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What Is "Content Marketing"? Stripped Down and Dressed Up.

Posted on Mon, 19 May 2014 by

Content Marketing Stripped Down

No sooner than TV networks began broadcasting did businesses start advertising through commercials. Short and entertaining jingles and songs were streamed straight into the homes of families everywhere in glorious black and white. 

In Australia, broadcasting was officially launched by a major network in 1956. Commercials like the Aussie classics Louie the Fly and Happy Little Vegemites were released shortly thereafter.

So what does this have to do with “content marketing” you might ask? I believe quite a lot.

Firstly, many Internet-savvy entrepreneurs into online sales and marketing often promote “content marketing” as the latest and greatest way to market your business online. Fact is, it has been around long before the Internet and so isn’t really something new.

Secondly, these old commercials encapsulate “content marketing” stripped down to a foundational level. The content was communicated using video, and the vehicle of delivery were TV stations broadcasting to television sets of prospective buyers. It seems hard to deny that this represents a very specific kind of content marketing.

Entertaining commercials fulfil what I'd say is a stripped down version of “content marketing”:

Content marketing is any marketing format that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire customers.[1]

Is Content Ever Not Truly Content?

To leave the discussion of content marketing here would however miss an embedded philosophy that seems to have developed over time regarding the true nature of “content”.

TV commercials often bombard viewers with products and special offers. Infomercials are a step up and may perhaps be vaguely “informative”, but any truth is no doubt used insomuch as it is practical to obtaining an immediate sale. It is safe to say that commercials and infomercials are really full of selling techniques and ploys aimed to get a sale rather than truly inform a viewer.

So do sales-driven messages truly deserve to be called “content”? Many content marketing professionals today would say, “No!” They would argue that directly advertising misses the point of real “content” which really ought to educate the consumer with beneficial information.

I get what such people are saying, but I’m a little more relaxed—“content” for me is content whether it is about a business, product or even selling. To say otherwise I feel ignores the different categories of content and purposes it can have. Consider for example the content that comedians use. It doesn’t matter if it is informative or non-informative—their “content” is more about getting a laugh out of their audience.

Looking back to the old commercials of Louie the Fly, Happy Little Vegemites, not to mention Aeroplane Jelly and others—all these seemed to place a high importance upon entertaining the viewer (as well as leaving a jingle of their brand in our heads). Obviously the sale is the desired outcome, but a bit of work went into these ads at the time to construct something that was entertaining to their audience.

Finally, I’m less concerned about placing restrictions on what is or isn’t content as I don’t feel that I can determine whether or not something is truly without benefit. Today, people write all sorts of things especially on their Facebook. Where others "like" a post that someone wrote or shared I might see zero value. So while I might be able to decide this question for myself, I can’t others.

Content Marketing Dressed Up

And yet, it isn’t so simple for “content marketing”. Both words joined together have developed to represent something more in the online marketing industry—a more “dressed-up” meaning.

There is a widespread acceptance that in order for content marketing to work properly, the content needs to of a high quality and beneficial to the person receiving it.

Content marketing for many professionals also arguably includes a particular business strategy. That is, the information published serves to engage prospects and pull them into your business. The goal of this approach is to help prospects get to know, like and trust you—building appreciation and establishing you as an expert so when they are ready to buy they’ll want to do business with you.

The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) succinctly define “content marketing” in this manner:

Content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. It is non-interruption marketing. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent. The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.[2]

Whether or not one accepts this fuller definition is perhaps less important than whether this strategy here defined as “content marketing” actually works.

Some professionals will package this content marketing strategy in with other terms like “inbound marketing”, “lifecycle marketing”, “pull marketing”, “attraction marketing” and the list goes on. Some may even use these terms to mean the same thing.

What is important is that there are many businesses the past few years who have successfully implemented content marketing as part of their business Web Marketing Strategy to great effect!


[1] Content marketing, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Content_marketing&oldid=608509602 (last visited May 16, 2014).
[2] What is Content Marketing?, http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/what-is-content-marketing/ (last visited May 16, 2014)

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