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  • Content marketing falls in between the marketing and digital marketing umbrellas.
  • Content marketing involves digital channels, but also still others like TV, print, outdoor and in-store.
  • Content marketing is a way for your brand to get in front of people in a wanted, welcomed way.
  • Content marketing is creating something of real value designed to entertain or inform, not sell.

How is content marketing different from regular marketing? How is it different from digital marketing or social media marketing? Or email marketing or automated marketing or influencer marketing? That’s quite a Jenga of marketing stuff.


“Marketing” is the universal umbrella all those others are filed under, along with still more functions like advertising, PR and events. CMOs have a lot on their plate right now.


“Digital Marketing” is another umbrella under Marketing, under which can go things like search engine marketing, Google Ads, social media marketing, email and digital display ads.


To content marketing, digital is just another set of distribution channels.

Content marketing lives between those two umbrellas. Why? Because not all content marketing is digital. Content can also encompass traditional media strategies and assets. To content marketing, digital is just another set of distribution channels – like websites, social media, email and podcasts. But there are still other channels, like broadcast TV and radio, print, and direct mail.


Over time, there won’t be a lot left that isn’t “digital,” and we might have to rearrange our umbrellas. Broadcast might go away as a technology. Physical mail might come to an end. Billboards will be all digital. There may even come a time when you won’t even be able to read something via words printed on a physical page. As unlikely as that seems, change only comes upon us faster and faster, so don’t rule it out. With AR and VR, even our real-world experiences are starting to yield to and merge with digitally controlled experiences. I’ll let you decide how cool or scary all that is. 


So given the broad definition of what content is that we went over in the “What Content Really Is” post of Content Marketing for Very Busy People series, what shall we make of content marketing?


Brands found themselves the rude, unwanted guest, an annoyance, the enemy.

Marketers came to the realization not all potential customers appreciate or react well to getting bombed with countless ads that interrupt content they’re trying to enjoy, be that a TV show, radio station, website or social media channel. With magazines, it literally became a joke, trying to find an article amidst all the ads. Does advertising work? Of course. It wouldn’t still be around if it didn’t. But is it the only way to get your brand and products in front of people? Nope.


Savvy modern audiences started developing amazing abilities to “tune out” ads. If they smelled a sales pitch, they instinctively turned a deaf ear. They trained their eyeballs to achieve what’s called “banner blindness,” meaning they knew exactly where not to look on a website to avoid ads. Then ad blocking technology came along that prevented ads from even showing up on pages, and the public embraced it vigorously. On streaming entertainment options, many happily pay a premium so ads are removed. Brands found themselves the rude unwanted guest, an annoyance, the enemy. Hardly the kind of relationship that wins consumer trust and business.


So what if instead of paying to impose interruptive ads that people didn’t want into the content they did want, brands actually created their own content that their best potential customers would appreciate?


Our digital world now gives brands a 24/7 media stage. The question is, what will they put on it?

That’s content marketing. And its not new. As I wrote in my eBook “Showtime: Brands as Content Producers” back in 2010, in television’s infancy it was brands who conceived, produced and presented programming. Over time, brands stepped back and became the placer of interruptive ads in loved content instead of being the provider of that loved content. Our digital world now gives brands a 24/7 media stage. The question is, what will they put on it?


Content marketing is creating something that’s of real value, designed to entertain or inform – not blatantly sell, then sending it to the people who would want it and benefit most from it. In this way, brands are welcomed with open arms, the relationship with customers deepens, and higher brand awareness and brand affinity is achieved. It’s a very different vibe than the hostility and poor image advertising often generates.


In fact, this is where content marketing fails, when brands can’t resist reverting to their old ways and the content comes across feeling like a desperate ad, only a longer one. There are other ways to blow it. You can make content just for SEO and keyword stuffing purposes and not care if it’s any good. The public will punish you for that, as will Google. It rewards quality, useful, entertaining, informative, relevant content made for humans. Content marketing is successful when you are beholden to one thing and one thing only, what your audience wants and likes.


The public will vote using their most precious asset, their time.

The other way to tank is to use the wrong people to create your content. The public will vote using their most precious asset, their time. If you picked marketers who’ve never attracted, held, built, and won the devotion of an audience instead of entertainers and journalists, you might hear yawns instead of applause.


Is content marketing easy? Lord no. Even the best producers, directors and writers in Hollywood struggle to get a hit. So internalize the difference between content and advertising, get the right people who know how to do it to great effect, and give yourself a fighting chance.





Once you’ve gone through the series and feel like you’re ready to talk about what sensible next steps can be taken, we’d love to talk shop with you, no commitment. Just fill out the easy form, or email Stiles, or we hear sometimes people still actually use the phone! Feel free to do that to.  







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