Hugh Macleod of Gaping Void genius has started sending a daily cartoon to his email list. He’s giving it away, right? Yes and no. He is in fact giving away a JPEG of a cartoon. Like today’s, which is a warm up for Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14th. But he’s also teasing us and goading us to think of his JPEG image as something much more valuable. It’s a taste of what he’s really got on offer: a 11 by 14 inch handsigned print that he’s selling (you heard that right, SELLING) for $125. His message is the same everyday: “Buy The Print Here – Forward this email to a friend.” And then he customizes the copy for the particular cartoon. Today’s says: “Hundreds of Love Birds have committed to say “IT” with a gapingvoid fine art print this Valentine’s Day. Let me be your mouthpiece: I know how to deliver the goods!”

This is CONTENT MARKETING at its finest and most literal. Hugh calls it selling by giving or gift economics. And he’s not the only one who does it. Give away a piece of content. Show rather than tell. Instead of saying, “I’m a cool cartoonist. Buy my cartoons,” Hugh attaches the cartoon to the message. It’s interesting that this approach to marketing (one that David Meerman Scott articulately addresses in his books) is still both misunderstood and underestimated.

It makes so much sense. It’s why so many knowledgepreneurs write a blog. It’s why we send out an e-newsletter. To illustrate what we know with a provocative turn of phrase. And get it right in your face, as often as possible. And yet not be obnoxious about it. You have to keep doing it. Day after day, week after week. I’m curious to know if Hugh is selling more of his prints now that he’s started this daily, drip drip drip approach to marketing.

Cross posted via email from Debbie Weil’s Posterous