Is Content Marketing the new cure-all for clients’ marketing ills?

Content Marketing. What goes around…

  • content marketing tandem bike

Remember that short scene in the film ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ where a meeting of the townsfolk is hijacked by a bicycle salesman? ‘Meet the future’ he claims introducing his boneshaker, with his pitch rounded off by the dramatic claim that ‘The horse is dead’.

He was right. And wrong. The combustion and jet engines went on to transform the face of transport yet people – millions of them – do ride bikes but also still ride horses. It’s about finding a balance and best fit.

What reminded me of the film scene was a similarly dramatic claim I came across in a trade article recently – ‘Traditional advertising is dead’ was the headline. Here, not a single salesman making it, but rather a fairly consistent cry from the plethora of Content Marketing companies, or ‘strategists’, portending the death of advertising as we know it.

They may be right. And wrong.

It’s worth noting that the estimated total UK ad spend in 2014 is around £15 billion (source: ZenithOptimedia). Traditional channels such as TV, outdoor, radio and cinema are actually on the up, post-recession. In fairness, ‘Internet’ spend is, as expected, the biggest riser, increasing from £6 billion in 2013 to £7 billion in 2014. But traditional advertising is still in pretty rude health.

So introducing Content Marketing as the new cure-all for clients’ marketing ills does no one any credit; a supportable claim, no matter how dramatic, is one thing but over-claiming kindles a sense of scepticism. And in truth, Content Marketing isn’t new as a technique. The iconic century-old Michelin Guides are cited as classic early examples.

The advertising industry is a broad church, quick to adapt to and exploit new opportunities as they arrive, that provide for a more effective and accountable use of the client’s budget. SEO, Social Media, Mobile and Local have all been assimilated by agencies and media independents. So welcome, this time, to our Content Marketing brethren and take a pew.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you’ll find the bottle labelled ‘Content Marketing’ behind the one marked ‘Dr. Clarke’s Snake Oil’. But if you look for a definition of Content Marketing most say, in essence, that it is ‘…the technique of creating…relevant content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action’ (source Content Marketing Institute).

It might just be me but as a definition, it does seem, well, a bit déjà vu. The sentiment behind it is recognisable from, and anchored firmly within, well-established marketing principles. The reality is that it’s the whole tone, environment and approach of Content Marketing delivery that differs from that of traditional advertising. We get it.

As an aside, and at a Content Marketing workshop we recently ran for a client, we defined Content Marketing as ‘The brand, but when it’s not on parade’. Just a thought.

Traditional advertising is somewhat fettered. The role and space or time constrictions of a 30 second commercial or full page press ad require genuine craft to help create or build a brand within these confines. And, at a cost, these media do deliver – accurately and relatively quickly.

Predominantly though, the audience is directed from these channels to the client’s online presence, where the brand has room and time to breathe and relax. And engage. Over to our colleagues in Content Marketing; we’ve all got our bit of the job to do, so start pedalling, stop peddling.

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