Five Scott Stratten stories any marketer should hear

The author of Unbranded wraps up Season Six of The Sophisticated Marketer’s Podcast in style

April 27, 2018

The author of Unbranded wraps up Season Six of The Sophisticated Marketer’s Podcast in style

You’ve got to wrap things up in style. And for Season Six of The Sophisticated Marketer’s Podcast, that’s exactly what we’re doing. When you’ve been lucky enough to interview the likes of Seth Godin, The Marketoonist, Lori Joyce, Mark Schaefer, Ron Tite and Shannon Brayton, you don’t want to end the series with a nice, quiet episode. What you really want is Scott Stratten!

Scott is the most angry and iconoclastic marketing thinker that I know of. He’s a brilliantly original podcaster, hosting UnPodcast, The Business Show for the Fed-up with his wife Alison. He’s a wise observer of our discipline, and a brilliant collector of thought-provoking marketing stories (most recently in his and Alison’s new book Unbranded). And he’s very, very funny.

It was a great pleasure to welcome Scott to our podcast – and it’s a great pleasure to be able to share this episode with you. Click on the link below to hear our interview in full – and then scroll down for five stories that Scott shared on our podcast. Several of these feature in Unbranded. All of them have something to say about what constitutes effective branding today – and any marketer will find themselves thinking differently for having heard them:

The passed-on pet and the awful automation
A friend of Scott’s had a beloved pet that passed on. They did what lots of heartbroken people do in this situation and posted a picture of the pet on Instagram. That’s when something strange happened. A high-profile marketing influencer commented on the post, saying “Great picture!” and something else completely inappropriate to the situation. Turns out that marketing influencer uses a ‘bot to automate responses to others posts in a way designed to generate followers automatically.

This is the approach to social media marketing that drives Scott crazy. The automation of personalisation and the data-driven scaling of engagement smacks of inauthenticity. It’s interested in numbers – not in the people behind them. Scott is a firm believer in that old adage that a brand isn’t owned by marketers but by consumers; it’s not about what you say but about what others say about you. Marketers who don’t see the opportunity in genuine engagement with their audiences on social media are really missing the point. This is an opportunity to talk to real, relevant people – not to rack up metrics that don’t really matter.

When a video reaches 32 million people – and nothing happens
Scott is walking proof that going viral is not something you want or need as a B2B marketer. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the topline numbers that supposedly prove virality are often meaningless. And secondly, when you dial down to the numbers that actually mean something, they don’t necessarily correspond to your business objectives.

Scott’s huge viral hit happened last year. It’s a video clip of an onstage rant about what old people mean when they say Millennials – and it’s very funny. When Scott posted it on Facebook, the platform’s counter told him he’d reached over 32 million people, which made him feel fantastic – and excited about how many keynote speaking gigs he’d be booking on the back of it.

And then? Then nothing happened. He booked no keynotes and secured no new business as a result of the biggest viral hit he’d ever been a part of. The question that marketers need to ask themselves is – why not?

Scott went all forensic and looked into the numbers. His reach of 32 million referred to how many times his video was served in people’s feed. When he looked at views of more than 10 seconds with the sound on (pretty crucial when the whole point of the video is what he’s saying), that number dipped to 3.4 million. Still, 3.4 million people blown away by Scott’s style and insight and ready to book him for their next keynote would be pretty awesome. The problem was: this viral video doesn’t really showcase Scott for the business and marketing thinker that he is. It made him look and sound like a stand-up comedian. The single person who did get in touch asked him if he could do his ‘comedy bit’ for an upcoming event. The content that went viral wasn’t actually aligned with Scott’s brand or his business model – and that’s arguably why it went viral so spectacularly.

Contrast this with a longer speaker trailer that a video company created for Scott, which reached only 43,000 people, generated 1,800 10-second views with the sound on – and led directly to 7 bookings. Then ask yourself which was the most valuable. There’s nothing like targeting the right content at the right decision-makers.

The Sippy Cup of Goodness
This is a great, uplifting story that’s one of the most memorable chapters in Unbranded. It’s the story of a family with an autistic 14-year-old child who would only drink from one very specific plastic sippy cup – and what happened when that ancient cup started to fall apart.

The family did what most families would do, and went to the internet to try and find a replacement. They couldn’t. Then they called the store they’d bought the cup from and discovered that it was an old design that wasn’t manufactured anymore. With panic rising, and after their son had ended up in hospital from dehydration as a result of refusing to drink from anything else, they put out a plea on social media asking if anyone, anywhere had one of these cups that they could sell to them.

That’s when Tommee Tippee, the brand that once made the cup, stepped in. They searched and found the old plastic mold used to make it. They put together one last manufacturing run for a design they no longer produced. And since it made no sense to make just one cup, they gave the family 500 for free – a lifetime’s supply. It was a story that played out on social media, was picked up and celebrated on social media, and then made headline news on both sides of the Atlantic.

As Scott puts it, this is the kind of thing that happens when a brand sees the fast-changing digital landscape in simple terms: the opportunity to be awesome for more people. If your brand is what others say about you, then thinking of marketing as the opportunity to make those people’s lives better is always a good strategy. It’s amazing how many brands miss it.

The brands that forgot integrity matters
Which brings us to newsjacking – and the story of brands that try to get clever on social media by manipulating the news agenda to their advantage. Scott and I both agree that this isn’t a problem when your expertise is genuinely relevant to an issue dominating the headlines – and when you have real value to add. However, if you’re just trying to score cheap organic reach by piggy backing on something that has nothing to do with you, then you’re running the risk of doing something very inappropriate for no meaningful reward.

The story that most epitomises bad newsjacking for Scott is the tale of an HR brand that decided to mark the death of Gene Wilder with a post entitled 10 ways to manage like Willy Wonka. Really? As if the character Wilder once played in a movie, with his army of slave-like Oompah Loompahs and very lax approach to customer safety, is any kind of model at all? When you leverage someone’s death in order to rack up some extra views on your content, you’re selling your integrity – and you don’t get that back very easily. I can still remember which brands attempted to leverage Hurricane Sandy (a natural disaster that killed 106 people in the United States alone), as an opportunity to promote sales, online shopping or conferences. And no – I don’t have a heck of a lot of respect for them anymore.

The legendary TV presenter who never got paid
Scott and I share a deep appreciation for Bob Ross, the legendary presenter of the PBS TV show, The Joy of Painting in the 1980s. If you’ve ever felt stress in your life, then you really need to watch this show – it’s possibly the most relaxing thing ever recorded. I’ve had the joy of introducing it to rock bands on the road – and I’ve never seen people more entranced. But I never realised that The Joy of Painting is actually one of the most perfect examples of content marketing in history.

Bob Ross was never paid by the public TV stations who broadcast his show. However, The Joy of Painting made absolute commercial sense to Ross – because he used it to build Bob Ross Inc., a $15 million business, which sold art supplies and how-to books, and ran painting classes.

I’d never been aware that The Joy of Painting functioned as content marketing, because Bob Ross never explicitly plugged any of this stuff on his show. He didn’t have to. The sheer quality of the content he produced, and the expertise that he poured into it, spoke for themselves. That’s why The Joy of Painting might be the greatest template for content marketing that we have. It proves how its role in building brands and generating revenues is most effective when it’s backed by a valid value exchange. Bob Ross simply created the best programme about painting that he, or anyone else could imagine. Whatever our subject or area of expertise, that’s what any serious content marketer should be aiming for.

Special thanks to our friends at Image Think for this incredible graphic. Check out their website here.

Enjoyed this episode of The Sophisticated Marketer’s Podcast? I certainly did. It was an ideal way to wrap up our superb Season Six. If you missed any of our interviews with the likes of Seth Godin, Ron Tite, Lori Joyce and Shannon Brayton, you can catch up on all previous episodes here. And watch this space for our upcoming eBook featuring the best Season Six Sophisticated Marketer’s wisdom.

Tweet your review @JasonMillerCA for a chance to win Sophisticated Marketer’s swag. Thanks again!