What Clark Griswold Can Teach You About Content Marketing

Your business could learn a few key things from Clark W. Griswold.

If you’re familiar with the iconic 80s movie Vacation you’ll know I’m talking about a bumbling but well-intentioned father who loaded his family into a station wagon and road-tripped cross country – major hijinks ensuing, of course.

Last night, while re-watching this comedy classic for the 800th time it dawned on me how Clark’s adventure presents a valuable opportunity to show how you can increase the effectiveness (read ROI) of your business’s content marketing.

Knowing your plan is good. Documenting it is better. Clark and I will show you why.


Online content marketing is a universally-lauded best practice these days, and so hopefully you already have solid plans and goals for reaching customers. (If you don’t, start with these tips for developing a strong content strategy.)

Having a content plan is a pretty commonplace practice these days. Statistics show nearly three quarters of all businesses say they have a plan, but less than a third have it documented.

Clark’s dream destination – his goal – was Wallyworld, a fanciful Disneyesque theme park located in California. Standing in Clark’s way was a series of unforeseen challenges and last-minute detours. Sound familiar?

The success of your content marketing relies on your ability to overcome daily and weekly business challenges and deliver your content with reliability, focus and consistency. A documented content plan is your hero.


Let’s get back to Clark. He took his mission to see Marty Moose, the ubiquitous theme park mascot, very seriously, as evidenced by the carefully-detailed plan loaded into his family computer (Apple IIe anyone?).

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Your content marketing plan should follow suit. Just having a blog, a few social media accounts and an email list isn’t enough to achieve your goals, whether its gaining customers, earning more sales or simply building brand authority.

How does a documented content marketing plan benefit you?

  • Aligns your business goals with customer needs, in writing
  • Schedules your deliverables, makes you accountable to your global plan
  • Keeps you on-target, maintains consistency of your seasonal marketing goals
  • Allocates your resources of time and talent, allows you to plan ahead
  • Allows you to keep the content stakeholders on deadline
  • Helps you carefully and thoughtfully address the specific needs of your customers

Our friend Clark knew his budget. He knew how many miles he needed to travel each day. And he knew how much time he could spend at each destination. There were no details left to chance, which came in quite handy when the wheels started coming off (literally!) the Wagon Queen Family Truckster.

By developing a documented plan you will definitively outline the how, when, who, where and why of your content marketing, and in-effect establish a tangible roadmap to your guiding strategy. 


Clark may have been distracted by Christy Brinkley in a Ferrari, but he knew better than to stop at the Gateway Arch or the world’s second largest ball of twine. He built a strong plan and referred back to it frequently.

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all template for developing a documented content plan. You’ll want to base it on factors such as the size of your business, the complexity your plan and the size of your marketing goals.

Here are the essential elements your plan must address:

  • Your story: what is the message you want to send out to your audience, including your voice and tone, and unique value proposition?
  • Current state: describe what your company currently offers and what types of content would help you better reach customers and build your brand; see what works for your competitors, as well as for brands you admire
  • Content plan: define what types of and topics of content you could develop, and for what channels they would be best used. Creating personas for your audience is a good exercise for determining their online behavior
  • Editorial schedule: map out the frequency and types of messages used in your content plan, making sure to identify the desired response or engagement level

I’ll address the above topics in more detail in future articles, but please feel free to contact me with any questions about developing a content marketing plan.

Yes, sadly the Moose told Clark the park was closed. (A side lesson to keep your eye on the big picture at all times.) But, in the end you know that Clark stuck with his objectives of making his family happy and he stuck with his plan to get there.

You may not find yourself jumping a station wagon 50 yards into the desert, but you will find that a documented plan will keep your content marketing efforts moving forward.


  • Is my content plan detailed enough for my business?
  • How can I improve the ROI of my content marketing?
  • What are the best tools for my content plan?

Sadly, there are no stock answers, but I’d love to try and help you out. Please contact us if you’d like to discuss your business’s content plan. 

Film stills copyright Warner Bros. Studio