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Kevin Spacey: Conflict as a Marketing Counter Narrative

Conflict as the Counter-narrative of MarketingThe story is everything, but conflict is everything to the story.

So says Kevin Spacey who was the key note speaker of the Content Marketing Institute’s annual conference and CMI released this highlight video in an email today. The video is embedded below and well worth the five minutes it takes to watch it.

Though he can clearly pronounce the term “GIF” correctly, I’m not sure he knows much of anything about content marketing.  He does appear to have a grasp of storytelling and insofar as that’s a foundation of content marketing, then his ideas are interesting.

“Our stories become more interesting when they go against the natural order of things.”

The Magnetism of Conflict

Spacey calls conflict the first element of content marketing because it “creates tension and keeps people engaged.” Who we are today, where we are going and what other people expect of us are a “central thread of human experience.”

Tension is well grounded in communications theory, for example in Hugh Rank’s intensify/downplay schema, yet it’s still a tough sell in a corporate environment. Why?  Because companies have this collective thinking that fallibility is associated with weakness.

There is something endearing, indeed authentic, and perhaps even magnetic about conflict.  As Spacey summed it up. “Our stories become more interesting when they go against the natural order of things.”

Start with a Story, not a Result

To his credit, CMI founder Joe Pulizzi asked Spacey one question that ought to be posed to every conference speaker before they are allowed to leave the stage.  To paraphrase: These marketers will have to go back to their cubicles next week and convince their boss they should be telling stories.  Their boss is likely to respond, we have to sell products and services.

Spacey’s response?  Start with deciding what story you want to tell rather than the result you want to see.  His answer is interesting in that it runs counter to the natural order of marketing.

Photo: Screenshot from CMI’s Video

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