The brightest minds of the custom content industry gathered in Columbus, Ohio last week for the Content Marketing Institute’s second annual conference. With more than 1,000 attendees, the event almost doubled in size, a strong indication of a) the inexorable rise of content marketing or b) the popularity of Columbus, Ohio.

CMI majordomo Joe Pulizzi indicated that next year’s event will be bigger yet. Content marketing is on the rise. But we knew that already.

I was lucky enough to be invited to speak there and attended many of the sessions. There were some words that kept cropping up.

Photo of Joe Pulizzi CMW Content Marketing World

Joe Pulizzi


A lot of people used this word. Mitch Joel urged everyone (and I mean everyone – his keynote opened the conference) to have “sex with data.” Meaning data is where content marketers will find the nuggets that differentiate their offer and make marketing more personal.

But he also noted the “dramatic chasm that exists between privacy and personalization” and that if marketers don’t understand this chasm, consumers will shy away from (over) sharing forever.

Another way to say this? “Don’t be creepy,” as Margot Bloomstein of Appropriate, Inc put it, quite simply.

Data is also “a social currency,” said Harvard’s Mark Bonchek, using Nike+ as an example. The athletic giant found that users were utilizing the data from its app to find others in the running community and to encourage each other. Data, in other words, is a community in its own right. Nike had never anticipated this.

Finally, as Amanda Maksymiw of Lattice Engines put it, data is “important so you can prove effectiveness later.” In other words, use data to make your offer better, and then, more importantly, to prove its effectiveness.

Photo of Margot Bloomstein Content Marketing World CMW

Margot Bloomstein


Andrew Davis from Tippingpoint Labs spoke at length about leveraging content marketing budgets from other departments. Stealing budget, that is. His idea of “brandscaping” (this is the title of his recently launched book and has nothing to do with the state of his body hair) is really about how to get the most money for your content marketing campaign.

Jay Baer photo CMW Content Marketing World

Jay Baer

Jay Baer never used the word “theft” but his message about content marketing stole the innocence from the assembled masses. He asked what “content marketing” is about. His answer, quite smartly: “Content helps achieve business objectives, not content objectives.”

Perhaps the opposite of theft, but with theft in mind, Mark Bonchek framed content in terms of the “gift economy” – putting content at the centre of “social currency.”

Would you offer to pay your friends to help move your fridge? Or would you offer them pizza and beer? What about professional movers?

Helping friends move falls into the gift economy. So does content, according to Bonchek.

In marketing terms, we’ve gone from a persuade/promote economy to one of enable/empower. Content marketing has stolen traditional marketing’s job, in other words.


A cheetah from the Columbus Zoo.

Wow. If there was one word that was amazingly gratifying to hear at Content Marketing World it was “quality.” Everyone spoke of it. Gilad de Vries: “Remarkable content is content people like to share.” Andrew Davis: “Valuable content creates value” – a smart turn of phrase – and one more: “To raise awareness, buy ads. To increase demand, create valuable content.”

Jay Baer said his company has decreased the amount of blogs it publishes per week by half to focus on quality over quantity. During my talk, I told the audience that the world does not need more “stuff” – i.e. bad content.

The conference ended with a presentation from Jack Hanna, the famous head of the Columbus Park Zoo. He brought out a menagerie of exotic animals and then he told his story. His story was simple and well told. And resulted in a standing ovation.

Jack Hanna at CMW Content Marketing World

Jack Hanna

More than that, he showed what, I think, a lot of speakers wanted to say: that the need for speed has replaced the idea of reflection. What else was behind the Jonah Lehrer/Fareed Zakaria controversies?

They needed to produce content and lots of it. And the shortcuts needed to produce that quantity of work eviscerated them.

Reflective is better than rapid. The world is full of half thought-out crap. Your content strategy needs more emphasis on the strategy, and less, perhaps, on the content.

Photos via Content Marketing World