The phrase ‘content is king’ has been doing the rounds in marketing communications circles for quite some time and many people have become a bit tired of hearing about it. However, the truth is that content is not yet king but remains the heir apparent as traditional approaches have clung to the throne. But, casting analogies firmly to one side, is it right to even talk about content marketing as being something new?
The reality is that we have all been doing content marketing for years just without necessarily recognising it as such. At the end of the day, any piece of content that you as a marketer have been putting out by e-mail, through advertising, in a brochure, definitely through PR and, dare we say it, through DM through the post, has in essence been a form of content marketing. Furthermore, for those who see content marketing as an approach that suddenly turns a brand into a publisher, then you only need to look at the numerous magazines that companies have been producing for many, many years.
But the way content marketing can be done today has changed. It is for that reason that the examples given above are not what is meant by content marketing today.
Content marketing defined
If you feel you are already fairly au fait with content marketing then you may wish to skip on to another article. However if, like many people, content marketing is one of those things you have been meaning to get your head around then let’s start by expanding on what constitutes content marketing.
Beginning with a definition of the word ‘content’, most people would commonly define it as being any form of written or visual (image, video) content that you produce for marketing purposes. Some people argue that if it is for the promotion of your product or service then it does not constitute content marketing. Instead, content marketing should only be used in reference to content that is provided for your target audience as a means of attracting their interest and making them want to engage with your brand. For example, if you are a supermarket and produce recipes for your shoppers to use then that would constitute content marketing. If you stick out a social media post promoting a product promotion then that is not content marketing.
At The Intelligent Marketing Institute we believe that such a strict definition to be not only wrong but to be at the root of what is weak about most content marketing programmes out there today. Put simply, such a split suggests that content marketing lacks commerciality and worse still, it assumes that there is no connection between engaging your target audience through content and being able to sell your product or service later on.
You may be asking yourself why there is an assumption that content marketing is not about a company’s products or services. The reason for this is linked to the bigger question of why content marketing has become so de rigueur. The answer is that in recent years many brands have been finding it increasingly hard to connect with or even reach their target audiences. Traditional forms of above the line marketing have become less and less impactful. Furthermore, such forms of advertising simply do not cut it through digital channels. Basically, it was fine to broadcast your message at your target audience when the channel was non-interactive – such as a billboard, sponsorship or telly ad – but when people can skip past your message and ignore you in such an easy manner as they can digitally, brands started to look for better ways to engage. Content marketing is a major part of that response.
The digital channel is now all-important. Today 96% of all purchases come off the back of a Google search and moreover, the average purchase will follow the consumption of 18 pieces of content by the consumer. Brands also want to connect with their target audiences through social media and you simply cannot talk about yourself ad nausea on those channels.
So content marketing allows you to step beyond what you sell as a company. It allows you to tap into things such as your brand values and core reasons to buy so that you can connect with your target audience in a different way. So if you are selling a mortgage, you could talk about how to buy houses. If you are supermarket you could offer a Youtube TV channel on how to cook. And so the list goes on. By doing content marketing, your target audience is more likely to pay attention and want to engage. In today’s hypermedia world, such cut-through is not just important, it is critical.