Content marketing is the latest in a long line of new digital marketing strategies: email marketing, search marketing, marketing automation, re-targeting, social media marketing.
As modern marketers, the portfolio of strategies, competencies and tools we must master and manage continues to grow.
But a number of ideas circulated by leading marketing thinkers leads me to believe that content may not be the latest arrow in the quiver. It might be the new quiver.
Consider this from Rebecca Lieb at Altimeter:
Content is the atomic particle of all digital marketing. Everything. There’s no owned media without content. There’s no social media without content. And there’s no paid media without content. . . Pushing back even earlier, when you search, you’re searching for content. Even email marketing, once the darling of the digital arsenal, now relegated to wallpaper status (but still critically important), is a container for…you guessed it: content.
. . . really, isn’t content the alpha and omega of everything you’re doing in digital marketing?
This take was recently echoed by Ann Handley of MarketingProfs:
And increasingly, we’ll see content marketing absorbed into marketing, period. In other words, I don’t think we’ll be talking about “content marketing” as a separate discipline in five years. It’ll just be…well, marketing.
Lastly, George de los Reyes recently commented on the role of content at Sales Benchmark Index. In analyzing the success of marketing automation, the technology which compiles marketing’s results, leads, de los Reyes describes content as the fuel that makes marketing run:
Our research shows that the #1 reason for [marketing automation] implementation failure is lack of content. If marketing automation is the car, content is the fuel. Without fuel you go nowhere.
The sentiment from these marketing experts sets content marketing apart from the prior marketing trends. Social, search, marketing automation, email, etc., all represented new forms of distribution. But content marketing represents a more fundamental change.
That’s a change to the basic understanding of the buyer-marketer relationship. Historically, marketers have pushed information – mainly, about their product – at the buyer.
Now there must be a value exchange: buyers exchange their attention in return for content that is valuable to them. This has produced a new obligation within marketing departments to be prolific producers of compelling content about their buyer’s interests – not about their own products. And this basic change now permeates everything that marketing does.
So content marketing is not the latest trend. Rather this excitement about content is indicative of a more fundamental shift: content – specifically buyer-centric content – is now at the center of all things marketing.