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Tale of the Cake: A Content Marketing Parable

I love sour cream and lemon cake.

I once went two whole days eating only cake.  I’m sure that my greek-god physique is suffering but who cares. This cake is like manna from heaven.  I can’t resist it.

Unfortunately I don’t know the name of the company that makes this delicacy.  I just look for the cake in the  plastic bundt cake container.  Glance at the price (as if that matters) and lovingly place it in my shopping cart.

My relationship is with the cake – not the brand or the company’s mission.

In this scenario, offering a buy-one-get-one free is the only way to get me to buy more cake.  Which is not the best strategy for low-margin businesses.

A Cake and Content Parable…

If asked, I would tell the company’s marketing chief  to start with getting product-specific content in my hands.

Focus on my love for sour cream and lemon.  Perhaps a QR code embedded with a sour cream and lemon recipe.  Once I am at the blog, the company’s content marketing team  can offer tips on how to make my cake last longer or the right coffee to pair with my snack.  At this level, the content is product-specific borrowing credibility from my loyalty to my weekly cake-eating ritual.

The same marketing chief knows that she needs to expand my devotion to include the brand.  She wants me to mention The Great Cake Company along with the specific product.

Right now I love Meijer for stocking the cake not the company for making it!

Our savvy marketing chief begins to create brand level content that directs me to sour cream and lemon muffins, cupcakes, cookies, and cheesecake.  I’m already hooked, why not try the cupcakes?  All I need is a reason. Perhaps a blog post about pampering myself during the morning commute with a neat, individually wrapped muffin.  In the same post, mention a new coffee flavor that goes well with the sour cream and lemon cookie and suggest that this combination is perfect for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up.

At this point, my devotion is attached to The Great Cake Company brand.  I’m spending more time on their blog and my shopping cart includes a variety of The Great Cake Company’s treats.  The brand-level content has done its job.  My value as a customer has gone from $6.95 a week to $15.50 a week.  The marketing chief has also added Senior to their VP title for her smart content marketing strategy.

However, our ambitious marketing rock star is gunning for the CEO’s corner office and wants to turn the Great Cake Company into an iconic brand.  A brand that stands for something more than just cakes.

Now the content marketing team is directed to write content that elevates my simple love of cake to something more.

An in-depth review of  Facebook threads, blog comments, and Twitter mentions reveals that people like me value their “breaks”.  They are religious about taking breaks to recharge their creative juices.  Although they are disciplined, Type-A personalities, they are unwilling to sacrifice their creature comforts.  The cake stays even if they have to lose sleep.

The Great Cake Company crew begins to champion the “15-minute Recharge.”

They curate and distribute content that appeals to creative thinkers who take mini-vacations to rejuvenate mind, body, and soul.  Once a week, the company publishes articles that describes the company’s new 15-Minute Tithe – a policy allowing employees to take 15 minute breaks to recharge.  Employees are encouraged to write blog posts describing their 15-minute sessions. The Great Cake Company understands that great brands walk the talk.

Soon The Great Cake Company is mentioned in articles that reference creativity, productivity, rejuvenation, and of course the comfort foods that we can’t do without.

Every article ends with a quote from the new CEO about the power of content marketing and savvy blogging.

The Content Ladder

Here’s a quick recap of each rung on The Content Ladder:

1. Product Content: Show users how to get the most from their current purchase. This content solidifies the customers loyalty and gains permission to take the next step on the content ladder.

2. Brand Content: Expand the customer’s loyalty beyond a single product or service.  The goal is to get a higher share of the customer’s attention on a certain subject.  Ford wants an Explorer and a Focus in the family garage.  Apple’s objective is to get an iPhone, iPad, and MacBook Pro on your desk.

3. Mission Content:  Enlist the customer in a movement.  Show the customer that your company is an advocate and sponsor of their lifestyle.  This content reveals the company’s culture and dedication to be an authentic partner in their customer’s life.  Harley-Davidson is the official sponsor of the open road.  Red Bull embraces adrenaline-soaked thrill-seeking.

Your company doesn’t have to do all three.  But, great companies find a way to deploy a content marketing strategy that climbs each rung of the ladder.  The important point is to understand what type of content you’re are posting on your social channels and what objective the content serves.

Where are you at on the content ladder?  Do you like sour cream and lemon cake?

About Stan

Stan Smith is the CEO of Pushing Social a content marketing consultancy for aggressive, results-focused organizations.

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