Skip navigation

Pablo Picasso’s guide to content marketing strategy

20th July 2017

Kevin Hearn

Director of Strategy

I saw a quote recently from Pablo Picasso. He once said: “You should have an idea of what you want to do. But it should be a vague idea.” That resonated with me because that’s exactly how I approach new content strategy briefs.

Immediately upon reading a brief I’ll have a broad sense about where the response might go. But I only let that immediate reaction be a rough idea of where my final proposal may end up. I’m certainly not thinking about the exact route I’m going to take with it. It’s the luxury I have of working in a channel and format-neutral content agency. I’m not restricted by needing to stick to one discipline like advertising, social and media agencies often are. I can take a brief wherever it needs to go.

It got me thinking. What else could I, and other content marketers, learn from Picasso? Well, quite a lot. It turns out that if you follow a few rules laid down by the great man then you probably won’t go far wrong.

1.“You should have an idea of what you want to do. But it should be a vague idea.”

Okay, I know I’ve already covered this one, but only from a response to brief point of view. I think it equally resonates on the other side, with those writing the brief. Try not to have any pre-conceived ideas. Approach the brief with a channel and format-neutral attitude. Don’t be determined to simply do what worked before (see below). Know what you want to achieve but don’t dictate how it’s to be achieved. Trust your agency to tell you objectively what will work best.

2.“Success is dangerous. One begins to copy oneself and to copy oneself is more dangerous than to copy others. It leads to sterility.”

If it worked before, surely it will work again, right? Well, maybe. But maybe not. Maybe things have changed. Maybe your audience has moved on. Maybe your competition has done something to move your audience on. Maybe technology provides a better way of doing things this time. Or maybe it’s just better to keep surprising your audience by doing something different and being brave.

3.“Bad artists copy. Good artists steal.”

How many Open Forum style ‘communities’ are we going to see in Financial Services? Open Forum works because in reality its neither open nor a forum. And it was first. And it was heavily promoted. Trying to establish something similar will almost certainly be beyond your human resource capacity. Besides, it’s not enough to see something that’s working for someone else and to try to sprinkle some of their stardust onto your brand. That doesn’t mean that you can’t steal their insight. Just use it as a starting point, not a blueprint. I was told a long time ago that ‘it’s not where an idea comes from, its where you take it to.’

4.“Art is not made to decorate apartments. It is an offensive weapon in the defense against the enemy.”

I love this quote. I think Picasso was referring to the need for art to be political and to say something. Content needs to make a statement too. To be an offensive weapon. To strike a blow for your message in the mind of your audience. If your content is simply wallpaper you are wasting your money. Your content needs to have intent.

5.“Action is the foundation key to all success.”

A great content marketing strategy isn’t going to magically appear. You need to plan it. You need to mobilise. Did you know that according to our Financial Services Content Marketers’ ‘State of Play’ survey: 38% of marketers don’t have a co-ordinated content marketing strategy?

Picasso would not be impressed.



We are here to help

Interested in getting to grips with building loyalty and supporting customers? If you want support with content that can improve customer loyalty and financial wellbeing, get in touch today.

About the author

Kevin Hearn

Director of Strategy

Let’s Talk

Looking for help with a new project? We can give you strategic and creative firepower in 24 hours. Let’s get started.