The Strange Genius of the Octopus and How it Relates to Exceptional Content Marketing


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In his 1973 book Octopus and Squid: The Soft Intelligence, Jacques Cousteau tells a charming story. “Our friend Gilpatric … brought an octopus home and put it in an aquarium, which he then covered with a heavy lid. A short time later, the aquarium was empty, and Gilpatric found the octopus going through his library, book by book, turning the pages with its arms.”

~As told in 10 Hidden Talents of the Octopus, Mental Floss

Back in 2018, we officially launched Forge & Spark as a content agency and benefit corporation. (We’d operated as a consultancy prior to that point.) And that’s when we took on the octopus as one of our brand mascots. The reason?

In the process of creating our new branding, a new corporate vision and mission, a new suite of services, and a new website, I had stumbled across this utterly insane story: researchers who study the behaviour and neuroscience of octopuses (and yes, that is the correct plural form) had just discovered that octopus arms, and tentacles in particular, may have minds of their own.

“The octopus’ arms have a neural ring that bypasses the brain, and so the arms can send information to each other without the brain being aware of it,” said Dominic Sivitilli, a graduate student in behavioural neuroscience and astrobiology at the University of Washington, in a released statement. “So while the brain isn’t quite sure where the arms are in space, the arms know where each other are and this allows the arms to coordinate during actions like crawling locomotion.”

The story caught in my brain. As I wrote website copy about the agility and talent of my incredible family of content professionals, I saw the connection.

The Octopus: I.e. a Team of Content Powerhouses

I still so often marvel at the miraculousness of this team—especially when a complex content project comes to fruition.

How Lisa and Kirsten create succinct, compelling, strategic prose from the most compassionate interviews.

Or how Lara applies intuition and deep experience to create the tone-perfect visual branding system, social visuals or website.

How Colby manages to transform the creative chaos of a content brainstorm into a smooth process, all captured in Asana.

And how Chelle, after one conversation, ‘throws together’ the perfect Instagram Reel to tell a brand’s story.

How Carli crafts such smart, efficient social strategy, and Sara such on-point graphics and visuals. Both drawing on a deep understanding of the language of social media.

How Mewmew leaves a client meeting and has analyzed their content and competitive space with deep insight in days.

Or how Bronwyn, Kelsey, Dubinia, and Esther, after juggling seven or eight Zoom calls in a day, crisply explain at a day’s end exactly what happened, what needs to be done next, and how they’re already on it.

Many arms. Many hearts. And many beautiful brains. All moving in sync. A little like the brilliant octopus. A swift, nimble, and playful shapeshifter with three hearts, nine brains, and extraordinary strength, coordination, and skill. The supernatural octopus navigates through mazes, solves problems, and creates beautiful, fluid art as a biological imperative.

A Metaphor for You Leaders, Too

The octopus, too, reminds me of the presence of strange genius in the world. The surprising brilliance I see talking to passionate entrepreneurs and creative leaders, committed to leaving this world better than they found it. And even when they don’t always know quite how, or if, they’re going to do it, they seem compelled to try, sneaking out to turn all the pages they can. 

A hearty cheer to all the explorers out there, and to expressing your brilliance, with purpose. 

Need a hand — or many — with creating your brand content? Reach out.  

At Forge & Spark Media, we aim to bring good people together for good reasons. We work with purpose-driven brands to create and deliver premium, story-driven content marketing that gets results. We also believe in giving back: as part of the Pledge 1% movement, we donate time and talent to helping women and kids in need in our community. 

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