Content marketing, when it entered the Gartner Hype Cycle in 2014 was one of the great ‘Innovation Triggers’ of marketing, expecting to plateau in about 2 – 5 years. Cut to 2017, Content Marketing where it is wallowing in the ‘Trough of Disillusionment’, with the 2 – 5 years to plateau projection still in place. The moot point then is, is Content Marketing’ to be consigned to the trash-bins of failed innovations or does it still have the legs to be a powerful marketing driver.
Not surprisingly, our view is that Content Marketing can be a powerful marketing driver – however, not in its current avatar, which is nothing but an analog idea being implemented on digital platforms. So before we present an alternative worldview, let us understand what is being done today and why it still is languishing as solution in search of a problem.
The genesis of Content Marketing can be seen in the turn-of-the-century phenomenon termed ‘Advertorial’ a neologism for ‘Advertising as Editorial content’. Many versions of this abounded – long copy advertisements, product placement in TV programming or cinema, sponsored shows, brand supplements, et al. The attempt of all these versions was to place brands in the consumer’s consciousness by cutting-through the perceived indifference of consumers to advertising. Even then the success of advertorials was at best circumspect and anecdotal.
Content marketing is an extension of this idea. It abounds in many avatars in the digital universe – infographics, sponsored content, memes – among others. Yet, despite tall promises and the hype of superior performance, Content Marketing, does not seem to live up to its early promise.
The issue we believe lies in looking at content marketing as a digital version of ‘Advertorial’, while ignoring the potential of the content that is created for digital platforms. Thus, rather than creating content for ‘Content Marketing’, the focus should be on using existing digital content for marketing. What does this mean?
Analog content, whether, advertising or Advertorial, works by intruding into the consumer’s stream of consciousness. Consumers find this irritating and. therefore, are not interested in consuming the information. Extending this paradigm to digital media will not change the underlying consumer behaviour; instead, since digital media allows different technologies to shut out such noise, it would only aid the adoption of technologies that shut out the intrusions.
Thus, rather than creating intrusive content, the focus of brands using content marketing should be to participate in the conversations the consumers want to have. The versatility of digital platforms allows content to be created in multiple forms, and, in fact these are used extensively by brands when they create their web-presence, e.g. an infographic highlighting the features of the brand or a demonstration of how a product works, etc. These artefacts that brand owners create should be the vehicles of content marketing, rather than de novo content with the content marketing label.
So how does this work? The lowest hanging fruit is using each of the artefacts in search optimisation and create more opportunities to be listed in search page results. For example, a video demonstrating the use of a product can be independently tagged to be displayed in search results rather than only as a part of a website. The same video can also be placed in digital information and news titles with the usual methods followed by content marketers. The advantage of such methods is obvious – the viewability of the content increases because it is placed in contexts and forms that are relevant to consumers. It follows naturally that relevant viewability will improve conversion metrics.
Thus, Content Marketing, can be a part of virtuous circle, rather than be a component of a vicious cycle!