Note: This is far from your traditional marketing article. Because it is Read A Book Day I have chosen to take one of my all-time favorite books, ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, and present it as a “literary piece of content marketing” offering tips and ideas that Inbound marketers may gather inspiration from. If you like traditional articles then you probably won’t like this one. But if you enjoy a fresh take on learning about marketing tactics, and you’re a reader, you may find enjoyment here.
Before I entered the exciting world of marketing, I was a professor of English literature. Clearly, I see great value in injecting storytelling and the narrative into content marketing. While other marketers with no literary background recognize the same value, I like to think that my angle may be different as I draw inspiration from some of my favorite texts when I plan a strategy designed to convert readers into customers.
While working on my doctoral dissertation my old undergrad Shakespeare professor (and then current research partner) asked me a single question: what is the ONE book written in the English language that is flawless, perfect, and without error. After giving the question some great thought I determined that Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ was the winner with Charles Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations’ a close second (as an interesting side note he agreed with To Kill A Mockingbird’ and smiled as he informed me his wife (also a teacher) chose ‘Great Expectations’).
There are many reasons why I could argue for hours that ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ is the greatest English book of all time. But with respect to this article I will talk about how its text was indeed a form of marketing; it “sold me” and changed my view of the world as a place teetering on the edge of goodness (and I was no easy sale). If storytelling can change the way we think, then storytelling can change our buying habits.
Prior to my reading this book for the first time in junior high, I was convinced that the world was more evil than good, and that evil always wins because mankind’s hate evolves at a faster rate than the evolution of a selfless, giving heart. 10 years later I read it as an undergrad, and its message re-affirmed my belief that humanity was inherently good.
To Kill A Mockingbird and Content Marketing 101
The primary theme of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ is the exploration of human morality and mankind’s moral nature–whether people are fundamentally good, or evil. This is the question that will help unravel your consumer audiences.
As we know, buyers have challenges and needs. Some solutions to meet their needs are ideally good, while others are worthless and therefore bad. As a marketer you need to argue your case through buyer-targeted content that strikes an emotional chord with consumers and shows them that your brand is their best choice. It is similar to posing a question, and arguing your stance with the goal to convert public opinion. While one of Lee’s goals as the novel’s author was to change public opinion on the perception of humanity as a whole, and increase loyalty in those of the opinion that human hearts are inherently good, your role as a marketer is to sell people on your approach to their needs while delivering content aimed to maintain perception and brand loyalty with those who support you. You are trying to appeal to their emotional awareness.
Content Marketing that Saves Mockingbirds
Lee’s novel tells a rich story using the coexistence of good and evil as the main theme with the goal to reveal that, while we live in a world where evil wins, humanity’s battle to preserve goodness is ultimately successful and therefore stronger than hate. This is approached by Scout and Jem’s metamorphosis from a perspective of childhood innocence where they assume all human beings are good because they haven’t yet encountered evil people, to an adult perspective after confronting evil for the first time while making sense of its place in the world around them.
In the Inbound marketing methodology, marketers could look at Harper Lee’s theme and correlate it to the “problem” consumer audiences have that a brand’s products or services could potentially solve. In order to bring this to life in a content marketing strategy, one must create a narrative drawing on opposing buyer personas targeting their specific needs and wants through content that resonates at the right moment in the buyer’s journey.
In ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ readers see how a prejudiced society condemns an innocent man to death and threatens the lawyer who risked his own life to represent and protect Tom Robinson. Here, Lee is appealing to reader emotions who already support a world free from bigotry. Then to reach readers who are themselves prejudice and will not immediately connect with the injustice, the author adds the morally bankrupt character Mayella who falsely testifies against Tom Robinson and who represents weakness and controllability. By emphasizing the victimization of childhood innocence through the awareness of Scout and Jem, Lee seems to be reaching out to “make a sale” by appealing to the last shred of human decency in prejudiced readers who may switch sides and see value in fighting the evils of discrimination.
This illustrates why brands should target ALL potential consumers–even the ones who don’t seem as likely to buy. They may hold even more value than those who are already on board because when your marketing message changes buyer opinions from one extreme to another, you have gone above and beyond delighting them and these buyers are often a brand’s largest advocate.
Identify Your Mockingbirds
Understanding who your consumer mockingbirds are, and who has the potential to become one, will aid you in creating emotionally driven content that targets specific buyer personas, and this will enable greater sales.
So what are mockingbirds? In the novel mockingbirds are identified as Jem, Tom Robinson, Dill, Boo Radley and Mr. Raymond; these are the innocents who have been partially destroyed by evil. Despite Tom’s conviction, Scout was able to maintain a basic faith in human nature’s goodness despite witnessing the evil racism in the trial. On the other hand, Jem was victimized by the trial’s outcome and retreats into a state of disillusionment. However, rays of hope still shine from within his troubled soul after an encounter with the innocence and human goodness of Boo Radley.
Your mockingbirds are those on the brinks of becoming bonafide buyers. They are partially crippled by not seeing relevance in your products and are therefore being held back from entering the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey. They have not yet experienced an emotional connect that can challenge their own prejudices. This is where the best inbound marketing agencies shine; they engineer a clever content marketing strategy designed to convert “the troubled ones”; they engage mockingbirds by appealing to their last shred of consumer openness. When buyers in this stage reach this point they are open to considering various solutions to their pains and needs, and they are willing and ready to consider your offerings alongside others.
Persuasive Content is Emotional Content
Harper Lee’s stunningly flawless novel asks this question: is humanity inherently good or evil? Through the nobility of Atticus, Scout’s stronghold on human goodness, Jem’s weakened innocence, Tom’s martyrdom, and the numerous other voices from the depths of humanity’s raw nature, many close this book with the feeling that, although there is evil in the world, the human heart is ultimately loving. Lee was able to “sell” this belief by awakening the reader’s emotions.
If your goal is to create a content marketing strategy that taps into a cross-sector of buyers, nurtures them through the buyer’s journey, and converts them into delighted buyers, your brand must tell a story that awakens each customer’s sense of awareness to their problem and challenge their perceptions by introducing your products and services as alternatives to what they already know. You will reach those who already know your value, but don’t neglect and kill off the mockingbirds disguised as poor leads.
In her novel Lee writes:
“Rememberit’s a sin to kill a mockingbird”.Thatwas the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was asinto do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. “Your father’s right,” she said. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy . . . but sing their hearts out for us.”
Make sure your content marketing strategy doesn’t exclude and kill the mockingbirds of your buyer audiences. Once you win them over, they will sing your praise all over social media, and their song will hold more persuasive value than the words of age-old loyalists.
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