An Introduction to Content Marketing

Ear­li­er this month, it was report­ed by The Wall Street Jour­nal that the Israeli-owned con­tent-mar­ket­ing com­pa­ny Taboola had raised $157 mil­lion through a vari­ety of sources. By run­ning and devel­op­ing a con­tent-rec­om­men­da­tion plat­form, Taboola dis­plays links to users at the foot of arti­cle pages on the Inter­net. Its con­tent is already utilised by a vari­ety of pres­ti­gious pub­li­ca­tions, which include USA Today, NBC News, Busi­ness Insid­er, the Chica­go Tri­bune, Fox Sports and the Weath­er Channel.

The vast fig­ure that Taboola has raised is indica­tive of the val­ue of con­tent mar­ket­ing to con­tem­po­rary busi­ness­es. Con­tent mar­ket­ing real­ly refers to the pro­duc­tion and shar­ing of a vari­ety of con­tent in order to attract and ulti­mate­ly retain con­sumers. As this phe­nom­e­non has devel­oped in the last cou­ple of decades, con­tent mar­ket­ing has become extreme­ly diverse. But the mate­r­i­al involved in this tech­nique often includes the likes of white papers, e‑books, info­graph­ics, videos and case studies.

Con­tent mar­ket­ing is a direct response to the extent to which every­day con­sumers have become unre­spon­sive and even immune to tra­di­tion­al forms of adver­tis­ing. Most peo­ple read­ing this arti­cle will have fast for­ward­ed through the adverts on tele­vi­sion, and neu­ter­ing Inter­net adver­tis­ing is some­thing that the aver­age web surfer becomes pret­ty skilled at rather quick­ly; hence the over­whelm­ing suc­cess and pop­u­lar­i­ty of AdBlock.

In the intense­ly con­sumerist soci­ety that we’re liv­ing today, peo­ple are sub­ject­ed to a huge amount of mar­ket­ing and adver­tis­ing infor­ma­tion, and their rela­tion­ship with it is increas­ing­ly sophis­ti­cat­ed. This can impact on all man­ner of busi­ness­es in com­plete­ly unpre­dictable fash­ion. For exam­ple, in the late 1980s, foot­ball fanzines emerged, as many sup­port­ers per­ceived that the infor­ma­tion they were receiv­ing through foot­ball pro­grammes was too biased in favour of the hier­ar­chy of foot­ball clubs. This is one of the most loy­al con­sumer groups one will ever encounter, yet they were unwill­ing to mere­ly swal­low infor­ma­tion that they deemed to be too pro­mo­tion­al in nature.

A recent viral arti­cle writ­ten by a teenag­er indi­cates the bat­tle that mar­keters have to get the mod­ern media-savvy indi­vid­ual to pay atten­tion to them. This ado­les­cent is scathing about social media sites which force users to view adver­tise­ments. Clear­ly tra­di­tion­al mar­ket­ing has sim­ply becom­ing less effec­tive, and mar­keters have become aware that a smarter and more effi­cient way of reach­ing cus­tomers is required. And, cru­cial­ly, one that is per­ceived to be less intru­sive by the aver­age person.

Thus, con­tent mar­ket­ing isn’t mere­ly intend­ed to be more effec­tive than tra­di­tion­al ways of reach­ing con­sumers, it rep­re­sents an entire­ly new ethos. Cen­tral to this is the impor­tant idea of actu­al­ly deliv­er­ing some­thing of worth to cus­tomers. Con­tent mar­ket­ing rep­re­sents a strate­gic approach which is focused on pro­vid­ing valu­able, rel­e­vant, infor­ma­tive and accu­rate con­tent; i.e.. Infor­ma­tion that will actu­al­ly be appre­ci­at­ed by consumers.

Con­tent mar­ket­ing is real­ly the antithe­sis of pure sales. It can be defined as ‘non-inter­rup­tion mar­ket­ing’; deliv­er­ing con­tent which makes your buy­er more informed and intel­li­gent. The basis of con­tent mar­ket­ing is the notion that if busi­ness­es deliv­er valu­able infor­ma­tion to con­sumers on an ongo­ing basis that they will auto­mat­i­cal­ly rec­i­p­ro­cate with both their busi­ness and loyalty.

But although con­tent mar­ket­ing has inten­si­fied in the last cou­ple of decades, it is not a new phe­nom­e­non. Adver­tis­ers have used con­tent to com­mu­ni­cate infor­ma­tion about brands and their image for many decades. One of the often cit­ed ear­ly exam­ples of this dates back to the late 19th cen­tu­ry, when John Deere launched the mag­a­zine The Fur­row. This pub­li­ca­tion pro­vid­ed farm­ers with infor­ma­tion on how to make their farms more prof­itable. The Fur­row is still in cir­cu­la­tion today.

There are par­al­lels between this and the efforts Adobe is mak­ing with This pub­li­ca­tion is intend­ed to pro­vide gen­uine­ly use­ful infor­ma­tion to cus­tomers, and to hope­ful­ly inspire them to have a pos­i­tive per­cep­tion of Adobe in turn. In an age in which cus­tomers are far less like­ly to be swayed by the sort of adver­tis­ing which has been the tra­di­tion­al pre­serve of com­pa­nies since the Sec­ond World War, such pub­li­ca­tions are a valu­able way to reach and inspire consumers.