Who knew? Words and images sell stuff
It’s huge, the Next Big Thing in marketing communications: content marketing. Honestly, depending on how you define the term, it extends back to the oldest profession. It’s called Content Marketing.
Okay, that’s cynical, but this wheel was invented very long ago.
The Odyssey and The Aeneid are a type of content marketing, renditions of past events that “drove” later Grecian and Roman citizens to “buy in” to playing their parts (and paying their taxes) as good members of the body politic.
Less ancient is John Deere’s The Furrow, first published in 1895. Its content illustrates how to be a more profitable farmer by using John Deere technology. And it’s still going strong, published now in 40 countries and 12 languages with a readership of 1.5 million. And what is the Hallmark Hall of Fame? Or The Betty Crocker Cookbook (General Mills, 1950)?
Today, perhaps the most curious big player to jump on the content-marketing wagon is the U.S. Army, which has planned a Spanish Language Radio Novela (soap opera) to counteract violence-filled video “narco novelas” like Queen of the South and El Cartel II. These and other soaps glorify the cartel lifestyle and profit from wide viewerships both in South and North America. Radio Free Europe was a good idea. I don’t imagine a Gunsmoke level of success for the Army’s new venture into Latino Soaps.
Content as high culture?
Take a look around the Web at the claims made by new companies specializing in putting one sentence or image after another to make something cogent that helps to sell products and services. My personal favorite is the Content Marketing Institute (dot com). The Institute’s aspiration is to help businesses “…attract and retain customers by creating and curating relevant and valuable content.”
Curate? Relevant? They’re, like, a museum, like, totally! This Sothebey’s of content must catalogue (institutes don’t catalog, much less manage) and
post curate your (and other’s) stuff objets as it searches for relevance. Of course the Institutes uses only content created by the Dostoyevskys, Michelangelos and Fellinis they pay patronize—artistes who languish in grottos, lofts and tenements scattered around, oh my, Cleveland?
What they do is publish stories and images that feature your product or service through whatever channels and in whatever media that best suited to the kind of communications they have produced—for a price. Call it what you want, but content marketing is nothing new and, along with ads and placard toters, still a part of the business of marketing communications.
Imagine my relief
Honestly, I’m glad that content marketers have arrived as the new kids on the block. Now I can admit without shame that I’ve done a lot of PR, including article “placement.” That is, I wrote content (aka articles) casting my clients in a favorable light and then pitched them to whatever reputable media outlet was looking for a “relevant” article about the “valuable content” I featured.
For instance, I wrote “Turning Workers into Owners” for North Carolina Magazine in 1991. An unnamed client paid me to write about their ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) and “place” the article. I interviewed company officers at a few ESOP companies and the president of the national ESOP Association (which lobbies in Washington, D.C., for this legal corporate tax strategy). then wrote the article in an office. I still have two ears and enjoyed the work, especially the getting paid part of it. No doubt the Content Marketing Institute likes that part of “curating relevant and valuable content,” too.
I, too, have catalogued and curated archives of my clients’ relevant content—in a filing cabinet that henceforth will be known as The Sacred Vault of Inspiration (see bad art displayed right).
Content marketing was and is just part of the marketing communications game, and we’ve all seen and “content” that works and content that, for lack of a better word, sucks.Google+