Marketing lessons from Ron Swanson… we mean, Nick Offerman

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The problem with incredible, character-led comedy such as Parks and Recreation is that it becomes difficult to dissociate the actors from their on-screen characters. Last week, when I gushed about my love of Amy Poehler, my boyfriend stopped me and said “do you love her, or do you just love Leslie?”. I quickly snapped back: “I have read her autobiography you know,” which seemed to quieten him down, but the reality is Amy/Leslie have become so entwined, it is hard to separate the two. And I think sometimes I like to pretend Amy really is Leslie.

So imagine our surprise when deadpan, anti-government, meat-loving Ron Swanson, I mean, Nick Offerman, was announced as the keynote speaker at this year’s Content Marketing World. Ron Swanson hardly seems like the right person to be presenting on content marketing and storytelling, and it’s hard to imagine Nick not being Ron. I mean, Nick even has his own woodworking business, and a book called Paddle your own canoe (oh and the idea of Ron being a secret saxophonist was conceived before the writers even knew Nick had played sax in high school - how’s that for serendipity?). Even in his AMA, Nick was as Ron-like as we could ever have dreamed.

But Ron doesn't even like marketing. Remember when he called his development company Very Good Building and Development Company because he wanted to "convey the quality of [the] work without seeming flashy"? What about Very Good Building Company's TV ad? "Hire Very Good Building Compant for your construction needs. Or do not. I am not a beggar."

I mean, he doesn't even look good in orange!

But I decided there must be a reason why orange-wearing superstar content marketer Joe Pulizzi decided than Ron/Nick should be the one to receive the torch from last year’s keynote speaker Frank Underwood (I mean, Kevin Spacey). So in the interest of marketing, and not at all to indulge my Parks and Recreation obsession (because, come on, who doesn’t love Parks and Rec?) I decided to investigate the marketing lessons we can learn from Nick Offerman’s most-loved character.

Marketing lessons from Ron Swanson

“I’m a simple man. I like pretty, dark-haired women and breakfast food.”

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Our mission at Axonn is “making content marketing simple for everyone”. We all like simple. Don’t complicate things unnecessarily. Also, tap into what people truly love. In the words of Brian Chetsky, founder of AirBNB: “Build something 100 people love. Not something 1000 people sort-of like.”

“You had me at meat tornado”

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Don’t underestimate the power of a strong title. Especially if you are writing blog posts or email marketing newsletters. You might have the best email in the world, or the best content, but if you can’t entice people enough to open it, they’re not going to get your message.

“There’s only one thing I hate more than lying: skimmed milk, which is water lying about being milk.”

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We’ve all been guilty of doing the whole bait-and-switch, or using a deliberately misleading title or subject line, but while the initial results might look good, they’re not not sustainable and in the long term they’re likely to turn people off. Your content might not attract absolutely everyone, but be honest with the people it’s perfect for. This also extends to being honest with your content. If the stats don’t quite support the argument you want to make, don’t manipulate them, and never lie to your audience about anything. Trust is everything.

“Never half ass two things. Whole ass one thing.”

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This one speaks for itself. Don’t take on lots of projects you don’t care about and focus on one thing at a time. Don’t waste your time on things you don’t care about.

“Don’t start chasing applause and acclaim. That way lies madness.”

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Create content that you love, that you care about. Don’t create something just because of how you hope other people will react to it. Be honest and authentic in your content and it will show. Don’t publish anything that you don’t 100% believe in, and always maintain your integrity.

“There are only three ways to motivate people - money, fear and hunger.”

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Marketing is all about tapping into your customer’s pain points. What do they need, and how can your product or service help them? You can motivate them with money by emphasising cost savings, fear by giving them FOMO (fear of missing out) and hunger by giving them what they need.

Know your audience

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Come on, don't offer Ron Swanson salad.

"Give me all the bacon and eggs you have"

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Be sure to make your point clear. Does your audience completely understand what you mean?

“Greatness itself: the best revenge”

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And finally, the most important of all, go out there and be great.

And some marketing lessons to not take from Ron Swanson

"I'm going to type every word I know..."

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Not all content is good content. Don't just publish something purely to join in the conversation. Sometimes it's better just to keep quiet.

“Buffets: wherever available. Choose quantity over quality.”

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As any content marketer knows, content should be about quality over quantity. However, this is still good advice for buffets.

What can Pulp Fiction teach us about conversational search?