Content Marketing

A lasting tool for the digital age?

What is Content Marketing?

And what's the hype all about?

We've all heard the phrase "content is king." That's really the inspiration behind the of content marketing, which has garnered a lot of attention lately. But what exactly is content marketing?

According to the Digital Marketing Institute,

Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

Content marketing’s purpose is to attract and retain customers by consistently creating and curating relevant and valuable content with the intention of changing or enhancing consumer behavior. It is an ongoing process that is best integrated into your overall marketing strategy, and it focuses on owning media, not renting it.
(What is Content Marketing?, n.d.)

In other words, content marketing is a way of attracting and keeping customers by providing them awesome content. The focus of content marketing is not so much on the product that your business or organization offers - although it can certainly be part of it - but more so on creating an emotional tie to your organization by providing something that is of value to the customer.

Let's look at the history of content marketing to understand it better.


Not so new after all?

Although the term 'Content Marketing' is fairly new (one of the first uses of the phrase was in 1996 during a roundtable discussion by the American Society of Newspaper Editors [Doyle, 1996]) the concept has been around for over 100 years (at least).


Dr. Oetker starts including recipe ideas on his company’s packaging, as well as publishing special recipe booklets and informative newspaper ads (About Dr. Oetker, n.d.).

Later in the

John Deere starts publishing its own magazine titled The Furrow, which was meant as a resource to its customers (Kuenn, 2013).


The Michelin brothers help motorists in France find their way around by providing the Micheline Guide, free of charge (The Michelin Guide, 2009).


A few years later, Jell-O starts distributing free recipe books - which contribute to sales over $1 million just a couple years later (Pulizzi, 2013).


Burns & McDonnell Engineering launches Benchmark magazine (Pulizzi, 2013).


Sears launches "World’s Largest Store" radio program (Pulizzi, 2013).


Proctor & Gamble started producing its own radio shows, later known as soap operas (Pulizzi, 2013).

20th Century
to Today

Of course, many similar examples have followed throughout the 20th century and into the 21st century. But how has Content Marketing evolved over the years? In the following section we’ll look at some more recent examples of content marketing in the digital age.


Content Marketing Today
(Hover over image and click on magnifying glass for details)

The Future of Content Marketing

2014 and beyond

Although no one can really predict what the future holds, if history is any indication, content marketing certainly has a strong future--as long as it's done right. The WestJet Christmas Miracle example was released around Christmas of 2013, and is a hybrid of real-time marketing which some say sizzled out early in 2013; but, for some reason this one did really well. Why? Because it created an emotional reaction. How? By giving stuff away. Does this always work? Well, obviously not otherwise everyone would be doing it with great success. However, there are some key factors to consider when implementing content marketing into your strategy.

Consider these simple rules from Shane Atchison:

Content is not a campaign. Relationships take work. You need to establish boundaries, provide value, and be ready for the bumps in the road. But most of all, you have to commit to making good content over the long haul.

Set the right expectations. Open any newspaper or magazine, and you’ll find it neatly divided into sections and departments. These sections appear in every issue and make it easy to find what you’re looking for. Similarly, brands need to engage customers in a regularized format they can understand. Software companies do well with educational materials, while Coke succeeds with a stream of cheery videos and other content. It all depends on how your audience wants to interact with your brand.

Listen. Obviously, listening is necessary in any good relationship. So make sure you have a good analytics strategy in place to understand what’s working or not. Also, don’t forget to let your fans have their voices heard. If you ask the right questions, you often can guide them to creating great content too.

Staff and budget accordingly. Many thought the Oreo tweet it was a spontaneous effort. Far from it. The brand had a large team that had worked on improving its processes for the better part of a year. Ditto with content. To succeed, you need to put a team in place that’s able to produce things that your customers will consistently enjoy over time.

Embrace failure. Not all content marketing efforts kick off to great success. Be ready for that. The important part is to learn what’s working and not. Iterate and improve. Your customers will thank you.

(Atchison, 2014)

When it comes down to it, the simple idea is this: as a marketer, you are dealing with people, not just consumers. Therefore it is critical, no matter what kind of campaign you're running, that you treat customers with dignity and respect, and remember it's always about relationships first. The moment you lose focus of the relationships you have with people is the moment marketing becomes a one-way campaign. Content marketing will survive as it has for the last 100 plus years, as long as it stays about building lasting relationships with the people that make your business a success.


Kuenn, A. (2013, June 25). Column: Content Marketing Column. Marketing Land.
   Retrieved February 15, 2014, from

About Dr. Oetker. (n.d.). Cooking with Dr. Oetker.
   Retrieved February 15, 2014, from

Atchison, S. (2014, January 13). The Death of Content Marketing. LinkedIn.
   Retrieved March 7, 2014, from

Doyle, R. (1996, August 18). Roundtable: Content Marketing. American Society of Newspaper Editors.
   Retrieved February 15, 2014, from

Pulizzi, J. (2013, September 28). What Content Marketing's History Means for Its Future. Content Marketing Institute.
   Retrieved February 15, 2014, from

The MICHELIN Guide: 100 editions and over a century of history. (2009, February 3). viaMichelin.
   Retrieved March 5, 2014, from

What is Content Marketing?. (n.d.). Content Marketing Institute.
   Retrieved February 15, 2014, from