Content marketing is any marketing that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire and retain customers. Content marketing is also defined as a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action. Content marketing can further be characterized as a step from earned to owned media. This means that by establishing own brand channels, brands increasingly act like media companies and fulfil corresponding functions like entertainment, information and social interaction. Ultimately, brands can become their own communication-medium and thereby replace paid-media channels.
The type of content businesses share is closely related to what they sell. However, the content’s main focus is on the needs of the prospect. This information is consistently delivered and can be presented in a variety of formats, including news, video, white papers, e-books, infographics, email newsletters, case studies, podcasts, how-to guides, question and answer articles, photos, blogs etc
Advertising has long used content to disseminate information about a brand and build a brand’s reputation.
In 1895, John Deere launched the magazine The Furrow, providing information to farmers on how to become more profitable. The magazine, considered the first custom publication, is still in circulation, reaching 1.5 million readers in 40 countries in 12 different languages.
Michelin developed the Michelin Guide in 1900, offering drivers information on auto maintenance, accommodations, and other travel tips. 35,000 copies were distributed for free in this first edition.
Jell-O salesmen went door-to-door, distributing their cookbook for free in 1904. Touting the dessert as a versatile food, the company saw its sales rise to over $1 million by 1906.
The phrase “content marketing” was used as early as 1996, when John F. Oppedahl led a roundtable for journalists at the American Society for Newspaper Editors. In 1998, Jerrell Jimerson held the title of “director of online and content marketing” at Netscape. In 1999, author Jeff Cannon wrote,“In content marketing, content is created to provide consumers with the information they seek.”
By 2014, Forbes Magazine’s website had written about the seven most popular ways companies use content marketing. In it, the columnist points out that by 2013, use of content marketing had jumped across corporations from 60% a year or so before, to 93% as part of their overall marketing strategy. Despite the fact that 70% of organizations are creating more content, only 21% of marketers think they are successful at tracking ROI
The rise of content marketing has turned traditional businesses into media publishing companies. As James O’Brian of Contently wrote on Mashable, “The idea central to content marketing is that a brand must give something valuable to get something valuable in return. Instead of the commercial, be the show. Instead of the banner ad, be the feature story.”
Red Bull, which sells a high-energy beverage, has published YouTube videos, hosted experiences, and sponsored events around extreme sports and activities like mountain biking, BMX, motocross, snowboarding, skateboarding, cliff-diving, freestyle motocross, and Formula 1 racing. Red Bull Media House is a unit of Red Bull that “produces full-length feature films for cinema and downstream channels (DVD, VOD, TV).” The Red Bulletin is an international monthly magazine Red Bull publishes with a focus on men’s sports, culture, and lifestyle.
The personal finance site Mint.com used content marketing, specifically their personal finance blog MintLife, to build an audience for a product they planned to sell. According to entrepreneur Sachin Rekhi, Mint.com concentrated on building the audience for MintLife “independent of the eventual Mint.com product.” Content on the blog included how to guides on paying for college, saving for a house, and getting out of debt. Other popular content included in-depth interview and a series on financial disasters called “Trainwreck Tuesdays.” Popularity of the site surged as did demand for the product. “Mint grew quickly enough to sell to Intuit for $170 million after three years in business. By 2013, the tool reached 10 million users, many of whom trusted Mint to handle their sensitive banking information because of the blog’s smart, helpful content.”