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March 6, 2015

How Content Marketing Came to Exist Today

Content marketing.

This phrase might change the future of marketing forever. And guess what, we, being marketers, should have seen that coming.

Since the 1850s when Volney B. Palmer opened the first American ad agency in Philadelphia, marketing (or more aptly advertising) was basically letting people know what you are selling. We called it “direct response marketing.” Mark an area on the map and start advertising your product within that area. That’s how it basically worked. And it worked.

Why? Lack of information.

A person looking for antiseptic soap in Virginia was more likely to buy the one advertised on a banner by the corner of his street. But he didn’t know that there was a much better soap available from Minnesota at half the price. All you would have to do is get your product in front of a hungry prospect and your work is done.

He has got no other options. He will buy your product. Simple.

This continued a century later. Only the frequency of ads was increased in comparison to your business rivals. Yes, it was a problem for the consumers. But it was a boon for the producers because they would operate their business in small localities with almost no competition at all.

Now, in the 21st century, we are in a world where information can be exchanged more easily and faster through the Internet. Now, the consumer knows about all the antiseptic soaps that are available for sale in the 50 states of America. He knows that if you sell eastern furniture, there are probably 10 other businesses in his area that do the same thing. He has got choices now. He is more knowledgeable now. He is more sophisticated now.

So, if you think you will just advertise your product is available for sale, it might not be that effective because others are doing so too. If you lie to a consumer saying that you have the cheapest soap in town, he can easily click on his Smartphone and verify what you are claiming. You have to be different. You have to stand out. You have to be genuine. And most importantly, you have to build brand loyalty for your business. It means, even if there are thousands of other options available in your target area, your customers will probably keep buying from you only.

Brand is the most important marketing buzzword in the 21st century. What is a brand BTW? That’s a very interesting question. Let’s go back in history for a while.

It all started when transporting cattle across ranches was a problem. Why? Because if a cow or a horse goes missing, nobody would know whose cow or horse it is. What was the way out? They started “branding” the cattle with a hot iron rod, marking them with numbers or symbols. These numbers or symbols told others of the rancher to whom the animals belonged.

In short, the “branding” was a way of distinguishing yourself from others. And this is the very concept of brand marketing.vBrands exist to make you recognizable from others. And most importantly, brands exist to make your prospects relate to you. But unfortunately, brands are not built with ‘push’ marketing, that is, where you barrage the prospects with messages asking for a sale. Yes, your prospects will no doubt come to know about you. Perhaps they will even remember you. But they will not relate to you.

There will be no preference or loyalty toward you. They will still be indifferent to you and your product and services. That’s why you need to cultivate your brand value in the eyes of your customers. Not only will your target audience recognize you from your brand, it will love it, listen to it and follow it.

• Jesus Christ is a brand.

• Michael Jackson was a brand.

• Steve Jobs was a brand.

Do you understand the meaning of brand now? Yes, you do. So how do you go to build a strong brand in your niche?

Well, most marketing experts and business PhDs will have contradictory opinions on it. But if you ask me, brand creation is always a result of solid content marketing.

Think about Coca Cola. Think of its best campaigns. Does it tell you how Coca Cola tastes or how it comes at a low price?Never. It focuses on an idea that affects the world. It focuses on starting a movement through Coke. Maybe it is using songs. Maybe some other company uses essays. Maybe some other company uses scientific journals. But in any way, they are focusing on content that brings about a change in the lives of its prospects. That’s the basic secret of marketing success — to create an awesome brand, you need to engage them in a much more indirect manner.

Yes, you can advertise as much as you want. That is a form of direct marketing, but I would argue here that direct marketing does not create brands. It creates familiarity. Brand is something else altogether. Brand is that delicate relationship formed between you and your prospect.

It’s like that teenage college girl who regularly comes to know about what a guy is talking about and gradually comes to like him, without the guy even approaching her. So, when at last the guy actually approaches her, she is already all over him.

This is exactly how you create an all-pervading brand in today’s market. Remember, the girl already gets approached by loads of cheesy, sleazy, boring and normal guys every day. If anyone wants to woo her, he needs to stand apart from the rest and gain her attention first.

That’s what brand marketing is. And that’s where content marketing comes into play.

In short, how do you create a strong brand?…Via interesting, life-altering and new content. Content that doesn’t interrupt your customers’ reality but engages them, educates them and entertains them instead. And, as a result, your prospects don’t ignore you. They look forward to seeing you or hearing from you. That’s the very essence of content marketing today.

The funny thing is, if you study a bit about content marketing, you will know that it’s not a very new concept after all. In 1895, John Deere Corporation came out with a customer magazine called The Furrow. It exists still today, and is now available in more than 40 countries and in 12 different languages. It is widely considered one of the earliest examples of content marketing.

Don’t forget about a 400-page guide released by Michelin Tires in 1900, geared at helping drivers maintain their cars. It coved basic maintenance, accommodations, and other travel tips. After 35,000 copies were distributed for free, the company began selling the books for a profit.

In 1904, the Jell-O Corporation began distributing free copies of its own cookbook that suggested creative and useful ways to use its own product. Before this time, Jell-O was basically unknown and unused. After just two years of content marketing, the company saw it sales rise to more than $1 million per year.

And over time, we have seen several other examples from Nike, Sears, Lego, Sherwin Williams, etc.

In today’s market, when competition is fierce and overwhelming, content marketing is all the more important. What’s more, it actually works. The reason behind it is simple. Content marketing relies on the simple principle of helping your customers — to better them and to improve their lives is what motivates the customers to follow you instead.

It’s a typical ‘give and take’ relationship going on here. And marketers have come to understand this. Perhaps that is why 69 percent of marketers are creating more content now than they did one year ago. (Content Marketing Institute, 2015) Fifty-seven percent of marketers say that content marketing has become their top priority since 2014.

Curious to know more? Well, this might be even more interesting to you.

Average spend per company on content marketing is around $1.8 million per year, and that was in 2013. I am sure it increased in the last two years. On an average, around 28 percent of a company’s marketing budget is occupied with content marketing activities. In other words, we are living in interesting times, my friend.

If you are a businessperson, you should start investing more in content marketing today.


Ron Chatterjee is a professional marketing consultant and copywriter-content strategist with more than seven years of Web experience. He holds a Bachelor of business administration (finance) and is currently into Chartered Accountancy from ICAI, India. To know more about him, along with thousands of such in-depth marketing research and advice, check his professional blog at