Don’t Be a Phony! Content Authenticity Lessons from Holden Caulfield

Don’t Be a Phony! Content Authenticity Lessons from Holden Caulfield

Don’t Be a Phony! Content Authenticity Lessons from Holden Caulfield

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.” 

The quote above was spoken by Holden Caulfield, the main character-narrator of the famous 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye written by the late, reclusive author J.D. Salinger. The Catcher is included in Time Magazine’s 100 best English-language novels, and was also named one of the 100 best novels of the 20th century by Modern Library.

“At one point, the book became the most second most taught book in public schools in the United States.

The character of Holden Caulfield became famous and well-loved because of his strong contempt against people and things that are pretentious and fake, or “phony” as he liked to call them.

In the quote above, Holden expresses his grief about how “genuine” books – the ones that would move him as a reader – are no longer existent during his time. This brings us to one of the most important aspects of content that marketers should focus on: authenticity.



“People always clap for the wrong things,” Holden once said.

Content marketing is driven by hype. Most of the time, blog articles and posts reach people because of its popularity and relevance, and those things are hardly correlated with quality. When bloggers write about celebrities or the newest headlines, they really don’t create content – they just “piggyback” on the short-term fame of popular culture.

Related: The Recipe for an Award-Winning Content Dish [Infographic]

To create true content, one must go out of his comfort zones and tap unmapped territories.

Take it from Holden:



“Lots of time you don’t know what interests you most until you start talking about something that doesn’t interest you most.”

If you just keep writing about stuff that other people talk about, there’s really no authenticity.

Related: Is Quality B2B Content Dead?

On a cold New York evening, Holden asked the taxi driver: “Where do the ducks go in the winter?”

This question is one that Holden got frustrated about several times in the novel. His mind works unpredictably that he just fixates on something he’s very curious about, and ponders on it for long time.



Content creators must also have that kind of curiosity towards the world so they can come up with something fresh and personal.


“How would you know you weren’t being a phony? The trouble is you wouldn’t.”

Holden believed that if you’ve been used to making stuff up in front of people, time will come when you could no longer tell whether or not you’re being a phony.

The solution for content marketers?

Every once in a while, refrain from reading other blogs. Create something fresh right off the top of your head.

Even though chances are your idea might have already been taken by other bloggers (most likely), at least you’d have a sense of fulfillment of being, for once ever so rarely, authentic – until it becomes a habit.

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