Do you believe in magic or math? Some marketers believe there's a magic number of times to post, share and distribute their content. The magic number varies based on budget and preconceived notions, but the goal is the same: create messages that make people click, like and engage.

But what if those "magic numbers" are really just random choices? What if creating effective content that really resonates requires more sophisticated math?

From pine cones, to ram's horns to attractive faces, there's a secret geometry to nature's beauty. It's based on a series of numbers in which each is the sum of the two preceding numbers (1,1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13...).

This series of number is called the Fibonacci sequence and it serves as a structural underpinning for some of the world's most famous art, from the Great Pyramids of Giza to the Mona Lisa. This structure, which has fascinated biologists, artists, musicians, and architects since the ancient Greeks, is also known as the Golden Ratio.

Nice cocktail party conversation, but why should you care?

Because in content--just like architecture, music, and art--structure, harmony, and proportions matter. Pay attention to those structural underpinnings and your content will be golden (pun intended).

That means factoring in five essential elements: believability, sustainability, repeatability, likability and feasibility.

Believability

The golden ratio for great storytelling starts with believability. Your content should feel honest and true and follow a solid storytelling structure. Examine the greatest stories ever told and you'll be a better marketer for it.

The basics of good story telling are the same as they were 2,000 years ago. You need an intriguing beginning, or "hook," a middle that will keep people reading, and a satisfying ending. Believable, repurpose-able content creates authentic stories and ultimately, builds brands.

Think of Elon Musk's recent Hyperloop campaign. He promised that his high-speed train could get people from New York City to Washington D.C. in 29 minutes. He's foretelling the future of the transportation industry with a 29-minute hook.

There's little evidence to demonstrate this Hyperloop is possible, barring a link to a white paper and simulation video provided in the tweet, but that's not important. We want to believe it's true and that's enough to make this technique work. 

Sustainability

One is the first number in the Fibonacci sequence--the number on which the entire sequence is built. By identifying one key truth about your brand, you can create a sustainable campaign that will be successful for decades. 

Just ask MasterCard CMO Raja Rajamannar, who inherited MasterCard's iconic "Priceless" campaign. Rather than start over to make his mark, Rajamannar understood the campaign's 20-year longevity was due to one sustainable truth: Moments matter more than things. 

As Rajamannar puts it, "We offer people the one thing money can't buy: experience." The campaign offers dozens of experiences in dozens of cities around the world, but they all focus on that one big idea.

The campaign is sustainable--it transcends generation, location, and culture. Developing this type of campaign doesn't have to cost a fortune. It requires finding your brand's one key truth and focusing on it.

Repeatability

Albert Einstein's equation E=MC2 contains a mysterious pattern that is revealed in the Fibonacci Sequence.  

Interestingly, Einstein was also a great storyteller.

He built his personal brand by reducing complex concepts to their simple essence. His genius is in math and physics, but it is his ability to turn his work into a story that made him an icon. E=MC2 is the one mathematical formula most people know.

It's not only genius, it's repeatable.

Likeability

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed his timeless sonatas in three parts: exposition, development and recapitulation.

In the margins of Mozart's scores, he jotted down mathematical equations to base his composition on the Golden Ratio. His music is pleasing to the ear because it is balanced, making it likeable to everyone who hears it.

As marketers, we know our content can't be music to everyone's ears, and our brand is bound to strike the occasional dissonant note.   When that happens, it's tempting to just focus on the positive and move on. Instead, see if you can pinpoint out what it is about your content that turned people off, so you don't make the same mistake twice.

Build likeability and authenticity into your brand on purpose.

Feasibility

As Malcolm Gladwell suggests in The Tipping Point, "That is the paradox of the epidemic: that in order to create one contagious movement, you often have to create many small movements first."

Big ideas can start out small. There's no need to go big right out of the gate. Small strategic gains can make the biggest waves. As you gain momentum, you keep adding and adding until--like the Fibonacci sequence--your campaign spirals into something big.

Published on: Nov 13, 2017
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