Blog | 4 September 2013

Content matters: the purpose of content marketing

I have worked in marketing, media, advertising (whatever you care to call it) for nearly twenty years. When I started, ITV took a 65% share of commercial viewing and Chris Tarrant’s breakfast show on Capital FM reached three million people. Loaded was ‘Magazine of the Year’, if I wanted to find a restaurant I would pick up a copy of the Yellow Pages, and after 5pm you could smoke in the office.

Some things never change though, marketing folk are still drawn to new trends like the proverbial moth. Be it big data, brand engagement, social media or gamification. I predict that energy for these trends will fade and in time they will become ‘a hygiene factor’.

There is one trend doing the rounds that I foresee staying a bit longer than most because it was always there. Content marketing.

The zeitgeist of content marketing

All of a sudden everyone is talking about content. Why? Well perhaps it has something to do with the fact that in a world full of copycats and impostors, adding a level of meaning to customer relationships has just got more important. I guess you might call it engagement. The trouble is we have only just started to realise that to create long-term engagement you need to deliver something in return. Which is where content comes in.

I also believe the timing is right for a reappraisal of what it actually means to ‘talk to our customers’. As the artist Banksy eloquently puts it:

‘Traditional advertising leers at you from tall buildings, making flippant comments from buses implying you are not sexy enough and making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have rearranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for permission, don’t even start asking for theirs’.

In response, we hear about the growth of ‘pull advertising’ and ‘brand utility’. Engagement that is not only useful but self-selecting.

Given this backdrop, perhaps it’s no surprise that content marketing has come to the fore. Content is by and large self-selecting. It is also immersive, emotive, and the customer gets to choose when, where and how often it is consumed.

The trick now is to find people who can create compelling content for your brand. And let us not forget that the essence of a brand isn’t its colour, its website design or the shape of its logo. The essence of a brand is its meaning. And words have meaning.

Words matter.

Content is not new, but we are now only just realising how much it matters.

Alex Marks
Alex Marks
Strategy Consultant

Alex supports the strategic development of River's business and acts as an experienced marketing partner for our client teams. He is a regular commentator, writer and conference speaker on a wide variety of digital,  marketing,  and content strategy issues.