How Content Marketing Saved the $10 Bill

alexander hamilton quote

Do You Realize How Unique the $10 Bill Is?

You’ve probably handled many $10 bills in your life. But I bet that you never realized just how unique the $10 bill actually is.

Let me show you why it’s so unique:

  • It is one of only two bills in circulation that features a non-president. (The other person is Benjamin Franklin who is on the $100 bill.)
  • It is the only U.S. paper currency in circulation in which the portrait faces to the left.
  • It features one of only four people featured on U.S. paper currency who was not born in the continental United States or British America. (Believe it or not, but Hamilton was born in the West Indies.)

Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill

Image from Wikipedia

But there’s ONE MORE thing about the $10 that makes it very unique.

It’s the only bill that has been influenced by content marketing.

Let me explain…

How Content Marketing Saved Alexander Hamilton

Back in June of 2015, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew announced that in order to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment (when women were given the right to vote), they were going to give the $10 bill a face-lift in 2020.

That meant that instead of Alexander Hamilton’s image on the front of the $10 bill, they would replace his portrait with the image of a great American woman.

And to help them decide what woman should be featured on the $10, they began gathering feedback from the public in the summer of 2015.

As they expected, the usual suspects — historians — gave immediate push back on the idea. Historians wanted Hamilton to stay on the $10 bill, because he was the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury from 1789–95.

If that is all the push back they received, then the treasury would’ve probably moved forward with their idea. But that’s when something unexpected happened. 

They hadn’t accounted for an unintentional content marketing campaign that began with one man in 2004 and became an unstoppable force by August 6, 2015 when another man added content to this campaign.

It was this unintentional content marketing campaign that caused a public outcry to rise up and demand that Hamilton stay just where he was, on the face of the $10 bill. 

That’s right. This content marketing was so powerful that it changed the mind of the U.S. Treasury. Today, I want to tell you about this unintentional content marketing campaign and then I’ll show you how this changed the U.S. Treasury’s mind.

And before we’re through, I’ll reveal two important content marketing lessons we can learn from this.

The Unintentional Alexander Hamilton Content Marketing Campaign (Part I)

Alexander Hamilton was not alive to stage this content marketing campaign to keep his image on the $10 bill, but if he was then he couldn’t have picked a better candidate than Ron Chernow.

Ron Chernow is an American writer, historian, and biographer. But Chernow doesn’t just write any old biographies. He writes bestselling biographies — award-winning biographies!

After writing popular biographies about people such as J.P. Morgan (1990) and John D. Rockefeller, Sr. (1998), Chernow published Alexander Hamilton in 2004.

And this book took the literary world by storm:

  • The book became a New York Times Best Seller and stayed on that list for three months.
  • It was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award.
  • It was also named as the winner of the first George Washington Book Prize for early American history.
  • And, if that wasn’t enough, the book received rave reviews from literary critics.

alexander hamilton book by ron chernow

Needless to say, Chernow wrote about Alexander Hamilton’s life in such a compelling and powerful way that it exposed the public to the story of a man that few really knew about, except for the fact that he was on the $10 bill.

And this powerful content that Chernow created began to change people’s opinion of this man whose image they had seen for years. The book left people in awe of the life and death of this man.

But it was the next stage of this unintentional content marketing campaign that would secure the public’s affection for Hamilton in a way that a book alone could never do.

The Unintentional Alexander Hamilton Content Marketing Campaign (Part II)

Again, if Alexander Hamilton could have had his way, then he couldn’t have picked a better candidate for the next phase of his content marketing campaign. But the truth is that Hamilton wouldn’t have had to choose this person, because this man actually ended up chosing Hamilton.

This might surprise you, but the next person to join the unintentional Alexander Hamilton content marketing campaign didn’t ever plan on being a part of anything to do with Alexander Hamilton.

He was just looking for something good to read.

You see, Lin-Manuel Miranda was on vacation from performing in his hit Broadway show, In the Heights, when he picked up and read the popular biography about Alexander Hamilton by none other than Ron Chernow.

And that’s when it happened.

After just reading the first couple chapters, Miranda quickly began to realize that the life of Hamilton would make a great a musical – a great HIP-HOP musical.

He didn’t remember ever hearing of a musical about Alexander Hamilton, but he had to be sure there wasn’t one before he put any work into it.

So he researched whether or not a stage musical of his Hamilton’s life had ever been written. And all he could find was that a play about Hamilton’s life that had been done on Broadway way back in 1917.

It was then that he began work on a concept album that he simply called The Hamilton Mixtape. It might have just stayed at this stage of existence, except for the fact that Miranda was given an opportunity, an amazing opportunity. 

Lin-Manuel Miranda was given the opportunity to perform at the White House, in front of the President Obama and the First Lady for what was called An Evening of Poetry, Music and the Spoken Word.

He was invited to do something from his musical In the Heights or anything on the American experience. He took the words “or or anything on the American experience” as a sign – or an opportunity – to feature the 16 bars of Hamilton that he been working on. 

So he made a decision to perform that song at the White House and it would prove to be a decision that would change his life forever and go on to make Broadway history.

You can hear Lin-Manuel Miranda tell the story of that fateful decision below in the interview he did on NPR…

On the night of his performance at the White House, when he announced that he’d be performing a song from his concept album about “…the life of someone who embodies hip-hop… Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton” the crowd laughed.

But by the time he finished performing the song, no one laughing anymore. In fact, he received a standing ovation! You can watch a video of that performance below…

Lin Manuel Miranda performs “Alexander Hamilton” at The White House

This was all the encouragement and exposure that he needed. With that experience in his mind, he decided to make The Hamilton Mixtape into a full-fledged musical.

And the rest is history!

That musical, like the book that inspired it, would take Broadway by storm with people doing everything they could to get their hands on tickets of the sold-out shows.

hamilton-musical

But it wasn’t just the public who loved the musical. In 2016 Hamilton broke records with:

  • 16 Tony nominations (winning 11 of those nominations)
  • The most notable Tony win was for “Best Musical”
  • It was also received the 2016 Grammy Award for “Best Musical Theater Album”
  • And it even won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama 

You can check out a great performance of Hamilton on the 2016 Tony Awards show in the video below…

Hamilton Tony Awards 2016 Performance

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Y5KuohVJMQ

The Impact of This Accidental Content Marketing Campaign

I call this an “accidental content marketing campaign” because neither of these men had any intention of creating a content marketing campaign that would keep Alexander Hamilton’s image on the $10 bill.

They had just been drawn in by his amazing story and felt inspired to share that story with the world. Even though it wasn’t their intention, the results were still just as powerful as if it was intentional.

As the Treasury waited for the feedback on what woman the public thought should replace Hamilton, they were caught completely off guard when they were INSTEAD inundated with protests and rebukes about replacing Hamilton.

Because of the content created by Chernow and Manuel, Hamilton was no longer just an image on the $10 bill. People had fallen in love with Alexander Hamilton. They felt a kinship and an affinity with the man.

But it wasn’t just the general public who protested against replacing Hamilton’s image. Celebrities chimed it too. In fact, Lin-Manuel himself got involved.

According to Politico.com

“Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda even directly lobbied Lew (the Treasury Secretary) last month on Hamilton’s behalf, after which Miranda said Lew told him “you’re going to be very happy” with the redesign plan.

Manuel later tweeted this about the meeting….

There’s one more interesting fact that you have to see.

Because it reveals the real impact that the Hamilton musical had on the Treasury’s decision: The Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew, himself, saw the musical before he announced the final decision.

According to NYTimes.com

When Mr. Lew and his wife caught a performance last August, the Treasury secretary hinted to Mr. Miranda that Hamilton would stay.

So that’s the story of how content marketing, in the form of a book and a musical, influenced the $10 bill. (Now you know an extra, little-known reason why the $10 bill is so unique!)

Two Important Content Marketing Lessons

There are two important content marketing lessons we can learn from Alexander Hamilton’s unintentional content marketing campaign.

Here they are:

1. Your personal story is the most powerful form of content there is.

It was the story of Alexander Hamilton that influenced people and created a movement.

Your personal story is one thing of the main things that sets you apart from everyone else. It is the thing that people can relate to. It’s the thing that will draw people to you and make you memorable. 

I talk about this in my book 51 Content Marketing Hacks. I call this “Content Marketing Hack #37.”

Content Marketing Hack #37

“Don’t neglect your “origin” or “genesis” story. This is one of the overlooked content forms that will help you to attract raving and dedicated fans.”

I don’t just recommend others do this, but I’ve made sure to “practice what I preach.” If you’d like an example of this type of content, here are two parts of my personal story that I’ve shared here on this site:

The key thing you need to remember is that if you never tell your story, then it will never having any impact on others and you will never stand out in your niche.

Let me repeat what I’ve said before about this…

“Your personal story and your business story could be some of the most important content you have in your arsenal.

Stop keeping it to yourself.
Start sharing it proudly.”

That means that a key part of your content marketing strategy must be to tell your story in the most powerful way you can (hire others to do this, if you need to).

And then, you need to promote this content like you would any other content that you want to spread.

Now let’s look at one more important lesson we can learn.

2. Tell your story in more than one format and more than one way.

The book about Alexander Hamilton influenced a lot of people and is ultimately the thing that influenced Lin Manuel Miranda.

But it was when that same story was told in a different format (a musical) and in a different way (a different story-line) that the story reached an even larger audience.

Different people prefer consuming different types of content, and different types of content have different levels of emotional impact on people, so you need to make sure that you tell your story in more than one format and more than one way.

Again, I’ve tried to make sure that I am doing this and not just recommending this to others. And that’s one of the reasons I have done podcast interviews – so I can share my story in a different format and different way.

If you’d like an example of my personal story, told in a different format and told in a different way, then here’s one of the podcast interviews that I’ve done.

In this interview, I reveal:

  • How the birth of my first child and living in Silicon Valley during the “Dot Com Boom” propelled me further into the marketing and business world
  • How I interviewed top experts for my first ebook
  • How I discovered I’d been using content marketing the whole time
  • How I later entered into the content marketing arena

You can listen to this podcast below…

Relaunch-Logo

My interview on the “Relaunch” podcast (26 minutes)

Those are the two lessons that I want to leave you with today.

I’d encourage you to figure out how you can apply them immediately in your life and in your business. When you learn how to do these two things effectively, you will begin to stand out from the crowd and you’ll create a group of fans like you’ve never had before.

Now let me leave you with one last thought…

The Man Who Harnessed the Power of Words, Saved by the Power of Words

Now that I think about it, it’s actually pretty fitting that content marketing would save Alexander Hamilton’s image on the $10 bill.

Why? Because it’s been said that Alexander Hamilton gained all that he did in his life because of the power of his words.

It looks like, in the end, the power of words won out again!

Sources: Wikipedia, Playbill.com, NPR.org, and Politico.com

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Scott Aughtmon
I’m author of the book 51 Content Marketing Hacks. I am also a regular contributor to ContentMarketingInstitute.com and I am the person behind the popular infographic 21 Types of Content We Crave.

I’m a business strategist, consultant, content creation specialist, and speaker. I’ve been studying effective marketing and business methods (both online and offline) since 1999.

===> If you would like to see ways that we could work together, then please click here to learn more.

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