The challenge of the ubiquity of content in content marketing


Can you imagine going to a restaurant and ordering some food? No, actually ordering, just ‘food’. Then maybe ordering some ‘drink’.

Perhaps when you go shopping you like to buy some general ‘clothes’?  Your next major purchase might be a ‘car’ or perhaps your Saturday afternoons are spent shouting with thousands of other people at a couple of ‘football teams’?

No? Well maybe I must be missing something because everywhere I turn right now the marketing world cannot help but to eulogise about ‘content’.

The ubiquity of ‘content’

The term is fast becoming ubiquitous; you would think content falls out of the sky like rain. It isn’t, rain ‘happens’, content has to be made, created and built.

If we stop and think for a moment we should realise that creating content that means something to people requires a huge amount of skill and quite a bit of time and resource.  Be it written, spoken, sung, filmed, photographed, or played with.

People learn their respective crafts over a long period of time. The skills learnt are applied for mutual, personal, commercial or charitable benefit.  Success rarely happens overnight, we still make the distinction between content creators of merit and those that are still learning their craft.

A similar level of emotional, physical, creative and commercial investment goes into running the restaurant, designing the clothes, or managing the football team.

The content we create for our clients has been just that, ‘created’. To present one type of scenario: someone with a lot of journalistic skill has written something that will resonate strongly with the target reader. Creatives have considered the use of colour and imagery that reinforces brand values. Designers have considered the structure of the page or interface. At River, this process is directed by experienced marketers, mindful of the needs of both client and their customer.

When it comes to placing a value upon that content we can look straight to the newsstand, accompanied either by a shouty man in the street or a wooden facsimile on a screen. Content that is prized, valuable, worthwhile, has been historically paid for.  At this moment, there is a lot of content available for free. This isn’t sustainable. We sometimes forget that the resources available to us are finite. At some point the market will find its level. There will be winners and losers.

Content marketing – not more content

Now everyone is talking about content marketing, it means the creation of more content. Inevitably it will lead to more agencies telling you they do content marketing.  It’s a good thing that brands have recognised the impact great content can have on their customer relationships. But it isn’t about more content.

There are new practices to be learnt in terms of how we distribute, monetise, and measure our work. But let us not forget what we are distributing, monetising and measuring.

Try replacing the word ‘content’ with the word ‘brand’.  If it is to be taken as seriously as it deserves then perhaps we should say what it is.

I was watching TV at the weekend (yes, the traditional, linear broadcast content type).  In the film Jurassic Park there is a line that Jeff Goldblum’s character says:

“The problem with the power you are using here, it didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step, you didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves so you take no responsibility for it.”

So when you think that you should start doing some ‘content marketing’, think what that actually means. What expectation will it puts on your brand and perhaps most importantly whose hands you would wish to entrust it.

This article was first published in Marketing Magazine 27th March 2013

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