The eye-rolling has begun. There is a growing backlash against content marketing. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be, they say. It’s just another fad, they say. It’s too difficult for brands to execute, they say. You’re wrong, I say. But you probably knew that’s what I’d say, didn’t you?
First, let’s take a look at why there’s been a minor eruption of criticism directed at the concept of content marketing.
Doug Kessler wrote a great post last week, examining what’s driving the haters and explaining why, in his opinion, they’re wrong. Kessler writes in part that a lot of the backlash is anger aimed at the hype around content marketing, rather than on the discipline itself.
I pin this backlash on me-tooism by everyone who ever marketed anything or created anything. They seem to have decided that they can sell the same old thing by calling it content marketing. Which is a shame, because the purpose and power of what content marketing could be is getting lost in all this mush. Consequently, the term “content marketing” is rapidly becoming watered down. Quite frankly, the tent is too big.
Content marketing should not be construed as a definition for all things marketers produce. For instance, this article states that the Oreo/Super Bowl blackout is an example of content that only worked because of its execution. And I agree fully that the execution was spectacular. A great ad was conceived and produced within minutes of the lights going out at the Super Bowl. But it was an ad. It was not content in a content marketing sense. At Scribewise, we define as “information created to educate the audience about issues it cares or needs to know about.”
[UPDATE: this post earlier stated that the article was a blog post written by Rex Hammock; that was incorrect – he is merely quoted in the article. My bad – JM]
Content is not advertising creative. It is not social media. It is not your SEO keywords. All of those things (and many more) can be great ways to market your content, but they are not the content that people are really searching for. “Content” informs. It expresses an opinion, or analyzes where an industry is headed, or presents new information that is newsworthy.
Content marketing works because it is a brand taking on the role of media outlet. It is inherently a journalistic exercise. If all of your content merely tells the audience how great your solutions are, then you aren’t really content marketing. You’re selling. And you’re failing to build a connection with the audience.
Content marketing has staying power because it builds trust with the audience. It’s here for the long haul because the audience now has control. They don’t buy your product or service until they trust you, and content is the surest way to build that trust. Giving them trinkets won’t do it, buying Super Bowl spots won’t do it, and having a website that talks about your great widgets won’t do it.
Done well, content marketing is a gift to your audience. Yes, content marketers have an agenda, but the content itself is not about the marketer; it’s about the audience. When it’s about the audience and the audience’s needs, it begins to build trust.
And trust always comes before the sale.