How content can help companies create consumer habits

A while ago, I had an encouraging email from a woman that represented a small but extraordinary marketing victory. It’s worth considering today as a marketing lesson in consumer habits.

Her message to me:

“Mark, I start my day with you. I get a cup of coffee, open my laptop, and see what you sent me that day.”

This is a remarkable statement because it shows that I have become a habit, part of the fabric of her daily life.

Becoming a habit is really the Holy Grail of marketing (here is a very useful treatise on the subject).

The idea of building and reinforcing new consumer habits is an extremely complicated subject and I don’t want to minimize that, but I do think content can play a role in the process. A new habit begins with a trigger and is reinforced through repetition. That’s an important lesson for content marketers regarding quality and quantity.

Quality is a trigger for new consumer habits

Quality acts as a trigger. In this world of overwhelming information density (Content Shock) it’s extraordinarily difficult to earn that initial attention. This why having superior quality — at least the best in your niche — is essential.

Think about that rare and precious act of subscribing to a new blog, podcast, or YouTube channel. Why did you do it? The answer is easy — The content made you go “wow!”

In my college classes and corporate workshops, I teach that content that cuts through the clutter is “RITES:”

  • Relevant — It aligns with the interests and values of an audience
  • Interesting — It’s worthy of their time and perhaps worthy of a conversation.
  • Timely — It helps them understand some part of their world or a current event in a new context.
  • Entertaining — It’s easy to consume and enjoyable
  • Superior — It’s consistency the best in its class.

This a concept I’ve taught for years and I think it holds up well today.

If you unsubscribe to something, it’s normally because the content probably failed you in one of these categories.

But that’s only part of the equation. You also need to build that new habit over time …

Consistency reinforces new consumer habits

I’ve stated often in my books and on this blog that consistency is more important than genius. The role of repetition in building consumer habits explains at least part of that idea.

I once had a personal coaching client who said he gave up on blogging because in 2015 he wrote three blog posts and nothing happened. If you have any experience at all with content and social media, that probably made you chuckle. It made me chuckle too, but I didn’t because I’m polite.

Creating and reinforcing consumer habits through content requires a long-term commitment. The only reason I am part of the woman’s life who reads my posts over a cup of coffee is because she counts on me showing up.

I’ve blogged every week for almost 12 years without missing once. Look, if I’ve earned a place in your life, I don’t want to mess it up by disappearing. I also don’t want to let you down with crappy content or I’ll be replaced, and deservedly so.

The hard work

I read a quote from a marketing guru recently: “If you blog a couple of times a month, content marketing still works pretty well.”

I had a hard time holding my tongue on that one. I want to attack issues, not people, but that is irresponsible advice. This is selling a notion that content is still a novelty and anyone can benefit from just blogging every month.

This marketing world is hard and we should speak plainly about that. The economic value of content that is not seen and shared is zero. Igniting content — earning subscribers and fans can be agonizingly difficult, especially if you’re a small business owner wearing six other hats.

Content marketing does not begin with content. It begins with an assessment of your market opportunities, a realistic plan of attack, and a commitment to quality and consistency that gives you a chance to build new consumer habits.

I appreciate you and the time you took out of your day to read this! You can find more articles like this from me on the top-rated {grow} blog and while you’re there, take a look at my Marketing Companion podcast and my keynote speaking page. For news and insights find me on Twitter at @markwschaefer and to see what I do when I’m not working, follow me on Instagram.

Illustration courtesy

Originally published at on November 9, 2020.

Keynote speaker, strategy consultant, Rutgers University marketing faculty and author of 9 books including KNOWN, Marketing Rebellion, and Cumulative Advantage.

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