Magic and Marketing
As some of you may recall, I’m a pretty big fan of podcasts. Recently, I've been catching up on past episodes of This American Life from NPR’s WBEZ and I came across one named The Magic Show, which, you probably guessed, is about magic. As I was listening I began to realize there are several similarities between magic and marketing.
It’s the principle of the matter.
One thing host Ira Glass brought up during the prologue of the show was how for him magic equipment, “itself was kind of mesmerizing, with its false chambers and flaps and secrets that the audience didn't know. Every trick had a principle behind it, and it was cool to think about the principles.” In much the same way, marketing is based on principles. Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute believes in these six principles of epic content marketing:
Epic content fills a need
It communicates consistently
It requires you to find your unique, and human, voice
It expresses a point of view
It is devoid of “sales speak”
It’s recognized as the best of its breed
These six principles can basically be summed up as: find out what your audience needs and then meet those needs by speaking to them like a human. Learn how to put these principles into action with Pulizzi’s book Epic Content Marketing or by reading the rest of his blog post.
Once upon a magic trick . . .
Good magic tricks tell a story. Much like marketing, a magic trick needs to engage an audience. It’s not enough to grab their attention with a flash and a bang at the beginning, you need to hold their interest and keep them mesmerized. As Teller of Penn and Teller explained the steps he took to create a trick using a floating ball, he walked Glass through a familiar process for any writer. He researched, created a first draft, refined and edited his work, performed the trick for Penn in order to get his peer’s review, did more refining and editing, and then ultimately, he realized he was missing a story, his trick was missing emotion. “And I realized that I was doing all of this stuff with nothing causing it. There was no cause. Why is the ball moving around? The ball is just moving around. It was just arbitrary movement.” Teller was missing the “why?” Your audience doesn’t care about the what, who, where, or how if they aren’t invested in the why. Your why needs to be at the crux of your story, the center of your content marketing.
Put yourself in their position.
In order to create value for your audience, you have to understand what it’s like to be in their shoes. Which also comes back to the why? Why should they care about your product or service? In the magic world, Teller said, “One of the things that you do as a magician is you try to put yourself in the position of the audience at every moment. And you say, what would I be thinking at this moment?” If you can get on their level and understand their mindset, then you can form a connection, build a relationship, and deliver better content without the help of illusions and sleights of hand.