CMWorld Interview: How Tamsen Webster Drives Irresistible Change in Marketing

CMWorld Interview: How Tamsen Webster Drives Irresistible Change in Marketing

Branding expert Tamsen Webster saw this dynamic play out, in various forms, time and time again during her many years as a leader in the Weight Watchers organization. How can marketers stop seeing change as a barrier and start seeing it as an opportunity? It’s all about fit for the message. But then too often we send out “one size fits most” messages… and wonder why we don’t get that sense of belonging that’s a hallmark of great brands. It’s for the people who want something you can help them get, who value the same things you do, and who see the world the same way you do. Most content marketing doesn’t need to inspire (at least not in the go-climb-a-mountain or be-your-best-self sense), but it does need to create that same shift. I’ll say it again: you can’t change what people do until you change how they see. The more content marketers can adopt those lessons from great talks, the more powerful their messages will be, no matter the subject. The only things we’re likely to change in the short term are perspectives. There was a pattern to what kinds of things they gave money to – even across very different nonprofits.

CMWorld Interview: How Tamsen Webster Drives Irresistible Change in Marketing
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Few things are more inspiring than the before-and-after weight loss photo: two drastically different figures juxtaposed against one another, usually connected by an impossibly short span of time.

It’s not just the physical transformation that is striking in these portrayals. Even more so, it’s the mental transformation. Something clicked in that person’s head, causing them to fully commit and make the difficult changes necessary to turn their goals into reality. Then, they did it.

Branding expert Tamsen Webster saw this dynamic play out, in various forms, time and time again during her many years as a leader in the Weight Watchers organization. And it’s a big part of what drove her to create Red Thread, a messaging framework focused on tapping into those deep, uniquely human motivations that spark action (or, as she puts it, make inaction impossible).

At Content Marketing World in September, Tamsen will speak about How to Make Your Ideas Irresistible. In anticipation of her session, we chatted with her about uncovering shared values with your audience, eliminating “one-size-fits-most” messaging, and aiming to change perspectives rather than beliefs.

What does your role as Founder and Chief Messaging Strategist at Find the Red Thread entail? What are your main areas of focus and key priorities?

Well, the nice thing about being a solo practice is that it means what I need it to mean at the time! My days are spent in a mix of work with clients, business development, and product/content development – I go where my energy, inspiration, and needs take me.


How would you succinctly describe the “Red Thread Method” and why it makes sense for today’s content marketers?

We can’t change what people do until we change how they see. The Red Thread Method helps you uncover that link for a particular audience and business goal so you can build content and messaging around it.


What did your experience as a Weight Watchers leader teach you about the fundamentals of creating irresistible messaging?

Pretty much everything. I know that sounds like a joke, but it’s not. Week in, week out at Weight Watchers, I saw what did and didn’t move people to make changes – what kinds of information they needed, and in what combination. When I took those lessons and looked at the marketing around me (including marketing I had helped produce!), I realized how often we focused on what we wanted people to do differently more than what they needed to hear to see the differently. Once I started switching my marketing to match the framework of messaging I built for myself at Weight Watchers, lo and behold, I became a much more effective marketer.


How can marketers stop seeing change as a barrier and start seeing it as an opportunity? What’s required to drive this shift in mindset?

That all depends on why they see change as a barrier in the first place. The only thing that will shift that mindset is understanding how it puts both something marketers want and something they believe is in jeopardy. For example, if a marketer wants to be seen as an expert in social channels, they likely see change in those areas as something to be overcome – the constantly shifting landscape makes it impossible to expert in all things all the time. If they also believe, however, that “the only constant is change,” making inaction impossible: they’ll either need to change their goal, their attitude toward change, or how they go about being seen as an expert. The key is always in finding that combination of wants and beliefs that makes inaction impossible.


Some find it counterintuitive that in order to increase your reach and impact, you need to narrow your message. Why is this important in today’s environment?

It’s all about fit for the message. Think about the last time you bought something that was “one size fits all.” Did it fit? Probably yes – you could get into it. Depending on your size it was cavernous, achingly tight, or in the category of “this’ll do.” But did fit like it was…

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