Content marketing appears to be the new black. It’s this hot, sexy new buzzword and everyone wants a piece of it. The truth of the matter is, content marketing is not a new phenomenon. Brands have been producing quality content for their audience for hundreds of years.
Let’s take a moment to pay tribute to some content marketing pioneers who have helped shaped what the landscape looks like now, as well as acknowledge brands who are mastering it today. And, moving forward, how we can use our own experiences to build on what content marketing might look like in the future.
Way back in 1836, John Deere basically founded the idea of content marketing. He built the agricultural empire, Deere & Co., from a broken saw blade and $73. What made dear John so much more revolutionary than his peers is that he created his first product purely based from conversations he had been having with local farmers. They expressed a need (a plow that wouldn’t stick in the Illinois soil) and he filled that need (the world’s first polished steel plow). Later, his company would grow to become the largest manufacturer of agricultural machinery in the world.
John Deere placed the utmost importance on listening to his customers and helping them improve their lives. And this, my friends, is the cornerstone of content marketing.
Nine years after John’s death, Deere & Co. continued to represent these values by publishing a printed magazine called The Furrow. This was not a magazine filled with promotional messaging or advertisements. It was strictly to help farmers improve their bottom line and to do it more efficiently.
Today, The Furrow can be found in print as well as digital and is still going strong. It is available in more than 40 countries and in 12 different languages. This is a true testament to how well John Deere was able to leverage high quality, relevant content and incorporate that into a sustainable marketing strategy. As far as I’m concerned, John Deere earned himself the title of Father of Content Marketing.
Eventually, everyone else caught on. Check out this infographic from Content Marketing Institute. It’s a great condensed timeline outlining of the history of content marketing.
Nowadays, publishing a piece of content can be just few mouse-clicks away. The age of labouring to produce a print publication is a thing of the past. As a result, everyone and their grandmother is trying to jump on the content marketing band wagon. That being said, not everyone is necessarily doing it well. Like, at all.
But here are a some brands who are:
Coca Cola and its Content 2020 campaign aims to see a shift from ‘creative excellence’ to ‘content excellence’ and, in doing so, earn a ‘disproportionate share of popular culture’ through conversations they hope to engage in with their audience.
In their YouTube video, they give a shout out to a few other big brands who are already doing this well. For example:
- Tipp-Ex, a white-out manufacturer, is provoking conversation through their ‘hunter shoots a bear’ campaign. You can watch a video and type any word you want on top of one which has been whited out. The hilarity (and conversation) ensues. This content was so compelling that visitors made more than 15 keywords, viewed it more than 19 times and spent more than 6 min. viewing the campaign!
- Ikea embraced storytelling through their 2009 Facebook campaign which promoted a new store opening in Malmo, Sweden. They uploaded Ikea showrooms and the first person to tag themselves on a product would win that item. This allowed viewers to make an emotional connection with the brand and resulted in the viral distribution of the store opening campaign through a variety of channels (Twitter, Facebook, Blogs etc.). Check out the video that explains it all here.
You don’t have to be a big brand to achieve a gold star for content marketing. Smaller brands are killing it too.
Check out Good Greens, for example. Founded in 2011 by Keith Pabley and with a very small marketing budget, Good Greens Bars were created to solve the problem of ‘healthy’ bars that tasted like styrofoam packing peanuts. Pabley reached out to influential bloggers and created solid relationships with them. Between the reviews, mentions and search engine results for Good Greens, he successfully increased his brand awareness which led to a 50% increase in sales in only 4 months! Now, Good Greens Bars can be found in over 1,200 stores all over the U.S..
This is a great example of how content marketing can be just as successful for big brands as it can be for small ones. It is by far the most cost effective and attainable tactic available today.
We’ve come a long way in the world of content marketing and it can be exciting to think of where we can go with it.
I definitely will not pretend to sit here with a crystal ball and predict the future. Technology is changing and advancing so rapidly, it can feel hard to keep up. For example, advancements like responsive design and HTML5 have gone from ‘nice to haves’ to ‘must haves’ in what seems like a nanosecond.
What I CAN tell you about the future is that the tenants of content marketing will always stay the same: Answer their questions and solve their problems. Listen, respond and teach- just like John Deere did in the 19th century. So while everything is constantly changing around us, the fundamental purpose of content marketing will always stay the same.