Content Connects People With Products

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According to a new book called Mint Condition: How Baseball Cards Became an American Obsession by Dave Jamieson, cards showing famous athletes and actresses were tucked into cigarette packaging as far back as the 1880s, with the aim of getting children to nag their parents into buying a particular brand. In the case of the tobacco manufacturers, spending resources to create marketing content was well-worth the effort, giving buyers a compelling reason to connect with their brand (or suffer the whining of their offspring).

As recently as the last decade, content marketing-that is, content not as the product itself but as the basis for engaging a target audience and helping compel that audience to purchase a company's product-was reduced to a fairly short list of flavors: white papers, case studies, and press releases produced by marketing and public relations teams. But with the web maturing as a commercial platform, the forms of marketing content used to connect with buyers have taken a quantum leap. It's been hastened in the past few years by a proliferation of new social media channels and tools, paired with customer expectations for immediacy and responsiveness. If companies were still dipping their toes in the water of blogs, social networks, video, and custom publishing in 2009, they're diving in head first now.

EContent contributing editor David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR, which discusses how to use social media, blogs, news releases, video, and viral marketing to reach buyers, says, "The change right now is that using content to connect people has gone mainstream. We no longer have to convince companies of the merit of doing it. The conversation has shifted to how it can be implemented."

A January 2010 survey of marketing professionals from Junta42, a service that matches brand marketers with expert custom content providers, bears out that theory. According to respondents, spending on content marketing now comprises 33% of the total marketing budget, an 11% increase from the year prior. For 2010, 59% of the marketers surveyed planned to increase content marketing, compared with 56% in 2009 and 42% in 2008. Burson-Marsteller's 2010 report titled "Global Social Media Check-Up" found that 79% of Fortune 100 companies were using at least one of four platforms-Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or corporate blogs-to engage directly with customers.

Junta42 founder Joe Pulizzi, a "content evangelist" who also authored a book that looks at how companies can leverage content marketing trends (Get Content. Get Customers. How to Use Content Marketing to Deliver Relevant, Valuable, and Compelling Information That Turns Prospects Into Buyers), sums up the current state of affairs: "2010 is the year of how-to."

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