Content marketing. The phrase is omnipresent these days. But what does it mean, exactly? Is it really all that new? Print ads, radio ads, TV ads, advertorials, catalogues, direct mail: Past generations of marketers created plenty of content, after all, even if they didn’t call it that.
Over the past couple of decades, digital technology has made it cost-efficient to create a range of new content forms, from videos, podcasts, blogs, infographics, email newsletters, and webinars to Facebook pages and Twitter posts. In that time, the amount of content being created by marketers has absolutely exploded.
Companies have realized that, to be noticed, they have to go beyond traditional marketing forms and messages to create content that demands attention in innovative ways. While traditional advertising and brochures certainly fall under the content marketing umbrella, content marketing extends further to include content aimed more at engaging audiences than explicitly driving sales.
Good content marketing is entertaining. Like the Red Bull Stratos documentary film, about a daredevil who plummets to Earth from the edge of outer space. Or IBM’s CityOne game, which invites you to explore how technology can help solve “real-world business, environmental and logistical problems.” Or Vail Resorts’ EpicMix app, which lets users capture and share information about their experience on the mountain.
Good content marketing is useful, too. Like TD Ameritrade’s thinkMoney magazine, which is full of “know-how, trading tips and attempts at humor.” Or Home Depot’s YouTube channel, which features home improvement how-to videos. Or Autodesk’s AREA, a community for designers that’s home to member portfolios, contests, and educational content.
Either way, good content marketing isn’t primarily about selling. It’s about giving audiences content that delights them, or helps them solve problems—or, ideally, both. It’s about establishing your intelligence and domain knowledge—your “thought leadership.” Ultimately, it’s about showing your audience that you get where they’re coming from—truly, madly, deeply. Do it well, and you’ll engage your audience like never before, resulting in “likes,” content that goes viral, and heaps and loads of people who trust and admire you—and will turn to you first when they’re in the market for whatever it is you’re selling.