The Transformation of Content Marketing

Article ImageContent marketing has had quite a run. After an interesting battle with terms such as branded content, custom media, brand journalism, and custom publishing, Google searches tell us that content marketing is now the de facto term for nonmedia companies creating relevant content to attract and retain customers.

Why the Content Marketing Run Up?

In the latest content marketing study from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, LLC, the average company now spends approximately 25% of its total marketing budget on content creation and distribution. This number will most likely grow over the next few years as more brands have the opportunity to communicate directly with their customer base, building owned channels that turn into earned media.

But why have we seen such a dramatic shift in the way brands leverage content?

No technology barriers: In the past, the publishing process has been complex and expensive. Today, anyone can publish for free in 5 minutes or less, including brands.

Talent availability: Journalists are no longer wary of working on the client side. At a recent content marketing workshop with more than a dozen B2B technology companies, each one of them had an open position for an in-house journalist, managing editor, or content marketing director. Today, these positions are being filled by journalists who have made the move from the traditional media side. This trend is just getting started.

Content acceptance: You don't have to be The Wall Street Journal to have your content be engaged with and shared. Consumers are making a decision on the spot as to what is credible and what is not. Brands are starting to realize that they don't need third-party credibility to get their content engaged with ... they just need to set processes in place for consistently high editorial creation standards.

Social media: Social media doesn't work for most brands without valuable, consistent, and compelling information creation and distribution. If brands want to be successful in social media, they need to tell compelling stories.

Google: Google's Penguin and Panda updates are clear: Content shared from credible sources is a key to being found in search. If you want to be found in search engines today, it's almost impossible to game the system without a solid content marketing strategy.

And now that marketers are starting to use the same term for branded content creation, the industry is beginning to organize around best practices and industry leaders. But unfortunately, for as far as content marketing has come, and as old as the industry truly is, we have such a long, long way to go.
According to the same CMI and MarketingProfs research, only 36% of marketing professionals believe that they are using content marketing effectively to drive business goals. Ouch!

So, what are the successful content marketers doing? Here are a few trends we are seeing:

The content platform: Sites such as American Express OPEN Forum and P&G's Home Made Simple are just the start of true category content leadership. More brands are developing full-blown content factories that are now being properly resourced for success.

The rise of the chief content officer: Someone needs to bridge the gap between content creation and distribution for social media, email marketing, public relations, and more. Whatever the title, more brands are hiring a chief storyteller/editor to bring the content and the customer experience together.

Less is more: Today, the leading brands are starting to stop the "feed the beast" mentality and are starting to focus on truly inspiring and helpful content for customers. With Google's continuing algorithm changes that play to social sharing, brands are beginning to realize that only great content will solve their marketing objectives.

The focus on subscription: To succeed today, brands need to use content to continually engage their audiences-from the first time we meet them, continuing throughout the entire customer life cycle. In short, the job of marketing is no longer to create customers; it is to create passionate subscribers to our brand. It is not the one-time like or fan, but the ongoing, consistent engagement with content that comes through content subscription. Probably the best example of this in the world is Red Bull Media House. Paraphrasing many, Red Bull is a true media company that just happens to sell energy drinks.

Even though content marketing has been around for hundreds of years, we are now in the middle of a renaissance in how brands are mobilizing their marketing strategy around content. It's a new beginning, as we see the transformation of marketing departments into publishing entities.

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The 2012-2013 EContent 100, a list of the 100 Companies that Matter Most in the Digital Content Industry.