Martin (Marty) Smith
June 16, 2014

Hero Marketing – The Only Marketing Left

Stumbling On Hero Marketing hero on Cuatti

Stumbling On Hero Marketing on Martin’s Ride

My career is over I remember thinking. Hearing “cancer” and my name in the same sentence made me a little crazy. As context roled in like a tide new perspectives emerged. Career as a concept fell apart. Heck, CONTROL as a concept is trashed. Many of life’s cherished illusions came tumbling down.

On that Friday afternoon when Dr. van Deventer’s call said “Martin” and “cancer” in the same sentence one thought jumped into my well scrambled consciousness, “Now I’m not going to be able to make my ride”.

For thirty years I’d dreamed of riding a bicycle across America.

Meeting Dr. Hank van Deventer for the first time after his call I asked a question he had never been asked, “Can you treat my leukemia as if making a bicycle ride across America is the most important thing?” “Yes,” he said drawing a wavy graph on a piece of paper.

We could do a “light” round of chemotherapy to create enough of a window to make a bicycle ride across America Dr. Hank shared.  The idea for Martin’s Ride To Cure Cancer was born.

The Martin’s Ride’s team, I hired Jeremy Sadler to drive our RV and Brian Russo to ride with me about every third day, formed. Karen Cochran from The Duke Cancer Institute (I’ve been treated at Duke and UNC) agreed to help and support. Friends Eric and Cynthia Garrison at helped create Martin’s Ride’s website.

We left from The Duke Cancer Institute at the end of June, 2010. Sixty days and the adventure of a lifetime later we ran out of road. There was only ocean.  We reached the beacon from my dream – the Santa Monica Pier.  And I’d stumbled on “Hero Marketing”.

Martin's Ride reaches Santa Monica Summer 2010
Jeremy and me walking to the ocean on Martin’s Ride’s “last mile”.

Hero Marketing Defined

My career wasn’t over. Cancer and Martin’s Ride To Cure Cancer created rich new dimensions:

  • With’s help and Duke’s assistance we raised almost $30,000 for cancer research at the Duke Cancer Institute.
  • I’ve met amazing doctors and development teams at leadinb cancer institutes.
  • Was asked to sign one of the beams that topped off the new Duke Cancer Institute (pic right).Martin Signing Duke Cancer Beam at Topping Off Ceremony
  • Martin;s Ride To Cure Cancer was featured by WRAL (CBS) and written about in our newspapers.
  • Upon return and after chemo I was hired to be Atlantic BT’s Maketing Director.
  • I left Atlantic BT in December to work with Phil Buckley, Jarrod Swart and The Triangle Startup Factory to start Curagami.

I left my position as a stockholder and Director of Ecommerce, a job I’d had for seven years, to make Martin’s Ride
To Cure Cancer. I’d saved what I though was enough money. My dad rescued us meeting Martin’s Ride in Arizona with emergency “get home” funds. It was important 100% of every contribution go to cancer research at Duke.

One of my secret goals for Martin’s Ride was discover what to do with the rest of my life.

Surely an epiphany would happen…probably somewhere in Utah. Flying home I was disappointed and depressed. Achieving a lifelong goal is depressing. Not being struck by big NEW IDEA lightening during Martin’s Ride was disappointing.

There was lightening. I missed it.

Funny how we MISS the “BIG NEW IDEA” as it happens, happens again, and happens again. After almost four years the lightening is clear – the journey is the reward as well as the “Big New Idea”.

Big Idea graphic

Hero Marketing A Big New Idea

No reason to review reasons marketing as we’ve known and practiced is gone baby gone. Creating Curagami, our Triangle Startup Factory startup, working with several great e-commerce merchants such as Moon Audio and Vestique, we’ve discovered the only marketing left – Hero Marketing. .

Hero Marketing’s components:

  • Develop A Big Idea Others Join, Share and Advocate.
  • Create A Movement not promotions (okay to tie promotions into the movement).
  • Empower, reward and sustain community to create Friends of Friends marketing.

Big Ideas Others Join

Everyone thinks they create small things. “We sell HVAC locally,” one harried marketer told me at a conference, “we don’t have great ‘life saving’ content to share”. “Oh,” I remember saying in surprise, “so when a new mother’s air conditioning fails in North Carolina in August and you fix it in the middle of the night its boring?” My conference friend didn’t think of  his “daily grind” as rich in unique content.

No one thinks what they do is special or interesting to others. Great stories are always interesting to others.

What if my conference friend’s HVAC company created a Big Idea to help 10 families a year who can’t afford air conditioning in blistering North Carolina? Helping others creates an interesting new story. Bet his HVAC competitors aren’t thinking about content marketing or helping others. Helping generates new and highly unique and emotional content.

In retrospect there are many things I would change. Preconceived notions change is one of Martin’s Ride’s most enduring lessons. Be open and LISTEN to what’s happening now. If we were creating Martin’s Ride today we would  make it more mobile and social.

If Martin’s Ride had an app meeting other cancer patients as we rode bicycles across America would have been easier. If we used social media effectively we may have raised more awareness and research cash. If Martin’s Ride asked for User Generated Content and curated what we heard we would have built a stronger more sustainable community.

Create BIG IDEAS people can JOIN, SHARE and ADVOCATE (and the more mobile and social the better).

Movements Not Promotions graphic

Movements Not Promotions

Curing cancer is more important than being remembered.  The Tech Cures Cancer Fund we are creating at the Lineberger Cancer Center at UNC is more important than being remembered. With a name like “Smith” in a state where there is only one SMITH, Dean Smith UNC’s great basketball coach, creating Tech Cures Cancer creates a bigger movement than the Martin Smith Fund.

Every movement needs an “army”, a rallying point to bind “good guys” together.

Today cancer awareness isn’t as important as finding a cure. Cures are found in labs, so that is where our MONEY must go.

Every cancer marketing organization needs to give more than 50% of money donated to research or STOP ASKING FOR DONATIONS. Since it’s UNLIKELY any “bait and switch” charity using cancer as a marketing tool will STOP voluntarily we need to GET EDUCATED and demand money goes to LABS or we don’t give. A cure is close. Time to not double down and send money to LABS.

Community & Friends of Friends

Community and Friends of Friends

Here is Bruce Springsteen speaking at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s E-Street Band induction ceremony:

Bruce Springsteen on CurattiI told a story with the E Street band that was and is bigger than I ever could have told on my own. That is the hallmark of a rock and roll band. The narrative you tell together is bigger than any one of you could have told on your old. That’s the Rolling Stones. That’s the Sex Pistols. That’s Bob Marley AND the Whalers.
Bruce Springsteen

Bruce cloud be describing today’s digital marketing. Internet marketing must tell “stories” with “bands” of friends in order to reach friends of friends. Marketing used to reach our “target audience”. Not so much anymore.

Consumers are wrapped in protective layers. “Trusted sources” capable of message delivery that punctures our “bubbles” are few and far between. The ONLY sustainable access comes from “friends of friends” marketing:

Starbucks Friends of Friends marketing circles on Curatti

You can buy all the TV, print or PPC ads you can afford and get nowhere. Chance of reaching your “target audience” with any old tactic based on interruption are slim and none. As an individual’s social nets mature they search less. Questions? Ask your social nets for help. If a brand’s story is compelling, there’s a movement worth joining and community is growing full of advocates willing to share congratulations you’ve discovered Hero Marketing…the only marketing left.


The following two tabs change content below.
Passionate cancer survivor, Internet marketer and former Director of Ecommerce who believes in Margaret Mead's quote, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Glad to be an "Editor of Chaos".

Latest posts by Martin (Marty) Smith (see all)