vlad dracula

Dare to be Like Dracula: The Mesmerizing Power of History & Horror

Vampires look like humans. Some so beautiful they hypnotize people.

Three such mesmerizing vampires seduced a lawyer from England, Jonathan Harker, when he visited Castle Dracula for the first time.

It’s not until after Harker escapes from the female vampires’ deadly spell that he realizes Dracula, his host, only wants one thing: human blood.

Bran Castle

Bran Castle, also called Dracula’s Castle. Stoker may have used it as inspiration for his book.

This fictional story is from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, written in 1897 and renowned all over the world. Today, the book’s basis in history and connection to real people and events is what fascinates me most.

Because it uses fiction to tell the truth about a brutal 15th-century ruler, Vlad the Impaler. He and Dracula shared a thirst for blood, one while defending Transylvania and the other while trying to survive and grow the domain of the undead.

This idea of fiction being used to shed light on the truth is key to all good storytelling. Whether you’re writing a novel about vampires or a blog post about your business, the ability to educate and entertain your audience is powerful.

Here’s how you can incorporate history (fact) and horror (fiction) into your marketing strategy to capture and hold your readers’ attention.

Inform with the facts

Without Dracula, Vlad the Impaler’s life and bloodthirsty reputation might have remained largely a mystery.

The fact Vlad’s father’s name was Vlad Dracul and he became known as Draculea, “Son of Dracul”, is no coincidence; the ruler’s name and his cruel punishment tactics (impaling his enemies on stakes), were the perfect inspiration for Stoker’s vampire.

Vlad the Impaler

Vlad the Impaler

Knowing this gives Dracula another dimension. The vampire becomes more real because of Vlad and thanks to the Wallachian prince, readers are more invested in Stoker’s bloodsucking creature.

As a business, think about your different dimensions. Give your audience everything they need to know to make an informed decision about your product or service.

Using your homepage, landing pages, blog, newsletters, social media — all your content channels — set the scene, describe every benefit of your offering and paint a real picture of how your reader’s life will be transformed by your one-of-a-kind workshop, sustainable clothing line, etc.

There are a number of ways to do this including:

  • Sharing the story of how your organization came about
  • Telling your community exactly who you are (reinforce your core values)
  • Describing exactly what your thing does (material, look, feel, etc.)
  • Explaining how their life will change for the better (testimonials, case studies, research)
  • Providing them with something of value: a solution, an answer, expert advice

Think of what is relevant to your community right now. Pinpoint the stage they are on in their customer journey and produce useful content that they care about and can gain something from.

Give them Vlad. Just try not to scare any customers away.

Entertain with fiction

This is where the terrifyingly good content comes into play.

It’s the wolves howling outside the castle and the paleness of Dracula’s skin. It’s the blood from a shaving cut that causes the vampire to pounce on his house guest.

Dracula_by_Hamilton_Deane_&_John_L._Balderston_1938

Poster for a production of “Dracula” by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston.

In Stoker’s case, the gory details and bone-chilling plot twists are what entice the reader, leaving them wanting more.

Most likely your content won’t grow its audience by frightening them (unless you run a haunted house), but if you incorporate the elements below into your blog, newsletter, social posts, you will draw in and engage with your readers:

  • Use eye-catching headlines that clearly state the value readers will receive in exchange for their time
  • Create a bond with your community by being passionate about your product and speaking from your heart
  • Satisfy readers’ desires with a series of blog posts on a popular topic. Then package it into a free e-book!
  • Give a new perspective on your industry. Be different than your competitors.
  • Make sure your call to actions pop on the page and are easy to understand
  • Choose compelling images and user-friendly designs

Remember that your content marketing should imitate fiction in its power to captivate an audience, make them feel a special connection to the story and persuade them to keep reading. Your content shouldn’t ever be fake, fabricated or untrue.

Virginia Woolf put it succinctly: “Fiction must stick to facts, and the truer the facts the better the fiction… “

People want the facts, but they also want to feel and experience something. That’s the bloody truth.

via Giphy

Why French Cuisine is Good for Content Marketing

“[T]hey know what to do with every scrap of hoof, snout, entrail, and skin … Because they grew up with that all-important dictum. Use everything! (And use it well.)”

This is how Anthony Bourdain describes the French style of cooking in his book, A Cook’s Tour.

I picked up his collection of food and travel tales before my last plane trip and have since been reliving his fearless and much-missed spirit through his writing.

He brings up French cuisine when talking about creating magic with food. To him, these classically-trained chefs are experts of taking the most unglamorous ingredients — “boiled tongues, tails, bones, and cheap root vegetables” — and turning them into something delicious, like pot-au-feu.

Not unlike how content marketers strip down a business’s purpose, down to the core, so that they can then reconstruct its message in many different meaningful and relevant ways.

Because when done right, content marketing doesn’t appear as a business-driven message at all, but as a story you want to read, a song you want to sing, a feeling you want to have.

So how do you go from a word or an idea to captivating someone’s attention and evoking emotions? Like the French, start with the basics and build from there.

know the exact ‘ingredients’ of your business

What does your business do for its customers that is better and distinct from the competition? In other words, what are the main elements that go into your company’s special sauce?

mixing ingredients

What ingredients go into your business?

Is your product or service easy-to-use? Eco-friendly? High-quality? Backed by research?

Once you know the essential components of your business, then you can begin to shape your brand’s point of view and unique approach to a particular problem.

This thorough understanding of what goes into your offerings will make it much easier to create effective landing pages, start a conversation on social media and focus your e-newsletters.

keep it simple (especially when the idea is complex)

Remember, as Bourdain points out, you have to start with “scraps and trimmings and fat, ground up and seasoned” to get pâté.

In marketing terms, that is to say, if you are trying to communicate a complicated concept to your audience, there are always ways to break it down and reconstruct it so that your customer not only understands the message but can also relate and empathize with it.

Marketers can do this by being empathetic themselves, trying their best to absorb the pain points and desires of your prospects and customers.

By putting yourself in their shoes, you can more easily see what questions they might have and what problems they are seeking to solve. Then, tell them how your business can be their solution in a clear and to-the-point way.

Talk to them, person to person. And tell them what to do next.

Which leads me to tip #3…

use your words — in a myriad of different ways

Your underlying message will remain the same for the most part (e.g. we’re credible, we’re classic, we’re dedicated, etc.) but how you present it will vary in every context.

On a landing page, for instance, you’ll have a headline, subheadline, copy and call-to-action to convey your message. This checklist will help make sure your content is easy to read and understand.

Creating a post for social media, however, will take on a different tone and appearance. It will be conversational in style, shorter and visually engaging.

There are lots of other content types that your marketing strategy will include and therefore lots of options when it comes to putting it together and sharing it with your audience. Sometimes fewer words will work better, or a graphic or a series of newsletters.

What’s important is how you decide to tell your business’s story (hint: follow the French’s lead to create something truly special):

Those shrewd and wily French toiled mightily over the years, figuring out ways to make just about everything that grazed, creeped, swam, crawled, or hopped, and every growing thing that poked through soil, rotted on the vine, or hid under dung, into something edible, enjoyable — even magical.