• Mary Knox Miller

Meaningful Marketing

Discover how creating honest & personable content is the key to unlocking your organization's success.


Photo: Tolga Ulkan / Unsplash



Meaningful Marketing - Content that Makes an Impact


Your audience doesn’t care about you - not at first, anyway.


Ouch, that hurts. But it’s true.


They trade hard-earned time and money for knowledge.


They want unique perspectives on ideas, products, services and missions that hit close to home - not regurgitated information.


And yet, before they buy or donate they’ll want to know more. Much more.


Like why you do what you do and what you stand for. In fact, 83% of millennials say it’s important that companies align with their beliefs and values. And 81% of donors say their perception of a nonprofit’s impact is the most important factor in determining decisions around giving.


It’s not only what you sell or who you help that matters - it’s who you are.


That’s a tall order.


How do you market your product, service or mission and reveal the true you? How do you rise to the top in our never-ceasing, always changing, information-hungry world?


You turn up the signal and turn down the noise.


You pull back the curtain and connect as human beings.


You embrace meaningful marketing and adopt an emotional blueprint of storytelling across platforms.


Ready to get started? Here’s your guide. No email address required.


--


I’m a visual learner.


You too?


Here’s another way to think about this.


You lead an organization and want your audience to take...

action - to buy a product or service, donate, sign up for a newsletter, engage on social media, etc. But before your audience takes action, they have to...

trust you. How do you build trust? Humans trust what they understand, what they can relate to. That means you need...

empathy. Customers have to understand what you’re doing beyond reason. How do you move from the head to the heart? You make an...

emotional connection. And the fastest, most fool-proof way to connect that has been proven time and again through the millennia - is...

story. But not just any story - one that connects and invites your audience into a journey.



What is Meaningful Marketing?


Google is a $180 billion tech company that sells software, hardware and everything in between. But they don’t tout what they create - they show why they make tech in commercials like Dear Sophie.


When I saw this dad simply and easily document his daughter’s life, I emailed my husband the link with the subject line: “Makes me want to have another baby :)!”


Apple sold nearly 200 million iPhones in 2020, but it’s not megapixels that make people line up for hours to buy. It's social status and what they can do with the technology that matters. Remember Misunderstood Christmas? Me too.


Beyond software companies, here are what some consider to be some of the most successful marketing campaigns ever:


Always - #LikeAGirl

Dove - Real Beauty Sketches

Nike - Find Your Greatness


I’ll add Beats by Dre - The Game Before The Game.


Why do all these have in common? They tap into deep emotion, bypassing the urge to tout a product and instead take you on a journey into the heart of the company’s mission.


Meaningful marketing is…

[mee-ning-fuhl | mahr-kit-ting]


  1. Articles, videos, photographs, podcasts, web copy and social posts that activate the head and heart, empower, and foster trust

  2. Honest, intentional and story-driven content that encourages your audience to join the journey

see also: intentional vulnerability, emotional connection, empathy filter



How is Meaningful Marketing different from Traditional Marketing?


In the 1950s, slick broadcasters ruled the airwaves and glossy magazine ads promised a better life.


Today, celebrity culture and last-call price wars dominate the conversation.


But you’re after something bigger - to influence and encourage a better vision of this world.


You want to create dialogue, not top-down communication.


You want to present possibilities, not ‘should’s or ‘supposed-to’s, and empower audiences along the way.


You believe vulnerability is a sign of strength, not weakness.



You’ll know you’re practicing meaningful marketing when:

  • You spur conversation

  • When people reply, “wow, you’ve put into words exactly what I’ve been wrestling with,” or “something just shifted inside.”

  • When you encourage people to feel, not just think

  • You treat your audience as a guest, not a customer (thanks, Disney)

  • People follow you on social or sign up for your newsletter because they’re hungry for more


In other words, you understand that on the receiving end of your message is a person - a complex, multi-faceted human being.


You invite your audience into a journey, not a sales pitch, and embrace vulnerability along the way to show that you’re ‘walking the talk.’


But you’re not spilling your guts (your audience doesn’t want to know everything about you).


Instead, you intentionally choose poignant moments that illustrate universal human experiences because you know that people make decisions based on emotion and later justify with reason.


As someone who has gone through their own brand marketing experience, I can attest this is a never-ending, always evolving process. Who I am today is not who I was, nor who I will become.


At first, I flexed my intellectual muscles to prove I knew what I was talking about. I told you all I knew.


Now, I realize it’s equally important to show you who I am and illustrate my core through story - that’s what will connect me to you.


There are so many stories I could tell. From early years as an international photojournalist documenting war-torn countries and natural disasters, to recording life on university campuses, I’ve seen first-hand how the process of storytelling can transcend barriers.


I’m also a mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and business owner.


In the words of Walt Whitman, “I contain multitudes,” and that’s what makes me - and you! - so interesting.


I’m slowly but steadily pushing beyond my comfort zone to selectively pull back the curtain to show what sets me apart.



If it helps, here are my guideposts when thinking about what to share:

  1. Be honest, always: Storytelling connects one human being to another and vulnerability is powerful. People will believe you, but if it turns out what you say isn’t true (or an inflated version of the truth), trust is lost and hard to get back.

  2. You determine what’s off-limits: Listen to your gut, not the experts. Only you know what feels right - at this point in time - and what your family, colleagues, etc. are comfortable sharing. Once it’s out there, there’s no going back.

  3. Tap into the full range of emotions: Humans are complex emotional creatures. Your stories should be too.

  4. Filter to your audience’s needs: You tell stories to connect. When you connect, people join the journey - but not for the fun of it. They trade time and attention for knowledge.


You’re only ‘to-do’ is to connect one human being to another. That’s it! Forget all the should’s and supposed-to’s of marketing.



Creating Meaningful Marketing


To begin, start small.


Embrace the constraints of character limits on social platforms to distill the essence of who you are, what you do, and what you stand for.


Next, develop an About Me page that bypasses accolades in favor of a surprising narrative that pulls back the curtain.


Stop the scroll with sentences that spur conversation.


Write email subject lines that invite (or beg) a response.


Start the body of your email at the crux of the problem.


Start a sales pitch with a childhood memory.


The best part? Nothing is permanent.


As you change, so will your stories. But make sure you’re always honest because people can smell fake a mile away AND because once lost, trust is hard to earn back.



In summary


Creating honest and personable content is the key to unlocking your organization's success.


Don’t give into the urge to do what everyone else is doing. Instead, sit quietly and think about who you are, why you do what you do, and how you want to show up in the world.


Stand tall in your truth and empower those following in your footsteps while creating articles, videos, photographs, podcasts, web copy and social posts.


Illustrate concepts using personal stories that activates the head and heart, empowers, and encourages trust by connecting us as human beings.


Make me want to come along for the journey.


Ready to get started? Here’s your guide.

No email address required!





Like what you've read? Sign up for Hook + Hold, a newsletter where I share all I've learned so you don't have to make the same mistakes.