Content Creation

The Content Marketing Industry Reminds Me of Gym Class


December 4, 2013 (Updated: February 3, 2023)

Prepare yourself for nostalgic middle school memories – or traumatic flashbacks – as I take you down memory lane to compare lessons from the locker room to modern day marketing.  We all remember gym class – it was the best of times, it was the most awkward of times – and the same characters from middle school can be found in the marketing industry.

Gym class creates visible market segments, and as kids we took notice. Some kids are eager to take charge of playground activities while some try not to be noticed at all. We all remember sitting in math or history right after P.E. – sweating and wondering how deodorant works and if we should buy some. Look back at your middle school yearbook and you’ll spot the “Early Adopters,” the “Late Majority,” and the “Laggards” of the Diffusion of Innovations theory.

Welcome to the kickball battlefield of content marketing.

To Be or Not To Be?

Marketing lessons are learned over time and gym class set the foundation for this. Brands identify their market segments and go where their target audiences are. In marketing multiple platforms are available, and as in gym class, every brand is either trying something new or sticking to whatever is comfortable to them.

The “Early Adopters” of marketing today are those who hit their growth spurts back in the day. (I am still waiting for mine.) These are the brands that successfully adopted a social media presence and a cohesive strategy. They are the ones currently (effectively) using Tumblr and Snapchat. These brands are the jocks of our pastime, involved in any and all activities learning how to communicate among peers and competition. Examples range from Oreo to Red Bull.

Don’t Stop Running

The “late majority” in gym class kept things normal and mostly blended in with the scenery. This is true for marketing today. These are the kids who started to shower weekly or bought a second uniform to keep up with everyone who was already using deodorant. In the marketing world, these are the brands still using QR codes or creating campaign content that doesn’t resonate with the audience.

Occasionally these wallflowers are pushed into the spotlight with viral success or a PR crisis. However, their failed Twitter Q&A campaigns or slow gaining viral success are nonetheless  attempts to communicate with the consumer. These brands may not be the all-stars; however, they are responsible for continued effort of past and present tactics in which we all learn from. (Remember the Coke vs. Pepsi challenge? Well, Bing it on.)

Leave us Behind

In marketing, it’s easy to spot the “Laggards” or those left behind. In gym class, these are the brands that only show up for a participation grade. These are the kids who walked around the track to avoid perspiring but still managed to pass.

The “Laggards” are brands that incorporate Facebook and Twitter just because they have to in order to stay relevant.  Legal services are famous for this awkward transition to new media and tend to be the “Laggards“of our marketing world. When billboards aren’t enough, “Laggards” look to the “late majority” for lessons on how to get by with a lackluster effort.

Class is Dismissed

By now your thoughts should be teeming with middle school memories and greater self-awareness of where your brand stands. Every day we learn about of new technologies and the challenges of communicating your brand’s message. When you’re stuck, recall your glory days and how you once found your social circle in gym class, perhaps this will help reignite your brand.

Share your traumas and victories – in marketing and in gym class – in the comments below.

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