Friends and colleagues have begun to notice my embrace of a peculiar phrase: “Content Marketing.” I’m getting a lot of quizzical looks. Content Marketing is a slippery concept, but I think it will have more staying power than “Social Media Marketing.”
What it boils down to is that any business is defined not by the product it sells, the money it generates, the building in which it operates or the people who do the work. A business is a complex set of relationships between the producers and the consumers of a product or service. It’s a set of affiliations, and a complicated story. Content Marketing is the art of nurturing that story and making everyone in the value chain between the producer and the buyer a character with a role to play in it.
The consumer’s acceptance of a role in the product story is what sustains the business.
Convincing the consumer that he or she has such a role to play is relatively easy for a complex, expensive, high-involvement offering such as health insurance or a Boeing Dreamliner. It’s very easy for a product that has built-in emotional freight – a “lifestyle product” like a rifle or a luxury car, which is born laden with its own mythology about the kind of individual who’s meant to own it. It’s actually harder for low-involvement product like a laundry detergent or string cheese, but that hasn’t stopped consumer marketers like Procter & Gamble and Kraft from investing in substantial Content Marketing programs – some of the industry’s most successful.
It’s called Content Marketing because whatever form it takes, the effort to build a narrative around a product and engage the buyer in it requires lots and lots of content – words, images, infographics, songs and experiences.
Ever wonder how Red Bull, Subaru, Costco and John Deere all got into magazine publishing? Why was NBC’s recent live broadcast performance of “The Sound of Music” essentially a two-hour commercial for Walmart (in which the ads were almost indistinguishable from the show itself)? What’s up with all those tweets, blog articles and Facebook posts from corporate accounts? They’re all forms of Content Marketing. They don’t sell; they engage.
For the benefit of my still-quizzical friends and colleagues…what does any of that have to do with me?
As in any industry, there are creatives; there are engineers who constantly reinvent and tweak the channels for content delivery; and there are business heads who define the market, channel the demand and figure out how to quantify the benefits.
I’m a creative, a content producer. A writer in various media; a spinner of stories. I hire myself out to the aforementioned business heads for whom such stories are written. Of course, a very small percentage of writers get the privilege of making a living defining themselves as such. Content Marketing is the new context for creative. Apparently, it’s where the ex-journalists are resettling themselves these days. For people who trade in words and images, it’s where the demand is.
There, now. Is it beginning to make some sense?