In the movie The Matrix, there’s a famous scene where Neo meets The Oracle. As he walks into her apartment, he sees a young boy bending a spoon with his mind. He’s fascinated. As he bends down and takes the spoon, the boy offers some advice:
“Do not try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead only try to realize the truth.”
Neo looks confused. “What truth?” he asks. The boy responds: “There is no spoon.” Neo is even more confused. “There is no spoon?” he asks. The boy assures him, “Then you’ll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.”
The lesson for Neo is that manipulating objects in The Matrix isn’t about forcing, pushing, or bending objects to his will. As the boy notes, there’s no way he can change something that doesn’t even exist. He has to change himself.
Metaphorically, it’s all in is head.
So what can we take away from this as marketers?
In many of the businesses I consult with, I see content marketers struggling with scaling their efforts and generating new and interesting ideas. The content marketing team tries to push, force, bend, and manipulate the “features,” “benefits,” and “brand promises” to fit into some new shape called “thought leadership” or “inspiring story.”
It’s ultimately a frustrating experience, because trying to pull the story from the product or brand feels false. And it limits the universe of stories we can tell. Is it any wonder that so many simply fall back on “customer stories” or “case studies” as the only source of new material? And even those feel like the same old story with new characters.
Here’s the truth: There is no spoon in content marketing.
We shouldn’t force ourselves to only push content ideas from our product or brand’s world view. We must simply allow for the fact that our brand, our products, our company, should stand for something greater and deeper than what we sell.
One of my favorite examples of this is how Lincoln Electric, a purveyor of welding equipment, has found success in telling the story of how welding is a chosen life and can truly be an art form. They’ve allowed themselves to change and, in doing so, opened up the possibility that Lincoln Electric isn’t just about selling the best welding equipment. They are (as they say):
“for anyone who shapes metal in some form or another to push their envelope of choice – be it in manufacturing, art, entertainment, community service or some other passion – to new limits and new heights…”
Now I certainly didn’t mean that whole story to be as punny as it turned out to be. But if you’ll forgive me that, I think it’s a fantastic lesson.
We can focus on changing ourselves and how we see the world. That gives us the super powers to change the world rather than trying to continually push and force our way through it.
It’s your story. Tell it well.