Day 2 of Content Marketing World kicked off with a high-energy keynote from Andrew Davis, author of Brandscaping and ended with live music, delectable delights from various food trucks and a gorgeous view of the Cleveland skyline at ContentFest, held at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica.

Here are a few of the day’s highlights, though it just barely scratches the surface of everything we heard, learned, conversed about and experienced:

Lukas Treu, content architect: Content Marketing World is not the first conference I’ve ever attended, but it certainly is the most eye-opening. Going in, I wasn’t sure what I would find: A lot of chatter reiterating the same talking points we’ve all been hearing for the last couple of years about needing a content strategy and a content team, or actual useful information that gets into the weeds regarding HOW we can move forward from this point as an industry. I was glad to find much more of the latter than the former.

While I learned a ton today and it is extremely difficult to boil it down to a few key nuggets, I would say this was my greatest takeaway: We Aren’t as Smart as We Think We Are, Marketers.

While we pursue content marketing as a means of marketing differently and breaking long-standing industry norms, we are still falling into the trap of operating under old assumptions about marketing. For instance, we think about digital marketing as if people go online, type a search into Google and hopefully find our products and services, but this totally ignores the chaotic trip down the rabbit hole that is one-thought-leads-to-another Internet searching. We have a moment of inspiration (e.g., when my conversation with Kate turned to the size of an adult tuna at ContentFest Tuesday evening), which leads to a series of interactions with search engines and websites. Sometimes we might look up one thing, sometimes that one thing might lead to several more queries, but in general, we are much less rational in our content-seeking behavior as consumers than we might like to think. It’s time, therefore, that we start accounting for this in our marketing efforts, factoring in true consumer behavior.

Another example: The value of metrics and analytics has been beaten into our heads, but are we measuring the right metrics to really learn what leads to sales? Decidedly, the answer is “No”. Social science research shows time and time again that the correlation between what drives Sales and Shares, Likes, Willingness to Recommend and Favorability is rather pitiful, statistically speaking. What we find that is far and away the most telling metric of ROI is actually Brand Attachment… Something many of us have never heard of, let alone measured. Decades of research on how we form attachment to other humans has shown that we form attachments to brands and objects in much the same way, but these are emotional decisions driven by the limbic system in the brain stem (a very animalistic, automated part of the brain), NOT in the neocortex, where rational thought takes place. While we often say “mind blowing” too flippantly as marketers, in this case at least, our ideas of the mind truly are being blown.

Kate Eidam, portfolio lead: It was amazing to sit in the room for the day’s kickoff keynotes. Thousands of smart, curious people from 50 countries around the globe gathered in my hometown to share best practices, discuss new trends and toast new friends with a pint…or in some cases, a margarita (note: that didn’t happen until the end of the day!).

For me, today was the perfect combination of experiencing what we do every day from new perspectives, as well as a few reinforcements we’re on the right track.

“We have a funnel problem, people…It was invented in 1898 by St. Elmo Lewis…it’s probably time to move on.” Andrew Davis started his presentation turning the old, reliable sales funnel on its head. Funnels serve as a strong graphic to ground marketing and sales teams in mutual understanding of how the customer engages with their brand during the buying process. But Andrew reminded me that no customer journey is linear, direct or simple.

“The average attention span of a goldfish is nine seconds. The average human attention span in 2013 was eight seconds.” Katrina Craigwell, global manager of digital marketing for GE kicked off her session on visual storytelling with these stats. It definitely oriented everyone in the room. With an opt-in audience of 4MM+ across all of its channels, GE is certainly doing a lot of things right. For example, YouTube is a channel they’re programming; it’s not just a repository. They also believe in being a first mover on platforms that make sense for the GE brand and believe in experimentation. This was a good reminder that you often have to risk to gain the reward…even in marketing programs.

It must have been a good day, as the room was bursting at the seams for the last session! Not sure I’ve ever been to a conference where that’s happened.

Amanda Vasil, social media strategist: Content Marketing World is unlike any other conference I’ve attended. Founders who encourage you to walk out of a session if you don’t find value in it? Orange donuts, cotton candy and three-piece suits? Gathering of 2,500 content marketers under one roof? It’s very, very cool.

I loved what I heard in today’s sessions, which centered around three major themes:

  • Strategy. We FINALLY have marketing on the right course leading with strategy before tactics. I heard countless times today “Who are your audiences?” “What are your business goals?” “What are your key messages?” It was music to my ears and validated what I already knew: Content marketers are really freaking smart.
  • Disruption. Companies are no longer satisfied with status quo marketing efforts. They’re hungry for change. They’re hungry for results. They want – they NEED – fresh thinkers, game changers and trend spotters to breathe new life into their strategic content planning and execution.
  • WIIFM. Customers will never stop asking “What’s in it for me?” But now not only do they want to know the benefit to marketing efforts, they want it mega customized, wrapped in eco-friendly paper and delivered to their doorstep at a specific time on a specific day of the week. And you better spell their name right.

Is it just me, or is content marketing taking over the world?

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Day 3 of #CMWorld is going to be just as informative and exhausting and invigorating as Days 1 and 2. But hey, it wraps up with Kevin Spacey taking the stage live and in person. See you tomorrow.

Check back all week for new info and perspectives. For real-time conference updates, follow the conversation at:

Lukas Treu: @LTreu
Amanda Vasil: @avasilicious
Kate Eidam: @kateeidam