Gary Vaynerchuk: Great Content Doesn’t Make Demands—Often

UPDATED: September 11, 2023
PUBLISHED: January 31, 2014

Advertising impresario Leo Burnett offered the following advice for making great content:

Make it simple.

Make it memorable.

Make it inviting to look at.

Make it fun to read.

I’m going to add one more directive: Make it for your customer or your audience, not for yourself.

Be generous. Be informative. Be funny. Be inspiring. Be all the characteristics we enjoy in other human beings. That’s what jabs are all about. Right hooks represent what is valuable to you—getting the sale, getting people in the door. Jabs are about what is valuable to the consumer. How do you know what content people find valuable? Look on their phones. Phone home screens show you everything you need to know about what kind of content people value. In general, the three most popular app categories are:

a. Social networks, which tells you that people are interested in other people.

b. Entertainment, including games and music apps, which tells you that people want to escape.

c. Utility, including maps, notepads, organizers, and weight loss management systems, which tells you that people value service.

Much of your content should fall within one of these three categories. Sometimes the possible jabs a business should take with this content will be obvious. A cosmetics company could easily tell a story about utility by giving their customers short videos (under fifteen seconds) on Facebook on how to properly apply their makeup, or put out an infographic on Pinterest illustrating the interesting facts about their product history and how women have used it over time. But how would a cosmetics company provide entertainment? If it’s selling to eighteen- to twenty-five-year-old females, it could post demos of new music that appeals to eighteen-to twenty-five-year-olds, and deconstruct female music stars’ stage makeup, maybe admiring the risks they take and explaining how people could try to get the same toned-down effect at home. As for how the company can tap into its customers’ desire to interact with people, it just needs to be human. It needs to get in on conversations, find shared interests with consumers, and respond and react to what people are saying, not just about the brand per se, but about related topics, like how women can erase the signs of fatigue and stress before a big presentation even when they’ve been up since three in the morning with a baby, or what age is appropriate for girls to start shaping their eyebrows. It could also talk about unrelated topics. Just because its main product was makeup wouldn’t mean that it couldn’t also talk about gaming or food, because it’s possible that fans could be enthusiastic about those topics, too. Jabs can be anything that helps set up your “commercial ask.”

When you deliver a precise jab with native content, it might take your consumer a split second before he realizes that the story he’s paying attention to is being told by a brand, not an individual. Yet if your content is great, the realization won’t piss him off. Instead, he’ll appreciate what you’re offering. Because when you jab, you’re not selling anything. You’re not asking your consumer for a commitment. You’re just sharing a moment together. Something funny, ridiculous, clever, dramatic, informative, or heartwarming. Maybe something featuring cats. Something, anything, except a sales pitch. Skillful, native storytelling increases the likelihood that a person will share your content with a friend, thus increasing the likelihood of that friend remembering your brand the next time she decides she needs whatever it is you sell. It might even increase the chance that when you finally do hit her with a right hook and ask her to buy something from you, she will click through to make an immediate purchase, even though she’s sitting under a dryer at the salon (this moment brought to you thanks to the generous contribution of mobile device developers everywhere).

The emotional connection you build through jabbing pays off on the day you decide to throw the right hook. Remember when you were a kid, and you’d go to your mom and ask her to take you out for an ice-cream cone, or to the video arcade? Nine times out of ten, she said no. But then, every now and then, out of the blue, she would say yes. Why? In the days or weeks prior, something about how you interacted with your mother before the unexpected outing to the ice-cream shop or arcade made your mom feel like she wanted to do something for you. You made her happy, or maybe even proud, by giving her something she valued, whether it was doing extra chores or good grades or just one day of peace with your sibling. You gave so much that when you finally asked, she was emotionally primed to say yes.

No way is a consumer going to say yes if you ambush him with a giant pop-up that blacks out the middle of the Web page he’s reading. The only thing he’ll feel is irritation as he frantically hunts for that little X in the corner that will make you go away. If consumers could wipe out all the banner ads blinking around the periphery of their Web pages, too, they would. No one wants to be interrupted, and no one wants to be sold to. Your story needs to move people’s spirits and build their goodwill, so that when you finally do ask them to buy from you, they feel like you’ve given them so much it would be almost rude to refuse.

Jab, jab, jab, jab, jab . . . right hook!

Or . . .

Give, give, give, give, give . . . ask.

Get it?

Excerpted from the book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World by Gary Vaynerchuk.

Read Gary Vaynerchuk’s four foolproof steps to making money through social media in the February 2014 SUCCESS cover story, available for your desktop, mobile or tablet device.

Jessica Krampe is the digital managing editor for A graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism, Jessica has worked for news, entertainment, business and lifestyle publications. Outside of the daily grind, she enjoys happy hours, live music and traveling.