3 key solutions (i.e. orchestrate amazing content experiences, monetize every digital experience, and experiment across all touchpoints).  

Other questions? We’ve got you covered. 

Q: Why have you made these product name changes? 

    • We wanted to simplify how we talk about our portfolio. The renaming applies a naming convention that is both practical and concise.  


Q: Do the new product name changes affect the products I own? 

    • No, there is no impact to product functionality or capabilities.  


Q: Do the new product name changes affect who is my Customer Success Manager or Account Manager?  

    • No, there are no changes to your Customer Success Manager or Account Manager. 


Q: Do the new product name changes affect the ownership of the company?  

    • No, ownership of the company has not changed. We have only made changes to the Product Names. 


Q: Have any contact details changed that I need to be aware of?  

    • Only contact details for former Welcome customers has changed. These are the new contact details you should be aware of: Optimizely, Inc.| 119 5th Ave | 7th Floor | New York, NY 10003 USA. Phone: +1 603 594 0249 | 


Q: Where can I send any follow up questions I might have?  

    • If you have any questions about the Product Names, please contact your Customer Success Manager or Account Manager.  

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Email Marketing Trends 2023: Predictions by the Industry Stalwarts



Email Marketing Trends 2023: Predictions by the Industry Stalwarts

Every year, we see new trends entering the world of email marketing.

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5 Simple Things You Can Do To Improve the Content Experience for Readers



5 Simple Things You Can Do To Improve the Content Experience for Readers

Who doesn’t like to have a good experience consuming content?

I know I do. And isn’t that what we – as both a consumer of content and a marketer of content – all want?

What if you create such a good experience that your audience doesn’t even realize it’s an “experience?” Here’s a helpful mish-mash of easy-to-do things to make that possible.

1. Write with an inclusive heart

There’s nothing worse than being in a conversation with someone who constantly talks about themselves. Check your text to see how often you write the words – I, me, we, and us. Now, count how often the word “you” is used. If the first-person uses are disproportionate to the second-person uses, edit to delete many first-person references and add more “you” to the text.

You want to let your audience know they are included in the conversation. I like this tip shared in Take Binary Bias Out of Your Content Conversations by Content Marketing World speaker Ruth Carter: Go through your text and replace exclusionary terms such as he/him and she/her with they/them pronouns.

Go through your text and replace exclusionary terms such as he/him and she/her with they/them pronouns, says @rbcarter via @Brandlovellc @CMIContent. #WritingTips Click To Tweet

2. Make your content shine brighter with an AI assist

Content published online should look different than the research papers and essays you wrote in school. While you should adhere to grammar rules and follow a style guide as best as possible, you also should prioritize readability. That requires scannable and easily digestible text – headings, bulleted text, short sentences, brief paragraphs, etc.

Use a text-polishing aid such as Hemingway Editor (free and paid versions) to cut the dead weight from your writing. Here’s how its color-coded review system works and the improvements to make:

  • Yellow – lengthy, complex sentences, and common errors
    • Fix: Shorten or split sentences.
  • Red – dense and complicated text
    • Fix: Remove hurdles and keep your readers on a simpler path.
  • Pink – lengthy words that could be shortened
    • Fix: Scroll the mouse over the problematic word to identify potential substitutes.
  • Blue – adverbs and weakening phrases
    • Fix: Delete them or find a better way to convey the thought.
  • Green – passive voice
    • Fix: Rewrite for active voice.

Grammarly’s paid version works well, too. The premium version includes an AI-powered writing assistant, readability reports, a plagiarism checker, citation suggestions, and more than 400 additional grammar checks.

In the image below, Grammarly suggests a way to rephrase the sentence from:

“It is not good enough any longer to simply produce content “like a media company would”.


“It is no longer good enough to produce content “as a media company would”.

Much cleaner, right?

3. Ask questions

See what I did with the intro (and here)? I posed questions to try to engage with you. When someone asks a question – even in writing – the person hearing (or reading) it is likely to pause for a split second to consider their answer. The reader’s role changes from a passive participant to an active one. Using this technique also can encourage your readers to interact with the author, maybe in the form of an answer in the comments.

4. Include links

Many content marketers include internal and external links in their text for their SEO value. But you also should add links to help your readers. Consider including links to help a reader who wants to learn more about the topic. You can do this in a couple of ways:

  • You can link the descriptive text in the article to content relevant to those words (as I did in this bullet point)
  • You can list the headlines of related articles as a standalone feature (see the gray box labeled Handpicked Related Content at the end of this article).

Add links to guide readers to more information on a topic – not just for SEO purposes says @Brandlovellc via @CMIContent. #WritingTips Click To Tweet

You also can include on-page links or bookmarks in the beginning (a table of contents, of sorts) in longer pieces to help the reader more quickly access the content they seek to help you learn more about a topic. This helps the reader and keeps visitors on your website longer.

5. Don’t forget the ‘invisible’ text

Alt text is often an afterthought – if you think about it all. Yet, it’s essential to have a great content experience for people who use text-to-speech readers. Though it doesn’t take too much time, I find that customizing the image description content instead of relying on the default technology works better for audience understanding.

First, ask if a listener would miss something if they didn’t have the image explained. If they wouldn’t, the image is decorative and probably doesn’t need alt text. You publish it for aesthetic reasons, such as to break up a text-heavy page. Or it may repeat information already appearing in the text (like I did in the Hemingway and Grammarly examples above).

If the listener would miss out if the image weren’t explained well, it is informative and requires alt text. General guidelines indicate up to 125 characters (including spaces) work best for alt text. That’s a short sentence or two to convey the image’s message. Don’t forget to include punctuation.

General guidelines indicate up to 125 characters (including spaces) work best for alt text, says @Brandlovellc via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

For both decorative and informative images, include the photo credits, permissions, and copyright information, in the caption section.

For example, if I were writing an article about Best Dogs for Families, I would include an image of a mini Bernedoodle as an example because they make great family pets. Let’s use this image of my adorable puppy, Henri, and I’ll show you both a good and bad example of alt text.

An almost useless alt-text version: “An image showing a dog.”

Author’s tri-colored (brown, white, black, grey wavy hair), merle mini Bernedoodle, Henri, lying on green grass.

It wastes valuable characters with the phrase “an image showing.”

Use the available characters for a more descriptive alt text: “Author’s tri-colored (brown, white, black, grey wavy hair), merle mini Bernedoodle, Henri, lying on green grass.”

It’s more descriptive, and I only used 112 characters, including spaces.

Want to learn more? Alexa Heinrich, an award-winning social media strategist, has a helpful article on writing effective image descriptions called The Art of Alt Text. @A11yAwareness on Twitter is also a great resource for accessibility tips.

Improve your content and better the experience

Do any of these suggestions feel too hard to execute? I hope not. They don’t need a bigger budget to execute. They don’t need a lengthy approval process to implement. And they don’t demand much more time in production.

They just need you to remember to execute them the next time you write (and the time after that, and the time after that, and the … well, you get the idea.)

If you have an easy-to-implement tip to improve the content experience, please leave it in the comments. I may include it in a future update.

All tools mentioned in the article are identified by the author. If you have a tool to suggest, please feel free to add it in the comments.

If you have an idea for an original article you’d like to share with the CMI audience, you could get it published on the site. First, read our blogging guidelines and write or adjust your draft accordingly. Then submit the post for consideration following the process outlined in the guidelines.

In appreciation for guest contributors’ work, we’re offering free registration to one paid event or free enrollment in Content Marketing University to anyone who gets two new posts accepted and published on the CMI site in 2023.


Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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