People like my friend Bob Hoffman, a.k.a. The Ad Contrarian, at times grow fatigued by all the hubbub around social media and content marketing.
Bob says, “Content is a meaningless term — a media contrivance — invented by bullshit artists to add gravitas and mystery to mundane marketing activities.”
Yes, Hoffman is a humorist at heart, but I appreciate the pokes he provides, as it helps keep me on my game.
Yvonne Lyons, vice president of content marketing at Right Source Marketing in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., on the other hand, is a strategist. Let’s examine some of her reporting.
Content Marketing Institute’s (CMI) 2015 study—B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends — North America—noted that 32 percent of marketers were using print magazines as one of their content marketing tactics versus 27 percent using digital magazines.
Additionally, the Content Council looked at the volume and type of content marketing in America for 2013, and notes that of all forms of publishing last year, print still claimed the lion’s share of dollars spent in content marketing, with more than 85,000 unique custom publication titles in the market for 2013.
For emphasis, let’s go over that last stat again: 85,000 custom pubs. Now, can we please put the idea that content marketing is just another trend to rest? The trend, if there is one, is to talk about it on blogs and social media. The reality is custom brand-sponsored content has been a winning communications vehicle for decades.
John Deere has been acting like a media company (by publishing a magazine for farmers called “The Furrow”) since 1895. Perhaps, that is “the mundane marketing activity” that Hoffman rejects when it is recast as “content.”
We can look at some sexier modern-day samples, if you’d like.
Dolce & Gabbana has published a high-quality fashion magazine website called Swide for over seven years. Now French fashion house Louis Vuitton will begin producing and mailing its new biannual glossy magazine “The Book” to select customers.
You know what? People love gifts. Make your branded gift and instant collectible and you’re in the hall of fame. The Pirelli Calendar, for instance, now in its 50th season, is a vehicle conceived to sell more tires, and given the longevity of the project I’d say it pencils out for the manufacturer.
Thanks to the quality of the photography and modeling, the Pirelli Calendars are much anticipated by the brand’s best customers, plus there is an after-market trade in the calendars on eBay. When people want to buy your advertising on eBay, you’re in a league of your own. The message here is don’t skimp on quality. To make a statement, you also need to make an investment.
One final note on naming and drawing distinctions. When a brand’s “advertising” serves the needs of customers first, not the brand, it’s no longer advertising. To me, the difference between advertising and content is clear. Ads pitch the company’s products or services. Content, on the other hand, looks to satisfy a customer’s deeper interests (that happen to intersect with the brand’s).