What happened when our Chief Copywriter swanned off to London Town for the must-see industry gathering and networking knees-up of the year: Copy Capital?
Copy Capital (née Cabana) is my favourite industry ting and, goshdarnit, I’mma keep saying that until they ask me to speak.
What I dig most is the focus on stuff I can immediately go away and build into what I do all day. As hosts, Vikki Ross and Andy Maslen pointed out, it’s an event for copywriters, but the talks are about so much more than the noble art of wording good.
For me, the standout such talk of the day came from creative strategist Uri Baruchin, who went full pre-lunch esoteric meta on the topic of Marketing’s Meaning Matrix Models.
Rise of the Triad
I suspect Baruchin may be a genius, possibly an insane one, and like all geniuses his output is prone to being misquoted, bastardised, or otherwise misinterpreted… by me, in this case.
I don’t pretend to possess the same grasp of deep theory as this guy, but here’s my fumbling take on what he had to say.
We were eased in gently with a relatively tame explanation of Kenichi Ohmae’s ‘3Cs model’ for success in industry. Think of a triangle, with the corners labelled thus:
You can adapt those labels to suit your purposes. ‘Company’ might be ‘credibility,’ if you’re measuring a PR job. ‘Competition’ might be ‘context’ if you’re repositioning. Content marketers and other entertainers might replace ‘customer’ with ‘audience’ but… erm… that doesn’t begin with a C, and Ohmae might turn in his grave (if he’s dead. Note to self: check if Kenichi Ohmae is dead).
Think about where in that triad your current content efforts lie. This is important. No good content tries to be all things to all men. Spread yourself too thin and you produce milky, watered-down content which grabs nobody and performs no useful role.
A whitepaper which establishes your authority and shows off how useful you are in solving your audience’s needs might sit here.
Meanwhile, political campaigns which demonise the enemy and demonstrate your point of difference without necessarily offering any solutions squat right here.
Notice that nothing here is a binary yes/no, customer/company/competition choice across three axes. We’re dealing in spectrums because, as Baruchin observed, when you begin to play with dichotomies, they begin to play with each other.
And that’s when things got funky.
In good creative marketing, there are no dichotomies. There is no black and white, shades of grey bridge the two. To even conceive of any given dichotomy is to define its opposite, held in your mind at the same time.
Remind you of anything?
This is just the beginning of how we can use esoteric systems as conceptual models for business storytelling.
Here we see my mate, the Fool, trump zero of the Tarot, beside his cousin, the Magician, trump number one. By going from zero to one, the Fool becomes the Magician.
Again, this is not a binary. It’s a process. It’s a story. A goofy farm boy called Luke Skywalker becomes a Jedi Master. The wandering Strider becomes Aragorn, King of Gondor.
This is your brand’s story. An idea becomes a skill becomes a hustle becomes a business becomes a brand. The story is made real through your communications, and it’s told through effective strategy.
If we accept that any binary choice, black/white for example, is actually black/grey/white, then a potential strategic model does not look like this:
It looks like this:
Remind you of anything?
The question is not ‘why use the Zodiac as a model for content strategy?’ The question is ‘why not?!’ It comes to you pre-packaged, an elemental storytelling model, full of universally relatable archetypes, developed over thousands of years.
Is your marketing currently overwhelming your audience with the passion of the Scorpio, screaming at them about the latest technical features? Shift your thinking, incorporate the diplomatic influence of Libra, benefits and emotional resonance, find harmony in balance.
The leader’s lament
Of course, you can use whatever model you’re most comfortable with. If you don’t like a 12-point Zodiac model; go with a 2x2x2x2 grid and use the Myers-Briggs personality types to profile your audience, brand, and messaging.
For simplicity’s sake, Baruchin (mercifully) brought us back to the classic triangle at that point, to illustrate what he called ‘the leader’s lament.’
Here we’ve got a thing. This thing is your marketing. It’s X, and it’s going on a journey.
Thing X defines itself against the rest of its industry. That industry is Y. X is like Y in some ways, but unlike Y in others. Let’s take a look at the journey of the typical brand’s marketing.
That’s the leader’s lament. The first half of the journey is spent chasing relevance by trying to keep up with the rest of the industry, and once they get there (many brands never do), they’re stuck trying to differentiate themselves via a dichotomy they’ve created for themselves and trapped themselves into.
This resonated with me, because 90% of content marketing I see is garbage for this very reason. A discipline which revolves entirely around standing out and grabbing attention only sees itself as a success once it’s melded into the same amorphous beige blob as everyone else!
It doesn’t have to be like this. By finding the proper model for your content marketing, you take control of its journey.
You avoid getting mired somewhere down the Superman-vs-Batman path if you realise that, in reality, your brand is Wonder Woman, and start producing Wonder Woman content.
This, my friends, is content strategy and, yes, it has to be part of the job.
A Capital day out
That’s just one talk out of a whole buzzing day. I could do a whole blog series on my highlights, but frankly I’ve got to get some flamin’ work done. If you held a gun to my head and pressed me for my top five picks of the day, a woefully reductive list might look like:
Teresa Monachino being the perfect bridge between copy and design, and she's effortlessly hilarious to boot.
Disarming bombs having hee haw to do with copywriting, but hearing Mark Budden talk about it was fascinating nevertheless.
Neil Hughes using walking on custard for a perfectly pitched analogy for anxiety (it’s a non-Newtonian fluid, don’t cha know).
Scott Morrison bringing The Boom! for hackers, makers, teachers and thieves.
I want Fay Weldon to be my Nana.
Note to self: Plug copywriting services at the end
As always, I’ve come away from another CopyCabanital event feeling psyched about my job, and ready to try out what I’ve learned.
Got a marketing project that needs the right touch? Want to make your content stand out? Talk to Sookio today about the kind of copy that’ll set you apart from the herd.
Oh… and I’m pleased to report that Kenichi Ohmae is alive and well.