Oftentimes a trendy marketing term is just a fancy new name for something that has been around for long time (we are marketers, after all), so I couldn’t resist looking for a definition online. As you might expect, there are myriad definitions, and I was delighted to find that Heidi Cohen had done the research for me in her informative blog post that collates 21 different definitions of content marketing.
If you take the time to read even a few definitions, many of you may be thinking to yourself that content marketing is not new. Look at Kraft for example: It has been producing cookbooks related to the use of its products for decades, and it’s still blazing a trail in the digital age with sites like Kraft Recipes, which offers recipes, tips and a community portal that allows fans to share ideas.
We believe what’s driving this new content marketing trend is, in a word, digital. Think about it. Through digital there are now so many more ways for brands (and individuals) to produce exciting, shareable, consumable content, and the traditional barriers such as high production costs have been removed. I hasten to add that just because everyone can produce content more easily, it doesn’t mean that everyone produces great content. Far from it. And that’s the challenge, isn’t it? Knowing what content is sticky, what will make your audience sit up and take notice and then pass it on to their friends or colleagues, which leads us back to another fundamental marketing principle — research.
Audience segmentation, focus groups and customer surveys are all tried and tested methods that are still used and all serve to help you understand your audience so you can sell more. It’s exactly this type of research that will provide some insight into what type of content your audience considers ‘great’, and inform a content marketing strategy. And here again, digital is driving things forward — from analytics to big data, marketers now have access to almost more data than they know what to do with. So the lesson is: before producing content – do your homework.
So who is doing it well? Red Bull is a master at it, with a whole content channel dedicated to its cause of championing ‘alternative’ sports that tie-in wonderfully with its tagline of ‘Red Bull gives you wings’. Ford has taken a light-hearted approach by using a puppet named Doug as its new spokesperson and creating some very funny video content. And everyone’s favourite ‘pukka’ celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver has a great website that offers free recipes, video tutorials and a fan forum. These are some great examples on the consumer end, but what about B2B brands? Attract an audience with a man skydiving from space — easy. Do the same with an enterprise resource planning product — decidedly less so. However content is all relative, so the challenge for B2B brands is to create content that is specific to their audience — research their interests, wants and needs, then develop content around this. An excellent way to accomplish this is utility. Provide a practical solution to a problem that your audience has, however small. Cisco does this very well with its video tutorials on its YouTube page. The content is educational rather than promotional and Cisco has over 32,000 subscribers.
Another strategy that brands are employing is content curation – discovering, gathering and presenting digital content around a specific subject. A great example of a B2B brand doing this well is Intel with its iQ curation platform, designed to aggregate content on the impact of technology shared by leading thinkers, engineers and scientists at Intel. Now, what does Intel sell? Chips. But rather than create content that focuses on a technology product, Intel has focused on the technology’s potential applications, which makes its content interesting to a much wider audience. Smart.
All of this serves to demonstrate that the idea of content marketing is not new, but rather digital channels and technology are creating exciting opportunities for its creative execution, which means it’s a very exciting time for marketers who are prepared to put the work into discovering what content their audiences find useful and interesting.