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You think you know Content Marketing? Think again

In recent years, content marketing has become one of the key ways to engage with customers and attract new leads. But, while content has begun to carve out its place in the marketing mix for many brands, it is surprising that content marketing still does not have a universally accepted definition.

According to the IAB, “Content Marketing is a naturally broad idea and encompasses a wide range of online and offline tactics, from social media to syndication to native advertising to the use of content assets within IAB standard ad unit space. Marketers are using some or several of these under the content marketing umbrella, and the smartest marketers are utilising many, if not all of them, simultaneously.”

Another definition by Digiday, puts it on a more basic level by simply stating that content marketing means basically ‘not banner ads’, “[Content Marketing] conveys the strategic shift occurring at many brands that are thinking of ways to sell their wares and services beyond the hard sell. These efforts involve creating content and experiences people want to consume, while at the same time conveying a brand message. For a brand like Red Bull, that means hair-raising stunts and action-sports content; for American Express, it is producing tool and content useful and needed by small-business owners.”

But by now you may be wondering: is content marketing a dynamic concept still evolving? And is it fair to ask marketers to embrace an idea that is still so ambiguous and transformational?

One thing we can all agree on though: it’s a tangible and influential component of the marketing mix and it can no longer be ignored. Whatever different interpretations exist in the understanding of content marketing, let’s all agree that it is beneficial to marketers and consumers alike for many reasons:

• Marketers get to establish deeper relationships with their target audience by providing something of value to them. At the same time, they can score higher-than-ever ROI by using a format that is significantly more cost-effective than traditional advertising, and also non-invasive, value accretive and engaging.

• Consumers can feel they are in the driver’s seat with the content they consume. Content marketing is a business conversation that tells a story, builds brand awareness whilst producing long-term ROI and adds value to the consumer.

As Bill Gates rightfully put it in a 1996 article titled ‘Content Is King’ (he’s in fact the one who coined the expression), “If people are to be expected to put up with turning on a computer to read a screen, they must be rewarded with deep and extremely up-to-date information that they can explore at will.” He added, “They need to have audio and possibly video. They need an opportunity for personal involvement that goes far beyond that offered through the letters-to-the-editor pages of print magazines.”

That’s why it is of primary importance for marketers to get their content strategy right.

As Saurabh Dangwal, who leads digital media planning for P&G APAC at MediaCom Singapore, said at one of last year’s Content Conversations, a platform created by Outbrain to facilitate dialogue and exchange around the subject of content marketing, “Content is of no value unless it does something.”

So what is your strategy? What are you trying to achieve through content marketing? And lastly, how are you getting your content seen by the right audience, at the right time, in the right place? These are all questions you should ask yourself.

Yes, that’s right. I read about content marketing and share experiences with marketers every day, and one thing I noticed is that many people think of content marketing as consisting in two key parts: Strategy and Creation. I would argue that Content Marketing actually comprises three parts: Strategy, Creation, Amplification. And by amplification, I don’t mean distribution via social media channels only.

Which is why a third definition I like comes from the leading content marketing authority, the Content Marketing Institute, which defines content marketing in the following terms, “Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

With so much content out there these days, creating great content is really only half the battle. Getting your content amplified and discovered by the right people at the right time is becoming just as, if not more important. There are so many channels out there that it’s important to understand what works and resonates with your customers.

After all, as we mention in what we like to call the ‘Outbrain Haiku’, “If you wrote a blog and no one came to read it, did you write a blog?”

Isabella Barbato

Isabella Barbato is the Regional Marketing Manager for Outbrain, Asia Pacific.