Something that Rodney mentioned in the above TED Talk video really resonated with both the skateboarder and the strategist in me – when describing his arsenal of tricks, he called them his content. It made me think about how being a skateboarder and cultivating your repertoire of tricks is like an intro course into content marketing. How, you might ask? Let me explain.

When you first hop onto a skateboard, you’re generally happy with being able to roll down the  street without falling in your face. Pretty soon you take to the grass or hold on to something and try to ollie, the most basic trick there is. At this point, you have no concept of what you’re putting together, you just try to learn everything  you can as fast as possible.

This early learning phase is similar to a brand trying to establish its voice. Initially, there isn’t too much consideration put into how others perceive the brand, their actions speak louder than their marketing message. It’s no different for the skateboarder, the tricks you learn are less a representation of your personality and more of your ambition to establish yourself as fast as possible.

As the skateboarder begins to gather a stable of tricks and an understanding of their implications on style and direction, they gain the ability to choose one over another. For the first time they have to consider what type of skateboarder they want to be perceived as by others. This might be as a vert skater, a highly technical street skater, or maybe they just go big down sets of stairs and handrails. Within each of these categories are accepted norms and expectations that further impact the strategy that will work best.

Finally, the skateboarder moves into the final stage, an entirely unique voice. Just like brands, not everyone gets to this point for one reason or another, but for those that do, they become masters of their craft and begin to rewrite the rules based on their own value sets and aspirations. They invent new ways of doing things and borrow from other styles to create completely new experiences that no one even thought were possible- something Rodney Mullen has been doing this since the 80s.

The most successful skateboarders I have ever met have the same outlook as the most successful brands I have worked with. They know what they are and what they aren’t and they constantly strive to build on their unique approach. Their content strategy is based on the core of what makes them who they are, which is unchanging in its most basic form, but always evolving.

Now please go watch Rodney talk about innovation if you haven’t already, it will remind you that strategy exists everywhere, all around us.