Interrupters vs. Engagers: What Type of Marketer Are You?

April 13, 2016


Every now and then, small everyday moments present opportunities to observe concise case studies in action. As anyone who follows me on social media knows, I’ve been pretty aggressively promoting my new book Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small (Yikes! I did it again).

I’ve continued this strategy offline as well by creating stickers and bookmarks to hand out (if you see me I’ll gladly give you one). The bookmarks are especially fun as I’ve created space on the back where you can write down ideas you have while reading — not just my book but your next book as well. It builds on a bigger theme in the book of learning to “see marketing ideas everywhere.”

Why am I telling you about my bookmarks? Because I learned something about my marketing strategy when I had some on hand at a recent networking event. Another attendee with something to pitch found every single person in attendance and handed them a promotional card and proceeded to pitch each and every one of them. When my time came during announcements, I mentioned the book and told a quick anecdote about “creating the most useful bookmark ever.” After the program, many found me.

The other more aggressive pitcher walked by and noted that I should just go hand one to everyone. That’s not my style, I thought. Then I realized something bigger.

It’s Not My Strategy

Everything we create is content. Blog posts, videos, podcasts, emails, and even leave behinds like stickers and bookmarks. My strategy with all of this is to create something engaging that the audience is compelled to seek out rather than interrupting and forcing my marketing onto others. More than anything, this shift is representative of the larger revolution that’s taken place in marketing communications and PR over the past decade.

We don’t have to interrupt. We don’t have to blast. We can be targeted and create compelling messages to relevant individuals that want to follow you and learn more about who you are and what you do. It’s very different that the outbound, push marketing that’s been a part of every form of media since the printing press.

And yet pushback abounds — and not just in offline meetings. Online we see alarm over the fact that Instagram is now introducing an algorithm like Facebook to selectively sort your newsfeed in an effort to show you the most relevant new content that you’re most likely to engage with. The panic comes from the fact that people won’t automatically see each and every update your brand posts.

The concern isn’t unwarranted. People are bombarded with content at every corner. We have to make sure that what we’re creating stands out. Instead, brands spent the last week sharing images with arrows pointing to the settings feature in the upper right corner of Instagram posts with a messaging begging their followers to “turn on notifications” for their account. So essentially, your phone would go off every time Express or General Electric posts an update.

And we’re back to interrupting. Again. Begging and pleading as opposed to engaging and entertaining.

Wolves and Sheep

The AMC Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul tracks the transition of Jimmy McGill, attorney at law, into shyster lawyer Saul Goodman. A recent episode featured a flashback of young Jimmy encountering a con man fleecing his dad. Privately, the con man confides in Jimmy that there are “wolves and sheep in the world. You need to figure out which one you’re going to be.” This of course sets Jimmy on a path closer to being the corrupt Saul Goodman of Breaking Bad.

But there’s a takeaway for you as well. In a generation where marketing has gotten turned inside out, what kind of brand will you be? An interrupter or an engager?

Like Jimmy McGill, the choice is yours.

Photo via Flickr user m01229

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is a strategist, speaker, educator, and author of Brand Now: How to Stand Out in a Crowded, Distracted World and Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, an educator at the University of Iowa, and host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.