Have you ever wondered why we gave ‘content marketing’ that name? Content is stuff you use to fill a container. So ‘content marketing’ suggests using words and pictures as a commodity – shoving anything you can find or think of into a pre-existing vessel.
But the most successful content marketing is about creating new vessels, complete with useful information. Things that make life easier, more enjoyable or more comprehensible than it was before they existed. Podcasts, videos and how-to guides come to mind. Extra channels that pop up as an interesting addition to an organisation’s existing communications. They’re not just the content. They’re the container too.
Most importantly, they’re not always digital. Content marketing might be a recently coined phrase, but it’s not a recent phenomenon. It pre-dates the internet by decades.
What are Michelin guides to towns, hotels and restaurants, if not content marketing? And they date back to 1900. They’re highly useful (so useful people now pay for them), and they bear the creator’s name, but don’t directly promote its products. When they first appeared, they were something totally new – and unexpected from a tyre manufacturer. The word ‘content’ really doesn’t do them justice.
More recently, we’ve worked on a kitchen maker’s ‘content marketing’: a series of high-quality recipe books. When a customer looks at choosing one of this company’s products, they get the books – helping them enjoy their new kitchen, just as Michelin’s guides help motorists enjoy their cars (and therefore their tyres).
So, any ideas for what we should call content marketing? Maybe we pick up on the other meaning of ‘content’ and call it ‘pleasing marketing’, ‘satisfying marketing’ or ‘relaxed marketing’. After all, its aim is to keep customers smiling. Or what would Michelin have called it? I’ve got a feeling it was probably just ‘le marketing’. Plus ça change…