Understanding content marketing
Why content? – An overview
You cannot talk about digital marketing without simultaneously talking about content. Today we live in a digital landscape where content is everywhere. You are nothing online if you do not create content. Content in its myriad different forms is the currency that digital marketers use to engage, interact and influence their customers. Content is one of the few marketing channels that allows marketers to contact their potential customers along all phases of the customer cycle, during research, purchase and review.
Content works. In this chapter we show you why content works, how it works and how it sits within an overall digital marketing strategy. We show you how content can be used to make your brand innovative, win new customers and influence your target audience. We also demonstrate how content can work for any brand, big or small, and how to come up with the ideas that can really invigorate your content marketing. Ultimately we show you that the size and scale of digital means that content is now at the heart of everything you do online.
The growth of content marketing in the digital age
Content marketing is not new: it has been around for over a century in many different guises. John Deere, the tractor maker, created and published its own magazine, The Furrow, as far back as 1895. Michelin, the tyre manufacturer, began producing a maintenance guide filled with travel and accommodation recommendations for French motorists in 1900; Nike published and promoted a 19-page booklet entitled Jogging in 1966, practically inventing the sport of running in the United States – and selling a lot of their trainers to boot (excuse the pun) in the process.
Content marketing worked. The distribution method for this content in the pre-digital age was direct mail. Content, in the form of ideas, product information and reviews, was what many mail order customers wanted to read. In the days before Google consumers needed information in order to make their purchases. Millions of these purchases were based on branded content that they read via directmail marketing material.
One of the biggest reasons for digital marketers to embrace content comes down to Google. When you dominate the digital landscape as heavily as you do when you are Google – where you have entire industries basing their businesses around what you do – any change is going to be noticed. But the Google Panda (2011), Penguin (2012) and Hummingbird (2013) algorithm updates, of which there have been several tweaks and updates in the intervening years since, entwined search engine optimization (SEO) with content like never before.
‘Good content is social currency, without it a brand has nothing to share,’ says Omar Kattan, chief strategy office for Dubai-based content marketing agency Sandstorm Digital. ‘Effective content in a social setting is content that is based around the brand’s story. It must also fulfil the brand’s overarching business objectives and help drive customers down the leads funnel to induce a purchase, sign up or enquiry. Successful brands manage to place their customers at the heart of this story so that they are able to relate it to their lives and will therefore be in a better position to buy.’