The Reality as to Why Most Big Brands Stink at Content Marketing

by Marcus Sheridan

big brands

I rarely talk about it, as it certainly doesn’t apply to content marketing in the direct sense, but my feet hurt. Seriously, they do. Plantar fasciitis is a constant whisper sending signals to my brain that the arches in my feet aren’t happy. Sometimes it’s not so bad, and other times it gets much worse. Amongst the many things I do to remedy my situation is the usage of a special insole for my shoes—insoles (orthotics) that often times cost way more than the shoes themselves.

Over the past 3 years, I’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars on insoles alone at a store called “The Walking Company.” If you live in the US, there is a good chance you’ve seen one of these stores before, as they have small retail locations, often at malls, all over the country, specializing in quality shoes and inserts for unhealthy folks just like me.

A few months ago, as I was dropping a few hundred more dollars at one of their locations, they asked for my email address during the check-out phase of the purchase. Knowing their motive would likely be “sell, sell, sell” as is the case with most bigger brands, I decided to give away my contact information with the hopes they’d surprise me and possibly embrace a more “teach, teach, teach” mentality.

As you can likely imagine, I’ve been sadly disappointed.

Just to give you an example of what I’m talking about, here are the subject lines for the last 3 emails I’ve received from the company:

  • Feature of the Week: Our Most Popular Dansko Sandals – FREE 2nd Day Shipping!
  • NEW Arrivals of our #1 Sandals – ABEO B.I.O.system | We’ll Pay Your Tax!
  • NEW Spring Arrivals for Men! | ECCO, ABEO, Thad Stuart & More!

I’m curious, what do you see wrong with these subject lines?

Seriously, think for a second about how they make you feel and what actions they inspire.

Are they truly attempting to teach you something?

Do you feel their earnest desire is to help you?

Is there a possible solution to a problem you’re having likely found within the email?

Of course, the answers to these questions are “NO.” The pattern is sadly consistent:

1. They make a “new and exciting” offer

2. They mention a few brands (many of which someone like me knows nothing about)

3. They include some type of “special” at the end followed by the always captivating “!”


walking company email

A recent email from The Walking Company– a classic example of a brand that has unlimited teaching opportunities for their customer base yet chooses to promote instead of inform.

I don’t mention these things to pick on The Walking Company. But unless we have conversations like this one, brands will continue to fall short of their potential.

Think for a second about how many customers The Walking Company has right now that are experiencing pain of some shape or form with their feet.

And how many of these same people would be willing to read educational articles or watch educational videos that give them possible solutions to their problems?

Furthermore, how much would such an educational campaign build trust and brand awareness?

I submit the answer is higher than any of us can possibly imagine.

But instead of thinking like their customers—instead of truly feeling their pain, problems, and issues—they continue to make silly offers, one after the other.

Because of this, after just 3 emails, they’ve become “The Brand that Cried Wolf.”

From this point forward, no matter how loud they scream and shout about specials and brands and offers, I won’t hear them. Nor will so many others on their email list.

And it’s all because they don’t have a culture of teaching within the company.

Becoming Teachers

This, of course, is the biggest reason why most brands fail to achieve their potential in a digital world. Sure, some throw money at other forms of marketing with great success, but few think, talk, walk, and act like “the teacher.”

Because of this, most email campaigns are awful.

Because of this, most blogs have almost no value.

And because of this, most web copy fails to touch readers.

So that’s our challenge folks—become the teacher. And truth be told, this really isn’t just about big brands at all, is it? Nope, whether you’re a mom and pop business where I live in Burgess Virginia or a world wide entity grossing billions in sales, great teaching is a universal principle to success we can all stand to improve upon.

Your Turn

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Why is this concept of “great teaching” so difficult for brands to embrace? Also, what brands have you seen do this well?

Jump in folks, your voice matters.


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