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Take Binary Bias Out of Your Content Conversations

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Take Binary Bias Out of Your Content Conversations

It’s a basic principle in marketing – create content that lets your audience know that your brand sees and hears them.

Optimizing your content conversations to be inclusive of transgender, nonbinary, or gender-nonconforming consumers will help you have a better chance of capturing their attention, deepening their engagement, and earning their loyalty. You also will gain respect from their supporters.

At Content Marketing World 2021, Ruth Carter – author, lawyer, and principal/“evil genius” at Carter Law Firm – spoke on the inclusion of nonbinary consumers in your content conversations. You can watch this follow-up interview with Ruth, then read on for additional insights, examples, and ideas from them to help you get started.

A small but influential community

Recent research shows than estimated 1.2 million adults in the U.S. are nonbinary – meaning they do not identify as strictly male or female. Given the nature of gender diversity and the linguistic, cultural, and societal norms associated with the topic, this is likely an underestimation.

Though other studies indicate their numbers may be on the rise – particularly as younger generations reach adulthood – they are a small minority of the estimated 334 million people in the U.S. While a small percent of the population, the nonbinary-inclusive audience also encompasses a large community of allies who support them and stand up for their rights.

A Public Religion Research Institute study found 76% of people support a law that says someone can’t discriminate against a person because of their gender, sexual orientation, or both. “Your company or your client may not care about [this tiny little group], but I bet they care about 76% of the audience they are trying to cater to. That’s what you’re risking by inadvertently or blatantly being discriminatory,” Ruth says.

76% of people support a law that says someone can’t discriminate based on gender, sexual orientation, or both, says @PRRIPol via @rbcarter @joderama @CMIContent @semrush. Click To Tweet

Consider the experience of Confections, a Texas-based bakery Confections, and its Facebook post wishing their LGBTQ friends a happy Pride Month:

The post resulted in a wave of unfollows and a last-minute cancellation of a large cookie order, which the owner detailed in a follow-up post: “I never thought a post that literally said more love, less hate would result in this kind of backlash to a very small business that is struggling to stay afloat and spread a little cheer through baked goods.”

1654166504 454 Take Binary Bias Out of Your Content Conversations

The local community of LGBTQ+ supporters took it as a call to action – and answered it in droves. A day later, Confections shared a new post to give thanks for all the love and support – and announce they sold out their cookie inventory:

Regardless of the size of the transgender and nonbinary population, Ruth bets both they and inclusivity advocates remember which companies actively welcome their business – and which ones stand on the sidelines – when making future purchases.
Transgender and nonbinary audiences, as well as inclusivity advocates, remember which companies actively welcome their business, says @rbcarter via @joderama @CMIContent @semrush. Click To Tweet

5 steps to evolve your content beyond binary boundaries

Trans and nonbinary people want to see their full, authentic selves represented in a brand’s experiences. While gender identity is a complex, personal, and evolving topic, making your content feel more welcoming and accepting of the nonbinary experience isn’t nearly as complicated.

In their presentation, Ruth suggests simple changes brands can make to acknowledge their unique experiences and ensure equal consideration.

1. Explore your brand experience through a nonbinary lens

If your content focuses on the male-female gender experience (Ruth describes this as “that 1950s stereotype of what a man is and what a woman is”), you exclude the perspectives of people who don’t fit those constructs.

If your #content focuses on the male-female gender experience, you exclude people who don’t fit those constructs, says @rbcarter via @joderama @CMIContent @semrush. Click To Tweet

To communicate more inclusively, put yourself in the shoes of somebody who doesn’t identify as male or female and walk through their customer journey. “Think about how they might experience [a brand] differently than a cisgendered audience and see if there are opportunities to shift to a [different] perspective,” Ruth says.

For example, clothing brand Levi’s announcement of its “genderless” Unlabeled Collection shifts the conversation by defining gender as being really confident in who you are and feeling free to identify yourself by name, not by a label of male or female.

2. Update your style bible, registration forms, and greetings

When you reference an individual in the third person, do you only use he/him, she/her pronouns? “What this phrasing communicates to me is that I don’t exist. I don’t deserve to be part of this community,” says Ruth, who recommends replacing these exclusionary terms with they/them pronouns. Incorporate the use of pronouns in your style guide and ensure your content team is aware of the change.

Gender bias often lurks in how speakers address audiences in group settings, such as an event or livestreaming video. Ruth says instead of starting with “Ladies and gentlemen,” go with a greeting like, “Welcome, everyone.” Brands can take this to the next level by creating a custom, gender-neutral term for your audience like the Green Bay Packers do with Cheeseheads to refer to its fans.

Similarly, the use of traditional honorifics like Mr., Mrs., or Ms. excludes trans and nonbinary people. If you use drop-down menus or checkboxes on your registration forms to collect gender demographics, make sure you include MX (pronounced “mix”) as a gender-neutral honorific option.

New Zealand telecommunications company Spark addresses this issue by changing how businesses collect gender data. Its Beyond Binary Code campaign (below) introduces a single piece of code that enables standard website forms to be updated to a more gender-inclusive alternative. They co-created it with OutLine Aotearoa, a mental health organization, and nonbinary communities.


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3. Make it easy to access and update their personal data

Speaking of data collection, Ruth points out that trans and nonbinary consumers may have used their birth-assigned name and gender when they created their original account with your business. Empower those who have later updated their name to affirm their authentic identity in your records. Be clear about any documentation required for validation purposes – i.e., if there are legal, financial, or other regulatory requirements involved.

Mastercard took a different approach to address the binary data dilemma: In 2020, the brand launched its True Name feature, which enables financial institutions to issue credit cards that display the customer’s first name – without requiring documentation to prove it was a legal name change. According to the company’s news release, their director of consumer marketing Anthony DeRojas conceived the initiative as a meaningful way to commemorate World Pride and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. “We wanted to go beyond being just a logo in a sea of other Pride sponsors,” says DeRojas. “We wanted to do something that was impactful for the community.”

It may seem like a small gesture, but it makes a big difference to customers like Asher: “Seeing a name you connect with feels like acceptance … being seen and acknowledged as the person you are … It will change lives.” As a bonus, the spot’s tagline Start Something Priceless fits in with the brand’s signature #Priceless hashtag.

Remember, creating content that reflects consumers’ authentic selves sends a powerful message. But to earn the full trust of this audience, that message needs to be consistently executed and affirmed through your brand’s words and deeds. Make sure the updated information they provide gets integrated into all the marketing automation or CRM systems your business uses to communicate with them so consumers aren’t misgendered in future messaging or direct conversations.

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4. Consider whether gender is contextually relevant to the story

Ruth advises marketers to refer to interview subjects and other sources by their preferred pronouns. (If you aren’t sure, ask them.) However, it’s not always necessary – or appropriate – to incorporate their gender identity in your storytelling. “I was on NPR, talking about how Arizona now issues nonbinary driver’s licenses. It made sense that my gender would be identified. But if it was me talking about trademark law, my gender would be pretty irrelevant,” Ruth says.

You also can incorporate gender inclusivity by featuring a wider range of personal experiences in your content or amplifying inclusivity on your media channels. It’s an approach that Pantene used in this emotionally powerful video celebrating LGBTQ+ pride in all its forms.

5. Listen to their conversations

Your audience often tells you what they need and want to see – you just need to pay attention.

As I mentioned earlier, transgender and nonbinary people often change their birth name to one that better suits who they are. Starbucks picked up on a discussion on social media about whether they’ve selected the right name. It responded with a way to try out their chosen name and see how it feels:

Just how much does it mean for this community to see a brand like Starbucks acknowledge the importance of this major life milestone? Ruth says it gave them goosebumps, and research psychologist and influential YouTuber Jammidodger treated his 900,000-plus audience to a heartfelt review of all the happy feels it gave him:

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Small step for your brand can be a giant leap for inclusion

To communicate more inclusively and forge stronger customer connections, eliminating gender bias from your brand’s conversations is a critical first step. For nonbinary people who have often felt ignored or invisible to brands, even making small adjustments to the language, syntax, and substance of your content conversations can be affirming and validating. As Ruth points out, your business doesn’t have to become an authority on the complicated subject of gender – it just takes an authentic desire to be part of the conversation.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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Xngage and HawkSearch join forces with a powerful connector

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Xngage and HawkSearch join forces with a powerful connector

The bar has been set by the industry leaders in UX and Merchandising, and our customers have stated their claim clearly – “to grow our market share, we must have an enterprise search experience that drives conversions.

Optimizely offers baseline search experiences within our commerce platform, which are designed to help companies get started with organizing and delivering SKUs to customers. These experiences utilize out-of-the-box algorithms and methods for sorting, categorizing, and customizing.

While Optimizely provides a foundation for search experiences, we knew there were users ready to take their search capabilities to the next level. This is where the Xngage and HawkSearch partnership promises to redefine how you approach search-driven experiences within Optimizely Configured Commerce. Our highly experienced partner Xngage has developed a seamless integration connector, a best-in-class accelerator for harnessing the power of HawkSearch.

The powerful partner in search

HawkSearch is known for its expertise in search-driven engagement, AI-powered product discovery, and no-code customizations. With a strong history of serving B2B customers with enterprise-level search solutions, it was a perfect choice to make HawkSearch directly available within Optimizely’s platform.

The expertise of Xngage made this connector a reality enabling Optimizely’s Configured Commerce customers to:

  • Easily plug directly into the HawkSearch service to share your products and their relevant data.
  • Utilize powerful unit of measure conversions, ensuring your customers can find exactly what they’re looking for.
  • Customize sorting and facets to deliver highly relevant results to customers.
  • Craft a personalized user experience with features like auto-complete and the new ‘instant engage’.

Customers can further explore HawkSearch’s capabilities in this on demand webinar and recap, which highlights the benefits and use cases of the Xngage connector for HawkSearch.

A powerful partner in digital growth

Xngage complements Optimizely perfectly, as they deliver robust solutions in the realm of digital content and commerce experiences. The development of the Xngage connector to HawkSearch is a part of their broader mission to empower manufacturers and distributors to serve their customers digitally. This alignment seamlessly fits with Optimizely, making our partnership with Xngage an ideal choice. 

Furthering their goal of digital growth, Xngage offers a range of holistic and complementary professional services, including:

  • User research & user experience design (UX)
  • Enterprise architecture & ERP integration
  • Product information management (PIM)
  • Ecommerce Implementations, and digital growth services.

To learn more about this highly experienced digital commerce partner visit Xngage.com.

The future of the partnership

This partnership is just the beginning. Xngage and HawkSearch are committed to working hand in hand to empower you with the tools and insights you need to elevate your ecommerce site. Stay tuned for future blogs, webinars, and resources that will help you make the most of this transformative alliance.

The future of ecommerce search has never looked more promising, and we’re excited to have you on this journey with us.

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Top 3 Strategies for Success

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Top 3 Strategies for Success

With the advent of e-commerce, manufacturers have unprecedented opportunities to expand their reach, streamline their operations, and enhance profitability. Amidst this digital revolution, adopting Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) is pivotal in optimizing production processes, quality control, and resource management.

As the lines between traditional brick-and-mortar sales and online commerce continue to blur, manufacturers increasingly realize the need to adapt and thrive in this new digital landscape. This article explores the top 3 strategies manufacturers can employ to succeed in e-commerce.

Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES)

MES (Manufacturing Execution System) is specialized application software designed to solve the tasks of synchronization, coordination, analysis, and optimization of production output within any production. MES systems belong to the class of shop floor-level management systems but can also be used for integrated production management at the enterprise as a whole.

MES collects and analyzes production processes, product demand, and inventory data. This allows manufacturers to adapt more quickly to changes in the market, reconfigure production to meet current requirements, and closely monitor trends. As a result, manufacturers can more easily predict and meet customer needs, which helps increase online sales.

MES helps in maintaining accurate inventory records and managing inventory turnover. This avoids overstock or shortages, which can affect a company’s ability to meet online demand and maintain customer service levels.

Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) enhance transparency and automate operations, reducing human errors and operational costs. Integrating Manufacturing CRM streamlines customer data, allowing manufacturers to tailor products, respond to market changes, and offer competitive prices in online stores. The synergy between MES and CRM creates an agile manufacturing environment, optimizing efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Content Marketing

Kapost’s research shows that companies in the B2B segment that blog get 67% more leads on average than companies that don’t. However, it’s worth remembering that content marketing requires a lot of resources to prepare and regularity in publishing it. This content can be, for example, brand identity and E-commerce logo, articles and videos, webinars, research, and interviews.

The content should help solve a specific problem to create the image of an expert and thus influence the decisions of potential customers. The topics discussed should not be chosen randomly. A little research in Google Trends will help select the main topic, discussion areas in the video, phrases, and words that should be included in the article. Publishing content based on such a prepared analysis allows you to achieve high positions in search engines. It provides a good user experience for customers looking for answers to product/service questions, comprehensively covering the subject matter.

The benefits of this e-commerce strategy are free traffic, increased user confidence, and the creation of an expert image.

Content marketing is a form of promotion that requires patience and time. Its effects will also depend on the quality of thecontent itself, its optimization, and promotion methods. No specific terms can be specified here.

YouTube channels as a form of content marketing

You can discuss your production process and show and test products on your YouTube channel. If someone is looking for information about a product and is unsure which brand to choose, they will likely find your video and maybe make a purchase. Remember to choose a title that matches the search query and prepare a video description with product links. You can send out an email to announce when new videos are released. Whenever you have particularly compelling videos, you could also promote them via texting notifications to drive even more traffic.

Utilize user-generated content and social media

Not utilizing the content that your users generate is a huge issue. This is because it’s not easy to refresh an e-commerce website and keep it alive. But photos and videos taken by real customers are great for this purpose.

Adding a “widget” that connects your online store’s website to its official social media accounts brings significant benefits. These include revitalizing your social media accounts, increasing your credibility as a manufacturer, inspiring other customers to buy, and encouraging repeat purchases.

Snapchat Planets

Snapchat’s “Planets” feature provides a unique and interactive way to engage with your e-commerce store’s audience. Here are some creative ideas on how to leverage Snapchat Planets to create engaging content:

  • Virtual Store Tours: Use the AR feature to create a virtual tour of your store. Each planet can represent different sections or categories of your store. For instance, one planet could showcase your latest collection, another could highlight bestsellers, and another could offer exclusive deals.
  • Product Launches: Announce new product launches by creating a cosmic journey. Users can travel from one planet to another, each unveiling a new product with engaging visuals and detailed descriptions. This creates a sense of excitement and discovery around new arrivals.
  • Interactive Shopping Experience: Create interactive shopping experiences where users can explore products in a fun and engaging way. For example, users can navigate through different planets to find hidden discounts or special offers, making shopping more interactive and rewarding.
  • Customer Rewards and Loyalty Programs: Develop a loyalty program where users earn points or rewards by exploring different planets. Each planet can offer unique rewards, such as discounts, free samples, or exclusive access to new collections. This gamifies the shopping experience and encourages repeat visits.
  • Themed Campaigns: Align your marketing campaigns with planetary themes. For instance, during holiday seasons, you can create a holiday-themed planet where users can find special holiday deals, gift ideas, and festive content.

By leveraging Snapchat Planets, you can transform your e-commerce store’s content into a captivating and interactive experience that keeps your audience engaged, entertained, and coming back for more.

Use newsletters to captivate your target audience

Newsletters can strengthen the connection with the consumer and demonstrate that shopping with you is safe and profitable. Remember that the more personalized the message, the more effective it will be. It should contain a call to action (CTA), such as a button that redirects to products.

Don’t forget to put a box to check for consent to process personal data when subscribing to the newsletter. Also, add an option to unsubscribe from the newsletter in each email.

A regular email account is not adapted for the newsletter, so do not use your everyday email address. This way, you risk being blacklisted by spam filters. The benefits of newsletters are optimizing advertising costs, increasing loyal audiences from different channels, and building mutually beneficial relationships with partners.

Print and PDF Channel

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In the digital landscape, the significance of Print and PDF channels cannot be underestimated for manufacturers engaging in e- commerce. The tactile experience of print offers unique psychological advantages, enhancing comprehension and retention, which are vital for technical manuals and complex product details. PDFs merge this benefit with digital accessibility, ensuring wide reach while maintaining format integrity. This dual-channel approach not only caters to diverse consumer preferences but also bolsters marketing efforts, making technical content more engaging and understandable. Utilizing catalog software further streamlines the integration of Print and PDF channels into e-commerce strategies, enhancing product presentation and distribution efficiency.

Contextual advertising: Google Ads

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If you want the advertising you invest in to have an immediate effect, it’s worth turning to Google Ads. Google displays paid ads in search results and on Google’s network of partners (on-site ads in the form of banners).

You bid when you search for a keyword for which advertisers have set up a campaign. The search engine determines who will appear in the search results and at what position. When assigning bids, the quality of the landing page, the quality of the ads, and the stated maximum bid per click are all considered.

To start setting up your campaign, simply login to your Google Ads account. Using the service is free, and you’ll find plenty of online tutorials on creating a campaign. However, you may find that it won’t generate valuable traffic if you don’t set it up optimally. Your budget will be wasted on clicks that won’t lead to conversions. This is why most companies resort to the help of agencies, including specialized agencies.

There is probably no industry in which Google Ads campaigns cannot be used. However, advertising can be moderately profitable if there is a lot of competition in the industry and margins are low.

The benefits of this e-commerce strategy are large audience reach, the ability to get the target audience as accurately as possible, and very detailed statistics on results.

The effect of launching a campaign should appear almost immediately. A properly set up campaign will increase traffic to the website. By systematically optimizing the campaign, you can achieve much better results.

You also can use paid Facebook Ads post promotion. It is important to pinpoint your target group, but how do you do it? A popular way is to draw up a customer portrait, that is, to make a collective image of your customer.

This considers age, gender, income level, location, interests and hobbies, and online behavior. Such a person will display a group interested in your services or goods.

Implement personalized product selections

Recommended product block and cross-selling are very powerful internet marketing strategies. In addition to the recommended product block, which shows the analogs of the product being viewed, it is worth paying attention to the website’s functionality.

As a rule, the products in the “You may also like” block are selected based on the pages previously viewed by the customer, his previous purchases on the website, as well as what was purchased by other customers with similar tastes. If this functionality is implemented technically sound, it can lead to additional items added to the shopping cart. “You may also like” block partly acts as an alternative to the advice of a specialist or consultant.

With blocks for cross-selling related products is a similar situation. Usually, in them are placed products from the same product line, collection, or simply those that perfectly match the product being viewed. You can use AI-powered live chats to proactively engage in customer conversations and suggest products based on their behavior.

Conclusion

E-commerce for manufacturers is a vast field, and in this article, we have presented the most popular and most effective forms of selling online. Remember, no effective e-commerce strategy exists. Each industry and business will have specifics. Try combining the above mentioned e-commerce strategies to maximize your chances of success and increase your profits.

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Why Even Crushing Content Failures Aren’t Mistakes

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Why Even Crushing Content Failures Aren’t Mistakes

Did you follow the Apple iPad Pro content debacle?

Here’s a quick recap. A recent online ad for the new iPad Pro showed a large hydraulic press slowly crushing various symbols of creativity. A metronome, a piano, a record player, a video game, paints, books, and other creative tools splinter and smash as the Sonny and Cher song All I Ever Need Is You plays.

The ad’s title? “Crush!”

The point of the commercial — I think — is to show that Apple managed to smush (that’s the technical term) all this heretofore analog creativity into its new, very thin iPad Pro.  

To say the ad received bad reviews is underselling the response. Judgment was swift and unrelenting. The creative world freaked out.

On X, actor Hugh Grant shared Tim Cook’s post featuring the ad and added this comment: “The destruction of the human experience. Courtesy of Silicon Valley.”

When fellow actor Justine Bateman shared the Tim Cook post, she simply wrote, “Truly, what is wrong with you?” Other critiques ranged from tone-challenged to wasteful to many worse things.

Actor Justine Bateman shared Tim Cook’s post on X, which featured the ad, and added this comment: "Truly, what is wrong with you?".

A couple of days later, Apple apologized and canceled plans to air the ad on television.

How not-so-great content ideas come to life

The level of anger surprises me. Look, the ad does show the eyeballs on an emoji-faced squishy ball popping under the plates’ pressure, but still. Calling the ad “actually psychotic” might be a skosh over the top.

Yes, the ad missed the mark. And the company’s subsequent decision to apologize makes sense.

But anyone who’s participated in creating a content misfire knows this truth: Mistakes look much more obvious in hindsight.

On paper, I bet this concept sounded great. The brainstorming meeting probably started with something like this: “We want to show how the iPad Pro metaphorically contains this huge mass of creative tools in a thin and cool package.”

Maybe someone suggested representing that exact thing with CGI (maybe a colorful tornado rising from the screen). Then someone else suggested showing the actual physical objects getting condensed would be more powerful.

Here’s my imagined version of the conversation that might have happened after someone pointed out the popular internet meme of things getting crushed in a hydraulic press.

“People love that!”

“If we add buckets of paint, it will be super colorful and cool.”

“It’ll be a cooler version of that LG ad that ran in 2008.”

“Exactly!”

“It’ll be just like that ad where a bus driver kidnaps and subsequently crushes all the cute little Pokémon characters in a bus!” (Believe it or not, that was actually a thing.)

The resulting commercial suffers from the perfect creative storm: A not-great (copycat) idea at the absolutely wrong time.

None of us know what constraints Apple’s creative team worked under. How much time did they have to come up with a concept? Did they have time to test it with audiences? Maybe crushing physical objects fit into the budget better than CGI. All these factors affect the creative process and options (even at a giant company like Apple).

That’s not an excuse — it’s just reality.

Content failure or content mistake?

Many ad campaigns provoke a “What the hell were they thinking?” response (think Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad or those cringy brand tributes that follow celebrity deaths).

Does that mean they’re failures? Or are they mistakes? And what’s the difference?

As I wrote after Peloton’s holiday ad debacle (remember that?), people learn to fear mistakes early on. Most of us hear cautionary messages almost from day one.

Some are necessary and helpful (“Don’t stick a knife in a live toaster” or “Look both ways before you cross the street.”) Some aren’t (“Make that essay perfect” or “Don’t miss that goal.”)

As a result, many people grow up afraid to take risks — and that hampers creativity. The problem arises from conflating failure and mistakes. It helps to know the difference.

I moved to Los Angeles in 1987 to become a rock ‘n’ roll musician. I failed. But it wasn’t a mistake. I wasn’t wrong to try. My attempt just didn’t work.

Labeling a failed attempt a “mistake” feeds the fears that keep people from attempting anything creative.

The conflation of failure and mistakes happens all too often in creative marketing. Sure, people create content pieces (and let’s not forget that there are always people behind those ideas) that genuinely count as mistakes.

They also create content that simply fails.

Don’t let extreme reactions make you fear failures

Here’s the thing about failed content. You can do all the work to research your audience and take the time to develop and polish your ideas — and the content still might fail. The story, the platform, or the format might not resonate, or the audience simply might not care for it. That doesn’t mean it’s a mistake.

Was the Apple ad a mistake? Maybe, but I don’t think so.

Was it a failure? The vitriolic response indicates yes.

Still, the commercial generated an impressive amount of awareness (53 million views of the Tim Cook post on X, per Variety.) And, despite the apology, the company hasn’t taken the ad down from its YouTube page where it’s earned more than 1 million views.

The fictional Captain Jean Luc Picard once said, “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not weakness. That is life.” The Apple ad turns that statement on its head — Apple made many mistakes and still won a tremendous amount of attention.

I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t criticize creative work. Constructive critiques help us learn from our own and others’ failures. You can even have a good laugh about content fails.

Just acknowledge, as the Roman philosopher Cicero once wrote, “Not every mistake is a foolish one.” 

Creative teams take risks. They try things outside their comfort zone. Sometimes they fail (sometimes spectacularly).

But don’t let others’ expressions of anger over failures inhibit your willingness to try creative things.

Wouldn’t you love to get the whole world talking about the content you create? To get there, you have to risk that level of failure.

And taking that risk isn’t a mistake.

It’s your story. Tell it well.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute 



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