Content Marketing: Why Brands are Becoming Publishers
The big buzzword in the marketing world right now is ‘content marketing’. You may have heard it nefariously operating under various names: Custom publishing, custom media, customer media, customer publishing, private media, branded content, corporate media, corporate publishing, corporate journalism and branded media. However it all boils down to the same thing: creating engaging content that attracts, engages and builds a relationship with an audience which may make a purchase in time.
As with any marketing practice – the definitions of content marketing are manifold and expansive – however, Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, sums up the ethos as:
“Your customers don’t care about you, your products, your services… they care about themselves, their wants and their needs. Content marketing is about creating interesting information your customers are passionate about so they actually pay attention to you”.
Regardless of the moniker du jour – content marketing represents a massive shift in thinking for brands who have historically placed great stock against the interruptive marketing of yore.
Traditionally, brands – in a bid to capture attention – have interrupted consumers to talk about their product; when you’re reading a magazine – you see an ad; if you’re watching TV – you see a commercial; when you’re online – you get a pop-up. Each of these interruptions is an unsolicited marketing message from a brand that you may or may not give two hoots about.
30 years ago, market research firm Yankelovich estimated that the typical city-dweller was subject to 2,000 of these marketing messages a day. When Yankelovich revisited the study in 2008 this number had grown to 5,000.
Consumer research continually highlights that most of these marketing message are irrelevant to their current interests and needs. More importantly, each of us now has increasing control over what marketing we receive from brands; we can opt-out of telemarketing and direct-mail; unsubscribe from email; skip TV ads; and so forth.
The antidote to this has been for brands to start seeking ‘permission’ to gain consumers’ attention. And what better way to gain permission to get someone’s attention than when they are actually looking for you. Or at least something you can help with.
Content marketing has emerged then as means to reach people who are continually looking for information, entertainment or help. Brands can use content marketing to pull people in who aren’t necessarily interested in a specific product but instead meeting a need-state behind the product purchase.
There are many standout examples of content marketing. These include, L’Oreal which has Makeup.com – a site that talks about style and beauty issues without overtly pushing L’Oreal’s own product line; General Mills offers dieting advice and tips at Tablespoon.com; Red Bull has created Red Bulletin – a high-octane magazine for thrill-seekers and sports fanatics; American Express have created Open Forum – a portal of helpful articles which cover issues faced by small business owners.
In none of these examples are the brands explicitly saying buy this, buy that, buy now. Rather, they are publishing and distributing content that engages and attracts customers and prospects and enables their lifestyles. It is lifestyle-centric rather than product-centric.
For sure, forward-thinking major brands have been doing content marketing for decades. One famous example is the Michelin Guide which was originally written in 1900 by Michelin tire founders and brothers Andre and Edouard Michelin, the original publication consisted of 35,000 free guides that included practical information, travel tips, and maps to vehicle fuel and service stations. Since then, these guides been used by warring soldiers and tourists alike and have grown to considerable prestige as an authority in destination travel and restaurant suggestions.
However, it is the rate, ubiquity and variety of content marketing – especially online – that has shown the how far content marketing as a practice has come.
We are increasingly living in a world where content is king and great way to steal and hold attention. Because you have chosen to read this article – you have elected to concentrate your interest here, rather than elsewhere. There is no doubt the information we read has an impact on what we think, what we do – and most importantly for a brand – what we buy. And this is why brands are now rushing to become publishers.
Source: Theguardian, Jonny Rose