The king is dead, long live avocados

About five years ago I wrote an article about content marketing for the Gannett Wisconsin newspapers. We had become one of the first ad agencies in Wisconsin to not just make the leap into content marketing, but to integrate the approach into all aspects of our strategies, from branding and key performance indicators to Web development and sales promotion.

Back then, and until very recently, we would say that content is king, as many others have, but it’s time to move on. The king is dead, long live the king, the famous proclamation made upon the death of Charles VI and the ascension of his son Charles VII to the throne, has given way to a coup de grace of sorts. And the grace is financial, and that’s a coup we can all live with.

Good riddance dear king, what-up dear commerce? That’s right, content is commerce, and it feels so good. Content is the transaction by which we connect to decision-makers, and in the end, it’s a key difference-maker for decision-makers. The playmaker, the haymaker, and the “playa” all conveniently wrapped into one. I’ve written about content marketing best practices for years – so the specifics are well documented. You want to make money, make words. You want to trade your kingdom for a horse, be the source instead, and watch your kingdom grow.

Now, the secret to content is commerce, as it was with content is king, is voice-of-customer (VOC) research. To ensure that content is commerce, you need to be a great listener; to be a great listener, you need to be great at VOC. And just like the Hula-Hoop, everybody’s doing it. We’ve done it for Foot Locker in New York and some of its divisions, including Eastbay and CCS of California. For Lion Apparel in Dayton, Ohio, the world’s largest manufacturer and distributor of first responder turnout gear. For LumiData in Minneapolis, whose category management software is a must if you’re a CPG company trying to break into Walmart or Target. For CUNA Mutual Group, the Wisconsin Potato Board, UW-Madison, WEA Trust, M3 Insurance, Minnesota Thermal Science, and the list goes on. So why is content now commerce and what does this have to do with avocados? In a word, everything.

Look, connecting the dots is so passé, but connecting the dots when there are no dots to connect is so today. And that’s what content can do; it’s the one source of engagement when there might not be a common source to engage with. What people think or are saying about you or your industry is, well, money. In the old days, we called it a “door slider.” It was so good, so compelling, you could slide it under a prospect’s door, or a client’s, and walk away. That’s content, that’s commerce.

If you don’t think this is important, I have an incredible story for you. The California Avocado Commission (CAC), which is headquartered in Irvine only 40 miles from downtown Los Angeles (and it can easily take 90 minutes or more to travel between the two), was looking for an ad agency to be a partner for its grower communications plans, for Web and digital initiatives, and other far-reaching marketing objectives. It hired a search consultant, it searched the United States looking at dozens of agencies, it narrowed it down to 15, and then to three who pitched their avocados off to win the business. And then to one. TMA+Peritus. Let me put this into perspective – having a Wisconsin agency win the California avocado businesses is like an L.A. agency coming to Madison and winning the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board account. The difference between us and the dozens of others? You guessed it, VOC and content marketing, and, of course, a few other differentiators.

As April Aymami, Industry Affairs Manager for CAC wrote in the most recent issue of From the Grove magazine, “As fate would have it, the ‘Mother Road’ almost exactly connects the locations of CAC and its newest partner TMA+Peritus (TMAP), a full-service content marketing and web development agency based in the agriculture heartland of Madison and Wausau, Wisconsin. In order to assist us with the grower communication initiative, CAC has entered into a new collaborative effort with TMAP. Our partnership emerged from a lengthy review process of many communications companies. We selected TMAP because of their knowledge of the agricultural community; their technical expertise and track record of working with numerous clients that fit our precise needs.” Thank you, April, and thank you, VOC and content marketing.

Yeah, this is huge, and not just for us. It shows that Madison agencies can compete with the “bigs” on a national level. That there’s still a lure that Wisconsin has about its agricultural knowledge and expertise, and yes, we have a new crop to talk about. We’re not going to grow avocados, although we now have an “in” on how to do the seed, toothpick, glass of water trick that has been a consistent failure for decades in the Marks household, but we’re going to help grow the brand, from the sunny confines of 33 E. Main St.

Long live VOC, long live content is commerce, and long live Wisconsin’s newest crop – the California avocado. 

TMA+Peritus staff at one of California's many avocado groves.

Sign up for the free IB Update – your weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. Click hereIf you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.