What is content marketing? Definition and meaning

Content marketing is an innovative marketing approach that concentrates on creating and distributing content that is valuable, relevant and consistent for prospective buyers and existing customers. The aim is to provide answers and solutions to targeted consumers’ questions and queries, to include the brand in the content – and thus boost brand awareness – and ultimately drive up sales.

In other words, content marketing, as opposed to outbound marketing – which focuses on banner ads and content the consumer does not seek – consists of material that is ‘compelling’ and cultivates a targeted audience by building brand awareness.

Content marketing forms part of an inbound marketing strategy.

Content MarketingWith content marketing, potential customers become informed potential customers, and then fully-fledged ones – while customers become informed, and eventually brand advocates. (Image adapted from blog.woorank.com)

Content marketing is consumer driven

Content marketing may also be characterized as a step from earned to owned media – by establishing own channels, brands progressively act like media companies and accomplish corresponding functions such as entertainment, social interaction and information.

Brands can ultimately become their own communication medium, thus replacing paid-media channels altogether.

The kind of content commercial enterprises share is closely related to what they are trying to sell. However, the content focuses on the needs of the viewer. This information is delivered consistently and may be presented as video footage, articles and opinions in newsletters and forums, podcasts, how-to-guides, case studies, Q&A (question and answer) articles, photographs, and blogs.

Content marketing has become widespread over the past decade, with many traditional businesses turning into media publishing concerns.

Elements of content marketingAbove are some of the elements we can apply to the concept of content marketing. Most of them can be interlinked with each other.

In an article published in Mashable, James O’Brien wrote:

“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.”

Austrian energy drinks company Red Bull is an example of a company that has taken content marketing to an extreme. Apart from selling its famous energy drinks, it has also published several YouTube videos, hosted a number of experiences, and sponsored extreme sports events all over the world, including Formula 1 racing.

Red Bull GmbH owns Red Bull Media House, which produces full-length feature movies and downstream channels. It has a monthly magazine – The Red Bulletin – which focuses on men’s lifestyle, culture and sports.

A different marketplace today

Our marketplace today – the one we work and live in – is considerably different from the one that existed a couple of decades ago.

In the past, sales personnel used to be the all-knowing experts, and brands and businesses would spend money trying to find potential customers who might need their products and services.

Today, the consumer is the expert – the buyer is the one who is proactively reaching out to businesses and brands for help. The tables have turned; it is the other way round now.

The average consumer currently guides himself or herself through up to 90% of the traditional sales funnel before getting in touch with a salesperson or brand. The vast majority of shoppers – about eighty-one percent – have already extensively researched the product or service online before walking into a physical store.

According to uk.marketo.com, the average consumer spends seventy-nine days carrying out online research before purchasing.

In this buyer-driven environment, sellers of products and services can improve their sales by providing consumers with content. The audience is engaged, intrigued or interested in the content, while the company is subtly promoting its brand – this is content marketing.

Content marketing has three main advantages for the company and brand:

– Enhanced Brand Awareness: consumers and prospective buyers search the Internet for answers and solutions to their inquiries – the brand appears in the texts they read or videos/photos they view.

– Greater Brand Preference: through content marketing, a company’s brand becomes established as a thought leader in the sector – this strengthens relationships with purchasers.

– Long Reach at Low Cost: content marketing is a long-term strategy. As the material widens and the library of great content expands, it will reach more and more interested buyers and qualified leads.

Content marketing is the way to go in today’s buyer-driven, relationship-based, online marketplace.

The term ‘content marketing’ dates back to 1996, when John F. Oppedahl led a roundtable for reporters and journalists at the American Society for Newspaper Editors. Jerrell Jimerson held the title of Director of Online and Content Marketing at Netscape in 1998.

Video – What is content marketing?

This video explains what content marketing is. Consumers today have shut off the traditional world of marketing. Today we skip television advertising when accessing the movies and shows we like online, we commonly ignore magazine advertising, and have become more adept at online surfing. Savvy marketers understand that traditional marketing is becoming rapidly less and less effective, and that there has to be a better way.