Hype surrounding ‘content marketing’ has reached fever pitch in recent months. Heralded as the saviour of everything from digital display advertising to the thirty-second spot, is there really any substance behind the content marketing spin?
Talk to ten digital marketers, you’ll get ten different definitions of content marketing – we were all too busy relabelling whatever we did as content marketing to make much sense. But at its heart, content marketing is simple – it’s the use of publishing channels as opposed to advertising channels to achieve marketing goals. It’s about publishing YouTube content as opposed to advertising on YouTube; it’s about publishing apps, games and magazines as opposed to advertising in them.
Content marketing has embraced a new macho mindset in marketing; real marketers don’t pay for audiences, they win them. Some 90% of consumer brands and 92% of business-to-business brands have became converts to the content cause, spending $44bn on publishing content.
These have been led with high profile “content spectaculars” from big brands; the space-diving, sales-driving Stratos live YouTube event from Red Bull; Unilever rocking the digital world with a massively popular feelgood short film Dove Real Beauty Sketches; and an ageing but buff “muscles from Brussels”, Jean-Claude Van Damme on YouTube doing a full side splits between two reversing trucks for Volvo.
Content marketing has not only been touted as the future of marketing creative, but also as the saviour of display advertising.
But there is one major problem with content marketing, based on simple mathematics. With brands contributing to the doubling of content on the Web every few months, the amount of online content competing for attention has fast become – to all intents and purposes – infinite.
Yet human attention is definitely not infinite; it is very finite. The only stop-gap solution available to marketers is to spend more on ever-more expensive “content spectaculars” that not only compete for attention with each other but with the best of Hollywood, HBO and the Huffington Post.
Such a vision of content marketing, where content becomes part of the product experience, is neither a craze nor a fad; it is the very essence of marketing excellence. Not interruptive messaging, but value delivery. Through digital content, brands can make their products and services better – more helpful, more entertaining – and more profitable. That’s why the future of content marketing is neither the content spectacular nor native content; the future of content marketing is the product.
Dr Paul Marsden is digital strategist at Syzygy Group
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