Humor me if you will:

  • Pick a number between one and 10.
  • Now multiply that number by nine.
  • If your answer is a two digit number add the digits together. (Ex: 35 would be 3+5=8)
  • Subtract 5 from your new number. (Ex: 8-5= 3)
  • Find the corresponding letter in the alphabet. (Ex: 1=A, 2=B, 3=C, etc.)
  • Think of a country that begins with your letter (Ex: C= Canada)
  • Now chose and animal that begins with the second letter (Ex: A=Alligator)
  • What is the color of your animal (Alligator= Green)

Keep the answer to yourself, I’ll get back to it later.

I asked several people in my office to do the same tasks above and other than the former zookeeper and horrible math student, all of the responses were the same. What is the purpose of this?

We believe to have free will and most of the time we do. However, imagine if someone was able to give you the perception of free will while ultimately guiding you to a predetermined response. Not only is it possible, it happens more often than you think.

In its simplest form it is known as a leading question. Marketers utilize leading questions to elicit a specific response. Leading questions indirectly suggest something by conveying information that may stimulate the imagination. If you have ever watched the beginning of an infomercial you are familiar with leading questions. Are you tired of the way you look? Are you ready to make a change?

Then try our fantastic product that will solve this newly discovered issue. Marketing 101 will tell you that it is not always about solving a known problem, but uncovering a new need and fulfilling that void.

In a deeper sense it is the ability to empower another. People have more faith in ideas they discover (or believe they discovered) themselves than ideas handed to them. Most people do not like to feel pressured or told to do something, they want to feel that they are acting on their own accord.

In marketing terms this is the concept of branding. The ultimate goal of marketing is to become so connected to the customer’s mind that they relate a specific product to a brand. This helps eliminate competition while creating the notion of free will.

Have you ever referred to a tissue as a Kleenex or a soft drink as a Coke? Although we may not like to admit it, we have been conditioned to relate these ideas with these brands. This is not necessarily bad; I’m merely trying to peal back the wool from your eyes so that you can see psychological nature that lies within marketing.

What is the correlation to content marketing? We have the power to influence resources on the Internet. We chose what sources to use in our content and which sites to ultimately drive traffic to. This means we have the power to influence the readers “free will” if they happen to follow the rabbit hole of our source links.

We act as gatekeepers if you will, with the ability to develop cognitive relationships between ideas and brands. Through our content we are ultimately guiding our audience to some definitive way of thinking, whether they (or we), realize it.

This means we must hold ourselves accountable for the brands/websites we choose to use as sources within our content. And on that same token, we must provide quality content that lives up to the standards already set by those brands. This is not necessarily a practice common in our industry, but is one that could develop into a sustainable and prolific company.

Now let’s get to the elephant in the room: the riddle from the beginning of this post. The concept is to allow you to believe that you are picking answers to my seemingly open questions. However, pending your ability to do basic math, everyone ends up at the same letter… D. Now it is a numbers game for the country, animal, and color. Odds are you end up picking one string of responses: Grey Elephant from Denmark.

Of course you are always going to have your anomalies that ended up with Brown Orangutans from the Dominican Republic, but the concept of perceived reality is still evident, not just in the riddle but throughout most areas of our lives.