Content Marketing

A Content Marketing Miracle on 34th Street

Creating useful content that helps customers solve their problems is anything but a new idea. In fact, you can even find examples of this in unexpected places. While settling in to watch one of my favorite holiday classics, Miracle on 34th Street, I was surprised to get a content marketing lesson as well. 

Many know and love the classic film’s story of Kris Kringle’s quest to prove to a world of unbelievers at Macy’s and beyond that he’s the real Santa Claus. Along the way he raises eyebrows with management at the department store with his controversial strategy of sending parents across the street to competitor Gimbel’s if they have a toy on their child’s list and Macy’s does not. Middle management, including protagonist Maureen O’Hara, is ready to end Kringle’s run as store Santa until a meeting with store owner R.H. Macy who sets all parties straight with the following speech:

“Telegrams, letters, the governor’s wife, the mayor’s wife — all of them expressing undying gratitude to Macy’s. I am positive if we expand our policy we’ll expand our results as well. If we don’t have exactly what the customer wants, we’ll send him to where he can get it. No pressuring or forcing a customer into something he doesn’t really want. We’ll be known as the helpful store, the friendlystore. The store with a heart. The store that places public service ahead of profits. And, consequently, we’ll make more profits than ever before …”

Okay, so while he does expose his true business motives at the end (who isn’t after a profit, after all), Macy not only reinforces Kringle’s policy of helping first and selling second, he even wants the policy expanded so that all salespeople refer customers as well, rather than just Santa.

This holiday history lesson should be important to content marketers for a couple of reasons.

Content’s Cardinal Rule

First, as Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman advocate in Content Rules, the best contet follows the simple rule — share or solve; don’t shill. This is really what Miracle’s Kris Kringle was doing by sending customers across the street, exchanging short term sales for long-term positive associations as a brand that helps.

The Internal Sale

As Mr. Macy and Mr. Kringle both discovered, this strategy is not without its internal detractors. While your content strategy may not always be as bold as sending customers into the waiting arms of your competition, many on your team may question creating content in the form of blogs, ebooks, and the like that gives away your unique skills and reveals how your perform your services.

“If we tell them how to do it in a blog post, they won’t hire us!” Maybe, or perhaps your post will highlight how complex the issue is and they may hit you up for additional help as you’ve already positioned your expertise on the matter. Or if you help them this time passively via content, maybe the experience will leave them with a great feeling about your brand for the next time this person needs help.

Just remember as you embark on a content strategy to spend ample time selling it internally as well. To that end, it always helps to have Mr. Macy in your corner, too.

The Long-Term Play

Again, this strategy is nothing new. I’m a fan of history both personally and professionally. I think it’s insightful to see where others have been and the thinking they’ve employed to solve problems. It’s fascinating to find parallels in individuals and businesses from the past utilizing similar strategies to those we use today, as I found with Miracle on 34th Street.

Who would’ve thought that Kris Kringle held the key to help you unlock some of the biggest secrets of contet marketing? What unexpected source have you learned a marketing lesson from recently?

Photo via Flickr user Imparo