How to Get Competitors Speaking Your Language

In 2014, I read an article that has remained lodged in my brain ever since.

Competition was growing in content marketing, the author argued, and declining ROI was an inevitable consequence. An interesting article, sure, and ahead of its time—but not extraordinary. The writing was bare-bones and utilitarian. There was little data to back up the claim. I disagreed with some of it.

And yet, a small portion of my brain has carried around the name of this blog post, and its author, for seven years. I’ve forgotten what I ate for breakfast yesterday, but I still remember the concept coined by this article: Content Shock.

Reading that article, I learned one of the most important ideas in content marketing: The easiest, fastest, and most predictable way to lodge your content in the reader’s brain is to wrap it up in a coined concept—a short, easily remembered catchphrase.

Ideas can be complex, nuanced, and difficult to communicate. Coined concepts are simple, straightforward, and easy to broadcast en masse.

We use coined concepts (or neologisms, if you’re feeling fancy) all the time. Like content shock, many of the ideas contained in our blog posts are relatively straightforward, but they’re given weight and memorability by their coined concepts.

These concepts are sometimes borrowed from adjacent fields. Science, academia, business, and entertainment are rife with interesting frameworks, models, and acronyms that can be repurposed within your niche. Though not strictly neologisms (they aren’t new concepts), they’re given new meaning and purpose within your industry:

Other times, it’s possible to popularize an existing concept, something that was coined elsewhere but has since fallen into obscurity.

The term “copycat content” can be found peppered throughout articles all the way back to content marketing’s infancy, but today, most uses of the term refer to the specific type of copycat content described in a single article: Copycat Content: SEO Tools Got Us Here, Humans Will Get Us Out.

Most powerful of all are coined concepts created from scratch. Though harder to create, they have the benefit of being unique to you—if they gain popularity, they can almost always be traced back to your company. Many of our most successful blog posts have taken this approach:

(And here’s hoping—maybe “coined concepts” will become a thing.)

Once published, these coined concepts begin to circulate within your industry. You’ll see them referenced on social media, cited in blog posts, and debated in response articles. New articles build on the foundation you created. Prospects begin to reference coined concepts in sales conversations, and your competitors—often unwittingly—begin to adopt your terminology in their own marketing efforts.

And that’s where the real power of this strategy lies. By anchoring your ideas to these sticky catchphrases, they become useful shorthand—quick and easy ways to reference big, complicated topics—and develop life beyond your company. Your ideas and language slowly enter common usage. By taking a little extra time to create a memorable catchphrase to summarize your ideas, you begin to shape the entire industry discourse in your favor.