Are you seeing orange? If so, you might just be at Content Marketing World. This annual event is known for sporting lots of the signature orange shade of the Content Marketing Institute and for being billed as “the largest content marketing gathering in the world.”

I had the pleasure of spending much of last week at Content Marketing World 2017, learning from and networking with some of the brightest minds in content marketing today. It would be impossible to cram all the knowledge and insights from the conference into one blog post, but here are some of the key takeaways:

  1. Quality is winning over quantity. A debate about quantity versus quality has long raged in content marketing. While the winner of that debate is likely both, the scales are tipping in the favor of quality. Content Marketing World keynote and host of the Unthinkable podcast Jay Acunzo discussed how with the inundation of content today, it has never been easier to blend in and be average. He challenged attendees to follow their intuition to create exceptional content that rises above the noise.
  2. Content isn’t king, the audience is. “Content is king” is a phrase we have all likely heard more times than we can count, but that statement is no longer entirely accurate. It isn’t the content alone that matters, it’s creating something that matters to your audience. In this age of content fatigue, brands can no longer just create content for the sake of creating it; they must anticipate and respond to audience needs. The importance of audience was echoed in sessions throughout the conference.
  3. Emotion matters. “At the end of the day, people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” Kate Santore of Coca-Cola used this Maya Angelou quote in her Content Marketing World keynote to illustrate the importance of making people feel something with your content. In a session about creating exceptional content, Doug Kessler spoke about not just tapping into happy emotions, but to think about the full spectrum of emotions that people feel to connect more genuinely with your audiences.
  4. Challenge conventions. Every profession is full of conventions, and marketing is no exception. In addition to his remarks on appealing to all emotions, Doug Kessler called out several invisible conventions that persist in marketing today. One of my favorite invisible conventions that he discussed is “everyone hates marketing.” This convention is built on the assumption that brands have the power, but content marketing gives the power to the audience. As marketers, it’s our responsibility to create marketing that people love and find value in, rather than allowing the assumption that everyone hates marketing anyway to encourage us to create more mediocre marketing.
  5. Focus on resonance, not reach. Yes, audience size matters, but there was much talk at Content Marketing World 2017 about downplaying the importance of that metric. Instead, focus on really resonating with your audience with new content marketing initiatives. While your audience may start small and take time to grow, creating content that really resonates with the individuals you want to connect with will pay off in the long run.
  6. Be human. GE’s content features cutting-edge research and technology in a variety of fields, and GE’s Linda Boff was happy to share examples with Content Marketing World attendees. Despite the high-tech nature of their products, whether they’re talking about jet engines or wind turbines, GE always introduces a human element. Boff advises that brands show up as a person, not a big company. GE accomplishes this through the relatable tone they use in their content and introducing a human element, whether that’s the people that create the technology, those that benefit from it or both.
  7. Forget what you know. Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, opened the conference with a challenge to content marketers to think differently about content marketing, asking the audience “What if there is more than content marketing?” That’s a particularly interesting question from someone who is known as the Godfather of Content Marketing. His point is that to build loyal audiences we may need to forget about the marketing we have learned and executed. We may need to think more like media companies, putting our content first and our products second to foster relationships that work for consumers and companies alike.

Happy Marketing!