Content marketing, the catch-all term for any type of media created and published for the explicit purpose of promoting a company’s products or services, has been bandied around a lot in the last year or so, proving to be marketing’s phrase du jour.
‘Content marketing’ is just a posh term for creating things that relate to your business so people will pass them on to others in my mind, something marketers and business owners have been doing for hundreds of years in a bid to shill their products.
We don’t need to go back hundreds of years to see examples of content marketing when the term itself didn’t exist however. We – and many other agencies and in-house teams - have created videos, games, related images and other marketing material for clients since launching 7 years ago, way before somebody in skinny jeans and unnecessary spectacles felt the need to put a collective name on it other than ‘PR’ or ‘marketing’.
Big fat greasy chip on my shoulder about the name firmly established – it’s taken three paragraphs to get it all out – I wanted to explore just why even the best ‘content’ still needs to be ‘marketed’.
Let’s take this ‘Our Blades Are F***ing Great’ video by Dollar Shave Club, for instance.
The brand, at least as far as I can tell, was little-known before this video. Yet it still managed to reach tens of millions of people, through actual views and subsequent media attention, getting the shaving brand and its monthly fee structure in front of a huge audience of potential customers.
Sure, it was well scripted. Yes, it was well produced and of course, nobody tells a company’s story better than the founder, especially if they’re particularly comfortable in front of camera. But it would have sat unloved on YouTube had it not been for the final piece of the puzzle – PR.
The company’s marketing team would have identified influential social media users and no doubt worked out a way to get the video in front of them. They would have relied on stakeholders to share it in its infant stages, however long that lasted and they would almost certainly have sent the clip to journalists in a bid to give it a media boost. What I’ve summed up in a short paragraph would have taken a good deal of previous planning and a similar amount of time executing. ‘Build it and they will come’ doesn’t apply online as it does on the High Street, even for funny content such as this.
Any client that’s ever asked an agency to create a ‘viral video’ should know that it’s not as simple as coming up with a good concept. Drawing on a successful (award-winning, don’t you know) campaign we worked on for Totaljobs’ caterer.com way back in 2009, before the phrase ‘content marketing’ had been uttered (sorry, chip still there), having the finished content is just the start, if you’re not the team actually creating it.
Here’s the first of the ‘Little Gordon’ series of videos we promoted:
As mentioned above, a combination of promotion to bloggers, journalists, producers and crafting messages for youthful social media channels gave the campaign the kick-start it needed. This, along with contacting the agent of Gordon Ramsay – the target of Totaljobs’ spoofing – culminated in the chef actually inviting Little Gordon, the foul-mouthed 9 year old star of the series to various events and talk shows with him. Little Gordon even featured in an episode of Ramsay’s hugely popular US show ‘Hell’s Kitchen’, none of which would have likely happened without a clear and considered marketing approach.
So, next time you think of content marketing, remember that it’s much more than just a good idea. Good PR rarely happens by accident and when something goes viral, it’s unlikely to have done so all by itself.