Content marketing has been around as long as there have been businesses trying to build relationships that go beyond just selling their customers something. But it’s only in the past 8 years or so that content marketing as a discipline has really taken off.

As the discipline matures, marketers are realising the vital importance of creating good quality, audience-first thumb-stopping content. And organisations are giving it more attention than ever before. It’s now common to see dedicated Content Marketing roles which can cover the spectrum of creative, social, comms and content.

Here are my three explanations of content marketing:

1. What I tell my family about content marketing

Content marketing is all about storytelling, and as humans we have been telling stories since cavemen etched pictures on walls. Aborigines have been telling oral dreamtime stories for over 40,000 years that have that helped them understand the air, the land, the universe, their people, their culture, and their history.

Cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner suggests we are 22 times more likely to remember a fact when it has been wrapped in a story. In fact, the neuroscience of storytelling proves that the brain releases the oxytocin (the love/empathy hormone) when hear a story we connect with. And that’s also how we learn.

That’s why our biggest passion at Paper+Spark is helping brands and organisations tell their stories, and create meaningful connection with audiences in a world that demands radical engagement. Because we know that’s what really works.

2. What I tell my digital marketing students about content marketing

Content can be compared to tofu – on its own tofu is pretty bland and tasteless. You’re unlikely to consider eating or serving it on its own. But the magic happens when you do something to it – when tofu is marinated, stir fried, made crispy or paired with other complementary ingredients. Then it becomes transformed into something tasty and appealing that keeps you coming back for more.  When you add the special sauce of storytelling, content then becomes more. By adding context, imbue it with meaning and interest, and make it engaging and valuable, only then you can call it content marketing.

3. What I tell clients about content marketing

I like to use Neil Patel’s definition of content marketing, as it’s more defined than what the Content Marketing Institute provides.

Content marketing is a long-term strategy that focuses on building a strong relationship with your target audience by giving them high-quality content in the form of engaging stories that is very relevant to them on a consistent basis. And that builds trust.

 With so much content being produced on a daily basis, without a discipline like content marketing  you risk mixed messaging, erosion of your brand and failing to connect with your audience in a meaningful way.

How can content marketing help solve a marketing problem?

Content marketing is also excellent at responding to and solving a wide range issues over a broad spectrum. Here’s just some of the ways:

  • Nudging and hand holding customers through the path to purchase
  • Pre-empting questions at different stages of decision making
  • Qualifying leads
  • Responding to a crisis
  • Excite and trigger awareness
  • Some just entertains
  • Positions your brand (or you) as a thought leader
  • Telling great stories to reinforce your brand while adding value
  • Owning the conversation
  • Influencing your audience

How can your content be seen by the right people?

While creating good content that serves an audience need is the bare minimum, it’s even more crucial to get in front of the right people. A good amplification strategy ensures your content appears in your target audience’s newsfeed, inbox , on page 1 of Google or even on the right websites. Content can be shared and amplified in the following ways:

  • Social media channels targeted to the right audience
  • Sponsored Content (content discovery/native content on publisher sites)
  • Guest posts
  • PR/Media Relations
  • By-lined editorial
  • Blogs on your owned channels
  • Search (Organic and Paid)

How is content marketing different to other forms of marketing?

Without a doubt, good content marketing creates a holistic view and provides clarity. But it’s also a long game – it’s not about the quick wins, low-hanging fruit or designed to lift short term sales. This is what performance-based marketing or lead gen is designed to do  – bottom funnel content designed for short term sales uplift.

While content is a powerful component of performance-based marketing, content marketing is bigger than that. It’s really about brand building, developing trust, building audience relationships and being relevant –  all of which takes time.

Is content marketing right for your brand?

The smart marketers try and do both long term and short term marketing. Les Binet and Peter Field, the authors of Effectiveness in Context, analysed hundreds of campaigns of the IPA Databank, with a focus on marketing effectiveness.

Field and Binet recommend a combined brand awareness and sales activation strategy to reach maximum marketing effectiveness. That split is approx. 60/40 between brand building (top of funnel content and storytelling) and performance-based marketing (immediate sales activation using bottom of the funnel content). It’s also not a choice between the two alternatives. They are both critical to long term success.

Too much time spent on small quick sprints and wins (short-term sales) means less time conquering the marathon. Eventually, you run out of puff and have nothing left to give. So content marketing gives you an avenue to build your brand for the long term and extra energy to supercharge those sprints.

At Paper+Spark, we are firmly in what I call the audience and brand building business, with a side hustle in performance marketing. We focus on the marathon with the occasional sprint to keep the balance right and your brand healthy.

To learn more about how you can re-calibrate your marketing efforts for effectiveness and long-term success, get in touch – we’ll bring the Gatorade.



   content amplification, content marketing, marketing effectiveness
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