Content marketing has been around as long as advertising. Since you’re reading a blog, you probably aren’t even old enough to remember when radio shows were brought to you by flour companies and soap operas were produced with, er, soap companies. Back when broadcast media was new, advertisers and broadcasters were very up front the content was created to grab your attention long enough to hear the sponsor’s message. Product placement didn’t need to be stealthy.
Broadcast advertisers were not the first to create an audience for a purpose. Even the Roman emperors understood the power of amassing an audience with blood and circuses. As technology evolved from the Emperor’s Coliseum, to Shakespeare’s playhouse, to Edward R Morrow’s radio microphone and now to the internet, those with messages and an agenda find an audience with great content.
Today, when people discuss content marketing, they’ll say that marketers need to become publishers to actually be effective content marketers. I don’t think this is true. As a marketer, you can create a show and put it on YouTube or say Hulu and you’re not a publisher. Or you could create or sponsor a column on CNN.com. In both cases, you are using content to market but in neither case would you own the printing press. And as an added advantage you have a built-in audience. Not every company can or should create something like AMEX’s Open Network. Anyone can start a blog but not everyone has the budget to promote a site and build an audience on the scale of AMEX’s.
So what’s different today and why has content become a buzzword? Because audiences have become fragmented by emerging technology. This has created both opportunities and challenges.
Opportunities for the little guy who no longer has to pay a toll to the networks to get his message to an audience.
And challenges to the big guy who is finding his audience more elusive.
Let’s discuss some of the opportunities created by technology. Blogging, website creation, white papers, videos and news articles are all content that can attract an audience. Anything that isn’t overtly advertising would qualify. Kind of like this article which I’m clearly not creating for my health — heck, I haven’t even mentioned what we do. Creating content as a company can impute leadership, expertise, and whatever other qualities the content reflects. Whatever quality the content has, so does the brand presenting it by its relationship. Similar to a great product. This is the reason Chevy makes the Corvette. Thankfully, making a great video is cheaper than building Corvettes.
For the big guy, the challenges of a fragmented audience can create a lot more work. The blunt instrument of media dollars won’t work as hard when customers have so many choices of media outlets. While many talk derisively about today’s media, the death of magazines and print media in general, reality TV, screaming heads on cable news shows and all that celebrity reporting, there is more opportunity than ever.
The tribalization of media has fostered much of the great content being created in television today. HBO, AMC, Showtime, and FX have all created amazing programming to ensure they have an audience and survive. This same tribalization serves to parse audiences and allow for precise targeting of consumers. Also for content marketers, the success of great shows like Madmen, Sopranos, Homeland, Lost and even web based programing demonstrates that great content creates its own audience.
If you can create, develop, harness or buy great content for your brand that reflects its essence and properly promote it, you’ll be able to use content marketing to effectively reach your customers.