You are reading contentfolks—a fortnightly blend of sticky notes, big content ideas, and small practical examples. Thank you for being here! ~fio
This issue comes to you a little later than usual because I was waiting for a piece of content to go live first: a webcomic titled Dun Dun Dunning we just published over at Postmark, which we created with a precise marketing KPI: sparking joy in whoever reads it—yourself included!
Content marketing is a creative profession (but it doesn’t always feel like one)
It’s easy to forget that content marketing started as a creative discipline to help, educate, and entertain people who could eventually become customers. These days, it’s often treated like a performance channel with an expectation of short-term ROI, which in turn dictates how calendars are put together and what types of content are delivered (or not).
When your work is judged on its ability to drive leads and sales today, it’s hard to make a case for creating something entertaining that might drive leads or sales tomorrow. When you’re caught in a write-publish-distribute frenzy, it’s even harder to take a step back and take risks with something vastly different from what you’re already doing.
It feels like most of the fun has been taken out of the funnel.
I think it’s our job to put it back 😉
💡A practical example 💡
Back in March, I was doing research for a Postmark guide about dunning emails, which are the automated email notifications a business will send its customers after a recurring payment failure. You’ve probably found yourself in a similar place before: working on topics that are extremely important to your audience but somewhat difficult to get creatively excited about.
Luckily, the Postmark team has a long history of turning dry, technical topics into quirky and delightful content. Just last year, my colleagues made email deliverability the subject of a webcomic that was both informative and wildly fun to read; they did it again a few months later, releasing another webcomic to explain why emails get stuck in the spam folder.
So of course that got me thinking: what if we created a companion webcomic about dunning emails that was both educational and entertaining?
And that’s how Dun Dun Dunning was born.
Here is a quick overview: there is a super-owl, Dunning, and a villainous skunk, Churn, both of whom are named after business concepts. They are your typical protagonist & arch-nemesis pair, and you are witnessing the latest in a long series of face-offs, as Churn tries (and fails) to outsmart Dunning by messing with an unsuspecting customer’s payment.
I have a newfound respect for comic creators anywhere: so. much. work goes into coming up with a solid story arc and well-defined characters and settings, then compressing them all into small square panels and even smaller speech bubbles. And that’s before we even mention the artwork: a wonderful illustrator worked on at least five (!) iterations, from sketch to final ink, to bring the story to life. Once everything was ready, yet another team member used their web development magic and build the page.
In retrospect, it would have been much easier to stop after publishing the guide 😅 But I think we all agree that a webcomic full of owl puns is far more memorable than a traditional guide will ever be, which is what makes it a worthwhile long-term investment in our brand and its growth. If this is how someone discovers Postmark for the first time, remembers us in the future, and/or sees us as the friendly & quirky team we are, we can call this webcomic a success—even without ever measuring the sign-ups or revenue it leads to.
Back during the creation of the first webcomic, the Postmark team decided to use ‘sparking joy’ as one of our main KPIs. It’s a very unusual marketing metric to optimise for, but it meant we could go wild and double down on the silliness, the nerdiness, the in-jokes, and the fun—both for ourselves working on the project and our audience once we released it.
Since then, ‘sparking joy’ has become one of the ways we measure the success of our content initiatives, and that very much includes this project. We found a lot of joy in putting Dun Dun Dunning together, and we hope it’s something you can be joyful about, too.
What do YOU do to make your work more joyful for yourself and your audience?