Content Marketing Comes of Age: Coca-Cola and Google Mark Watershed Moment

Jan 24, 2012

Content 2020. You have probably never heard about this Jerry McGuire-type mission statement courtesy of Coca-Cola, but you will be hearing a lot about it over the next few years.

Why? Content 2020 is Coca-Cola's marketing plan for the future. Initially designed, from what we can tell, as an internal strategy piece, it's now being reviewed by clients and agencies from around the world.

Content 2020 is the brainchild of Jonathan Mildenhall, VP of global advertising strategy for Coca-Cola, and marks the idea that Coca-Cola has to change its marketing from a reliance on the 30-second-spot to telling valuable and compelling stories that truly make an impact on the lives of Coca-Cola customers. In other words, Coca-Cola plans on transforming itself into a content marketing factory.

In the two videos that make up the Content 2020 strategy, Coca-Cola identifies how it will develop "liquid and linked" content, the development of a feasible content execution plan, and the commitment to truly developing the most interesting and relevant content on the planet. It's quite a mission.

One the other end of the advertising spectrum is Google, which-as most of us know-has never been much into marketing, at least officially that is. It has relied on a great product, word-of-mouth, and ruthless partnerships to own the search market.

Now Google is changing its tune.

Zero Moment of Truth (or ZMOT) is the first content marketing program I've seen out of Google. According to Google, ZMOT is "the moment when you grab your laptop, mobile phone or some other wired device to start learning about a product or service," and it's committed an entire content movement to it.

Google has committed an unusual amount of resources (for Google) to creating substantial education around ZMOT in video, text and book form. The enhanced Kindle-for-iPad version is an outstanding mix of text and video.

And that's just the start for Google. After its recent pickup of Zagat, the restaurant review media company, Google has recently announced that it is commissioning $100 million in original video content for its YouTube division. That means, in just a matter of months, Google has become one of the largest content producers on the planet.

So, what does this mean for the industry?

We are seeing a whole new set of titles revolving around the discipline of content marketing, from chief content officers (ala Netflix), VPs of content marketing (ala Eloqua) and Content Evangelists (ala Cisco Systems). Simply put, the opportunities for journalists and marketers with a "nose for the story" have never been brighter.

Major consolidation is coming, but it's not what you think. Over the next few years, more and more media companies, both small and large, will be bought out by brands in those particular industries. Google's purchase of Zagat and JPG magazine's (a photography publication) purchase by an investor group led by photo-supplies retailer Adorama is just the tip of the iceberg.

Content is the new advertising. Sure, we've heard this before, but now it's happening. No longer do large brands and agencies need convincing. They know it. The issue now is how to deal with it under the current (and huge) disproportionate spending on traditional advertising. The industry is in dire need of a major correction. This correction will put even more pain on the current agency model and eye a major restructuring of what we know as PR and marketing departments around the world.

Like it or not, brands are the new storytellers. It's great content that fuels the new rules of PR, social media and search. Kim Kadlec, worldwide vice president, Global Marketing Group, Johnson & Johnson, states in Google's ZMOT that "...we now have to engage people in a way that's useful or helpful to their lives. The consumer is looking to satisfy their needs, and we have to be able to help them with that. To put it another way: How can we exchange value instead of just sending a message?"

It seems simple, but big brands like Coca-Cola, Google, and Johnson & Johnson committing to content marketing is literally going to change not just marketing for the future, but the world. Prepare the way.

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Whether you are an experienced digital publishing machine or a novice brand looking for the benefits of content marketing, you most likely need the help of freelance writers to help tell your story. You may find that you need help developing ongoing content - or that you need additional content producers to keep up with the velocity.
I first met Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute and organizer of Content Marketing World, at the Niche Magazine Conference in February 2011. He was a featured speaker at the event, and he spoke on a number of topics, mainly social media and content marketing. I enjoyed every session I attended, but his keynote on content marketing was what stuck with me. As the founder of the Content Marketing Institute, you'd expect him to be passionate about content marketing. It was more than that, though. Pulizzi, who's been around the publishing business for a long time, talked about content marketing in a way that "just made sense" for both marketers and publishers.