The Recipe for Successful Content Experiences

In this module, we discuss:

  • Andrew Ehrenberg's science of marketing
  • The ingredients of content that drive popularity


  • Agile Marketing - an iterative process that allows for short experiments, frequent feedback and the ability to react to changing market conditions
  • Brand Identity - the mission, values, purpose, positioning, voice, tone, look and feel of a business
  • User Experience - the overall experience that people have when they engage with a product, service or piece of content, especially in terms of how easy or satisfying it is to use or consume
  • Human-Interest - the aspect of a story that interests people because it describes the experiences or emotions of individuals
  • Top-of-Mind Awareness - the measure of how readily a business, organization, product or service comes to someone's mind when thinking of a specific industry, cause, product or service

Andrew Ehrenberg, a highly regarded German-born statistician and marketing scientist, is a name with which you probably are not familiar.

According to Matthew Creamer, former Ad Age Editor at Large, Ehrenberg "gave us the empirical basis to doubt deeply any number of marketing truisms, from the importance of brand loyalty, to the relevance of market segmentation, to the idea that advertising can persuade people to buy something, to the notion that mass marketing is dead, to the assumption that social media should be valued differently from other media."

Among his notable research and discoveries, Ehrenberg developed six keys to the science of marketing:

  1. Is memorable
  2. Appeals to emotions and rationalizations
  3. Gets noticed
  4. Achieves reach
  5. Builds salience
  6. Inspires relevant associations with the brand

His thought process was that, if a business effectively utilizes the science of marketing, it will accomplish the real mark of success: popularity, which translates to profitability.

"Popularity trumps everything. It's the only thing a [business] should be concerned with," says Paul Parton, the co-founder of global creative agency Brooklyn Brothers. "If you're popular, it begets everything else. Greater penetration comes with more loyalty, which is the surprise of [Ehrenberg's] model."

Creamer adds: "Return business is a function, essentially, of how popular a brand is. As such, [the mission of marketing] should be to increase market penetration at all costs."

In the Attention Economy, content experiences are what enable businesses to become and/or stay popular with their target customers.

How to Drive Popularity with Content

In order to become and/or stay popular in the Attention Economy, content experiences must continuously and consistently feature the following ingredients:


During the days of traditional advertising, marketing and media, campaigns were developed using a linear process: Plan, create, implement and then measure.

Because of the hyper-dynamic pace of publishing that comes with digital media, the vivid lines that once separated the four phases in this process have been blurred, resulting in the desperate need for agile marketing.

According to Jim Ewel, a marketing professor at the University of Washington, agile marketing emphasizes:

  • Responding to change over following a plan
  • Rapid iterations over Big-Bang campaigns
  • Testing and data over opinions and conventions
  • Numerous small experiments over a few large bets
  • Individuals and interactions over target markets
  • Collaboration over silos and hierarchy


As we discussed in the module The Emergence of Content Marketing 3.0, only 35 percent of consumers say marketing messages they receive about their favorite companies are "usually relevant," while 21 percent of consumers say marketing messages they receive about average companies are "usually relevant."

One of the main reasons for these statistics is that much of content marketing has largely focused on helping solve consumer problems, which (1) treats people as consumers and not as multidimensional, identity-driven people, and (2) is only relevant to a particular group of consumers who are at a particular phase of the sales funnel at a particular point in time — therefore irrelevant to a potentially large group of other consumers.

"A brand is worthless if it doesn't connect with the right audiences in a relevant way," says Cory Torrella, founder and CEO of marketing agency Better Auds.

By embracing Content Marketing 3.0, businesses can maximize relevance by producing content at the intersection of their brand identity and the daily lifestyle identities, personalities, mentalities, beliefs, interests, problems, and motivations of their target customers.


If the ability to identify with a character in a book, show or movie brings readers and viewers great pleasure, and actively engages them with the work in question, then the same must be true in content marketing: The ability for people to identify with a business will bring them great pleasure, keep them actively engaged and, according to Rebecca Mead, be perceived as valuable.

"Relatability has become widely and unthinkingly accepted as a criterion of value," she writes in this New Yorker article.

However, against the backdrop of social media — where most of today's content is published and shared, and where people are constantly interacting with other people to whom they can relate on a variety of levels — businesses face an unprecedented challenge.

"[Businesses] aren't competing against their category anymore; they're up against every single person in a consumer's social network," says Bruce MacLellan, Chairman and CEO of Environics Communications. "[Businesses] will need to generate interest with their audiences in a way that makes them say: 'I can see myself in this.'"


In marketing, structure involves two components: the content of a story, and the form used to tell the story.

"Form" can be described as the channel or platform through which the content is delivered and consumed, as well as the type of content experience itself.

When determining the form of every piece of content, be sure to take into account the user experience surrounding the channel, platform and desired content experience.


Taking into account media trends and consumption, content must be some combination of interesting ("inter"), entertaining ("tain") and informative ("mative").

If your business is like most others, content about your products and services — while potentially informative or educational — has almost zero chances of being entertaining and/or interesting on a daily basis.

Consequently, content about your products and services goes against the main objective of The Business of Media — to engage so deeply, so continuously and so consistently with your target consumers (by virtue of producing, publishing and distributing original content that they want to consume on a daily basis), that your business is now a meaningful part of their day-to-day lives.

“You don't win because you have the better [products and services]," says legendary marketer, author and speaker Seth Godin. “You win because ... people are interested in hearing you."


In this case, ubiquity does not necessarily entail existing or being active on every possible channel and platform.

"Content marketing ... is media agnostic — it can be online, social, print, in person," Dorie Clark writes on Forbes. "The real question is who your target audience is, and what's the best way to reach them."

As such, the idea is to be active on every channel and platform that your target consumers are currently using, as well as newer channels and platforms that they are starting to adopt.

Regardless, ensure that your editorial mission is consistent on every channel and platform, which does not mean that you should share the same content across the board; instead, it means sharing content on each channel and platform that encompasses a variety of topics and subjects, using a variety of content experiences, within the same overarching editorial themes.


At the heart of social experiences and interactions are stories, which heighten our rhetorical appeals, as defined by:

  • Logos (logic and reasoning)
  • Pathos (emotions and beliefs), and
  • Ethos (credibility and authority)

By producing and publishing content that encapsulates human-interest stories, you can more effectively tap into the Logos, Pathos and Ethos of your target customers.

Good stories also play a cognitive role in social experiences and interactions, helping us recall certain ideas and instances. As such, good stories will trigger top-of-mind awareness when consumers are ready, willing and able to buy your products and services.

The Business of Media
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