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The Most Overlooked Component of Content Marketing Today

Written by Beatriz McDonald

Confession: Marketers are obsessed with finding different ways to describe content marketing.

For content strategists, a perfect day means spending hours analyzing data and discovering ways to hack Facebook’s ever-changing algorithms (sorry, Mark.) We put together fancy decks mapping audience personas to a content matrix. But client research brings us to the same fundamental conclusion each time.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

-Simon Sinek

Why you launched that product or service, or frankly even why someone should buy it, is what strikes an emotional connection with your audience. Note, there is a strategy to discovering your most valuable “why,” but for today, we’ll spare you the 10 minutes of geeking out.

Grab a pen

Emotional connections are the pattern I detect among top-performing content and who is clicking it. For instance, lifestyle pieces are outshining branded content—they work simply because they are more relatable. Often, I speak with clients who discover a demand for their idea, but completely miss the boat on how to reach their customers. The secret lies in finding a way to stand out among the noise. What better way to do that than to create something relevant that evokes emotion?

90% of all purchasing decisions are made subconsciously

Antonio Damasio, one of the world’s top neuroscientists, argues our choices stem from emotions rather than logic. His research entails clinical studies in which he examined the brain activity of patients with impaired emotions due to trauma. The result: they were unable to make decisions. He found patients appeared perfectly normal in all other aspects of logical reasoning but lacked the cognitive ability to decide on simple tasks like what to eat. Void of rationale, they had no secondary basis to rely on.

Let’s reflect on your daily social media habits. You roll over, click the icon to find everyone’s life summary, overwhelming news, and suddenly, you come across the post that’s personably relatable. Click. Our purchasing behaviors often act on the same base layer of emotion.

In hindsight, emotional connections are why we see an upward trend of brands adopting social initiatives

According to a study conducted by Cone Communications, a global corporate responsibility company, 94% of consumers would switch brands to support a cause. People trust brands that stand for something and can justify their decision making. An effective content marketing strategy not only leverages this to attract your ideal audience but will outline key distribution and how the audiences use them differently. This is the sweet spot of placing content at the right place and the right time.

However, outlining your content plan is only the preliminary phase. It serves to solidify your messaging strategy and act as a visionary reference guide as you build out other tactics. Where the disconnect happens often is the website. Current studies in advertising reveal the modern consumer engages with your brand across six to 10 channels before making a purchasing decision. If consumers experience inconsistent messaging, how likely do you think they are to convert?

Today’s shopper is not an easy sell. They thoroughly evaluate everything about your brand before budging. What does this mean? The user experience and information architecture of your site are equally important as your content. We can’t expect visitors to click a blog that’s not listed in the header or shop for products from your blog content when there’s no option to. Tying your “why” content in the right places is the essence of effective marketing.

If you aren’t inspired yet, here’s a quick list of brands who got this right and soared to new heights.

Under Armour

Possibly one of the greatest risks ever taken in advertising history was Under Armour’s “I Will What I Want” YouTube campaign. In 2013, Under Armour achieved great success expanding products across the men’s athletic wear market, but surprisingly, only 20% of annual revenue stemmed from women’s gear. Brands like Adidas previously failed, but CEO Kevin Plank had a vision for growth.

To capture their aspirational audience, they piloted the video campaign with American Ballet Theatre soloist Misty Copeland highlighting her adversity as a ballerina. The ad went viral, receiving over 4 million views in one week. They continued the campaign, signing on more stories such as supermodel Giselle Bunchen. Under Armour’s risky mission earned them a 28% increase in women’s sales and an impressive $35 million in earned media.


Arguably one of the most notable companies to effectively incorporate a mission as their brand, Tom’s “One for One” charitable model should be an aspirational example for every budding entrepreneur.  Founded in 2006, Blake Mycoskie was on a trip in Argentina filming when he found himself disturbed at the large population of people who couldn’t afford shoes.

Like common American facilities, children could not attend school without shoes. By 2007, Mycoskie drafted the “One for One” marketing plan and named the shoe company Toms as a shorter version of tomorrow. Today, Toms is worth over $400 million and has expanded their do-good model to improve access to water, aid safe childbirth, and various other social initiatives. This is proof of how a clearly defined purpose can catapult your brand.


While the rest of the world rests in Amazon-shock, there’s so much to be learned from brands like Etsy. We’re all familiar with Etsy’s success, but let’s examine what simple factor makes them the go-to platform for marketplaces. Their blog is useful and personalized to its audience. Etsy’s content marketing not only allows their customers to have a voice, but they do a fantastic job of dishing out tips to empower every entrepreneur. Whether you’re making puppets or a fashion designer, there is something there for every idea.

In the age of transparency-rules-all, never underestimate the power of sharing your lightbulb moment. This might just be the emotional support your audience is seeking.

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