One of the most popular and thought-provoking presentations at the recent Content Marketing Show was delivered by Ben Redford, inventor and product designer at Mint Digital.

In the intriguingly titled ‘Robots, gumballs and Marxism’, Ben provided a completely different take on how to use content to engage with your audience. Mint Digital bill themselves as ‘a company that makes what people want’. Specifically, it works with clients to build digital products, but it also builds its own products that are designed to link the virtual world with physical products. Examples include:

Foldable.Me – Cardboard avatars made online, shipped to your door pre-cut and scored StickyGram – Turns Instagrams into fridge magnets

Inspired by his visit to a build a bear workshop, in terms of how good it felt to create something physical, Ben set out to recreate the experience by translating a virtual event into something tangible. His first attempt was a web-connected robot called Olly that emits a smell every time its owner gets a retweet, or like on Instagram, or a photo tag on Facebook. He put it on Kickstarter and unfortunately it really did stink (only 170 people wanted it). Crucially, people talked about it.

So Ben tried again with ‘Polly’ – a web-connected robot that dispenses gumballs instead. Again, it got coverage but still lacked commercial viability. However, the third time round he came up with Projecteo – a tiny Instagram projector based on the slide projectors that were popular in the ‘60s that people used to display their holiday snaps.

With two well publicised inventions under his belt, and by engaging with his audience by exposing the design and production process along the way, Projecteo got the necessary funding within 24 hours of being put on Kickstarter.

And the simple message? Talking about what you do works.

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