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Content Marketing: A Journey of Definition

Defining Content Marketing

In a nutshell - content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. People don’t want to be sold to, but rather educated on the value of a brand and it’s offering. There really isn’t any one definition for content marketing, however we think the Content Marketing Institute is pretty close with: “The technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined target audience in order to drive profitable customer action.” Perhaps the reason that there is a variance in the definition of content marketing is because it is ever evolving.

So where did Content Marketing start out?

The concept of brands attracting customers through content and story telling goes back hundreds of years. It’s certainly not a new concept, but has evolved to become much easier to tailor content and communicate directly with target audiences thanks to technology and digital advancements.

John Deere’s ‘The Furrow’ magazine dates as far back as 1895 and was launched with the aim of increasing business by providing useful content to prospects and customers alike.

Another great example of content marketing from the last century includes Michelin Tires 400 page guide that aimed to help drivers maintain their cars in 1900. In 1904 the Jell-O Corporation began distributing free copies of its own cookbook that suggested creative and useful ways to use its jelly. An idea that is still being done to this very day by brands like Philadelphia, who include recipe suggestions for it’s product in adverts and mini booklets.

Where is content marketing at today?

Whilst elements of the content marketing approach have clearly been used throughout the years, it wasn’t until very recently that it was branded and became a‘must have’ in all marketers’ tool kits.

As with The Furrow, Michelin and Jell-O, content marketing messages can be delivered through print, but it doesn’t stop there. New channels of distribution are being utilised such as social mediablogswebsites, PR, newsletters, whitepapers, e-marketing, video (Vine) and more.

Taken from a Marketo infographic, 79 per cent of businesses use social media (excluding blogs) for their content marketing, with 55 per cent of the distribution being via Twitter. The least popular channel for content marketing is eBooks with a very low 9 per cent. Today people do 90 per cent of their buying research before even making contact with the company or sales team. Offering up valuable content (in multiple channels) takes your target audience on a journey of discovery and enlightenment, which is key to achieving marketing goals.

In response to a recent study by Forbes in which it listed its ‘Top 10 Most Powerful Brands’, Social Media Today posed the question of whether these ‘Top 10’ brands’use content marketing, and yes, they all do…bar Apple, the brand who rated number one in the study. Say Whaaat?! So what does this mean? Sure, the top 9 brands may use it but in order to become Forbes idea of THE most powerful brand, do we really need content marketing?

The answer is, a big YES, marketers certainly do. Content marketing is crucial, especially when social media is a source of intelligence, in both a business and social environment, to be a true player on social you gots’ to have content! Social Media Today quite rightly highlights; If you want to increase your reach, improve your SEO, get more sales, and engage with your audience, then you need content and a strategy to deliver it consistently across all relevant channels.

Here are some examples of some great content marketing through a whole plethora of platforms: