If I ran an ad agency
today, I'd be putting quite a bit of weight behind content marketing for a few years. It's a pretty surefire way to make some nice money. Decent content these days is remarkably cheap to make.
It's easy to put your B team on a content marketing strategy and clients seem to be buying this stuff like there is no tomorrow.
But it's a totally doomed area.
Content marketing is like setting up a small food stand in the middle of a Las Vegas eat-as-much-as-you-can buffet, to an audience that's just eaten. And one that happens to have the world’s finest chefs serving their best dishes for free, while the top fast-food joints do the same.
Content marketing assumes that people are hungry, in a world where every type of food is already abundant and free.
Two things go unspoken in the excitement of content marketing:
1) It's very old. According to Wikipedia, content marketing has been around since the 1890s, when John Deere launched The Furrow magazine, which, according to Wikipedia, provided “information to farmers on how to become more profitable.” And the entire genre of TV show we call soap operas exist because packaged coods companies commissioned them.
2) There has never been a worse time to try it.
We have more, free and better content than ever before.
At any moment in time, I can pretty much choose from any of the best content ever made, often for free. I can watch one of hundreds of Oscar-winning movies, listen to any piece of music ever recorded, see amazing personal pictures from my family, read any book ever printed, on any device, any time.
We have inviting content everywhere we look.
The job of most content makers is to market their content in such a way that it becomes desirable. My Facebook , Linkedin and Twitter feeds are constant sources of linkbait articles, which are poor content marketed to look tempting. This is like competing against every fast food provider in the world, all providing snackable, incredibly tempting but nonetheless rather unfilling food that leaves a nasty taste in your mouth.
We face more stimuli from more places than ever.
With more media consumption opportunities than ever before, consumers are subjected daily to a virtual carpet-bombing of ads. By 2013, U.S. consumers will be exposed to 15% more ads per day than they were in 2009.
If consumers paid attention to all these ads, they would be paralyzed.
People are not looking for places to focus their attention, but are instead looking not have their attention stolen.
There will be a very, very small number of brands that are exciting enough, have large enough budgets and good enough teams to make content marketing work.
If you are Red Bull and you make a man fall from space, you can own content marketing.
If you are Go Pro, and you have the ability to make the best extreme footage in the world, you can do well for a period of time.
If you are General Electric, and you commission the most interesting thought leadership in the world, then it may work.
But please, before undertaking content marketing think of these things.
1) Is this content really going to appeal to my target audience? For GE, Go Pro and Red Bull the answer is yes, but this may not be the case for everybody.
2) Is this content the very best content possible? Will someone choose this over any music ever made, or their best friend’s wedding pictures?
3) Is this content ownable by the brand? If you make laundry detergent, sell groceries, make batteries, cars, jeans, this may not be likely.
If in doubt, pay for the media exposure. A much safer way to do content marketing is brand-funded advertising. This way you can get the best of both worlds with a paid audience and strong editorial control.