What Is Content Marketing?
We British are more than used to being criticised for our food. We are sneered at by the French; scoffed at by the Germans, and made to salivate every time we walk into our local Indian restaurant. Therefore, it is somewhat galling that we insist on judging the quality of our very best restaurants by a French benchmark: Michelin Star awards.
I know you will be well aware of Michelin Stars, although, like me, you may be a little unsure about precisely how they get awarded. You’re probably also familiar with the Michelin Guide. At any rate you will have heard of it even if you haven’t, in fact, read a copy of it. The first printing of the Michelin Guide, believe it or not, was back in 1900. It is a first class example of what in contemporary marketing language we call content marketing.
Content Marketing Is Enlightened Marketing
There was a time, and it was not so long ago, when the emphasis in many marketing departments was on selling and not much else. Marketing was said to have a sales orientation. I’m not saying that this orientation has completely gone from the marketing world. It is, though, true to say that marketers today generally take a more enlightened approach to marketing. And this demands an orientation that is much more customer focused.
Content marketing is uncompromisingly customer focused. The emphasis is on communicating with your customers: and this communication is manifestly not aimed at directly selling your goods and services to your customers. The aim of content marketing is to build customer loyalty. This is done by providing customers with high quality material that educates and informs, and is valuable and relevant for customers and prospective customers.
Building customer loyalty was the aim behind the first Michelin guide. In the days when the Michelin Guide found its first readers, the term content marketing had not been coined. That phrase, it is suggested by some, dates from a meeting of the American Society of Newspaper Editors in 1996.
Content Is King
Content always was king, at any rate good content always was, and always will be king. And for that reason it is the customer who rules. Content, however, is not just text, it is also images. We live in visual age, and we have been living in it long before social media platforms like YouTube and Pinterest. Commercial television and cinema have provided outlets for marketers’ and advertisers’ creativity for decades.
Marketing thought leaders have been telling us for some time that a content marketing strategy is not something that should be happening in isolation from social media marketing. Content marketing permeates everything that a company does. If your social media marketing strategy is not leading to your customers being provided with interesting, valuable and relevant information, then something is wrong.
A poor or non-existent content management strategy is not going to help you gain traffic to your website. Social media marketing is the process of getting web traffic through the use of social media platforms. It will be an uphill struggle to do this without good quality content.
It is hardly surprising that some of the largest corporations have taken on board this thinking. Multi-National Corporations have become increasingly aware of the importance of having an integrated content marketing approach. It is not uncommon to see senior marketing roles in companies with such titles as Content Marketing Director, Chief Content Marketing Officer and Content Marketing Strategy Officer.
When you think about it, a content marketing strategy is a perfectly rational approach to take; if for no other reason than different social media platforms require different types of quality content. Visitors to different sites will look for different things, and what works well on one site may work less well on another.
The Michelin Guide’s publishers knew precisely what they wanted to achieve. Using today’s marketing language; we should say that they had put together a pretty decent content marketing strategy. Michelin’s customers were a small but growing body of car drivers, a group of people who, the people at Michelin undoubtedly reasoned, wanted a publication that offered them information that they would find useful.
Just like customers through the ages, Michelin’s customers would talk amongst themselves and to other prospective customers. The Michelin Guide would come to be seen as an authoritative text written by experts. This would encourage customer loyalty. In a sentence or two; that just about sums up content marketing.