Econsultancy's view on content marketing
Point eight in his excellent article 17 digital marketing and ecommerce trends for 2013 covers Content Marketing. Reassuringly, his observations directly reflect what clients are also telling us about how the content space is evolving and coming of age.
Lose the jargon
Firstly Ashley rightly questions the need for new terminology around emerging disciplines like Content Marketing. We're with him on that one - if we're going to make Content Marketing easy for clients to adopt, making it sound like a dark art is madness.
Clearly clients need the very best advice from agencies; ensuring that the focus is on what content does, not what you call it.
But while he's positive about the move away from paid media, he's also uneasy with some of the basic terms of the content space: "I've always been uneasy with the terms content marketing or content strategy. Not because I think focusing on earned/owned media, rather than paid media, isn't a sensible approach, but because it feels like we're inventing a new term for something that should be blindingly obvious and shouldn't need buzzword-ing.
Really content marketing isn't about marketing content. It is about creating outstanding customer experiences which, inevitably, involve content in its many guises."
He's right, of course, that truly optimized cross-channel customer experiences are what we're all ultimately aiming for.
But we'd argue that this is such a big aim - particularly if you're not Amazon, where the necessary single customer view is actually achievable - that breaking it down and using terms like 'Content Marketing' and 'Content Strategy' is vital.
The terms are staging posts for traditional businesses (particularly those with bricks and mortar shops) that want to optimise across channels and are starting to invest more in owned media.
So far from being unnecessary, we all need terms like 'Content Marketing' and 'Content Strategy' - for defining and contextualizing what we do, not to mention avoiding having to defend our discipline from the well-intentioned but misinformed.
Content is king. Still.
One of the joys of Content Marketing is that most clients have been doing it in one guise or another for years - there-s just so more that can be done now.
So while - unsurprisingly! - we-d encourage clients to invest in a specialist content agency with the specific journalistic talents required, the simple truth is that people share good things. Good things - be they TV ads, member-get-member coupons or tweets - will go viral if there's value in them.
So when Ashley suggests that making marketing less invasive and more of a genuine value-exchange - surely two of the hallmarks of great Content Marketing - is behind the rise in the discipline, we're 100% with him.
The rise of content marketing has also been fuelled by the realisation that actually a lot of the success of, say, SEO or Social Media or Email Marketing or Most Forms of Marketing, isn't about doing more SEO or investing in social but is about creating great content that people will want to read, link to, talk about and share.
Clients are telling us that having invested in all these new channels, from blogs to apps and Twitter to Pinterest, they're in need of a more joined-up approach to their brands narrative, free from channel bias.
They're asking for a more editorial, less campaign-focused approach to giving people something of real value, flexing and repurposing content to suit each owned media channel.
Get the content experts in
Ashley also rightly raises two key implications for clients shifting money out of paid media and into owned media: "...there are considerable implications of the increased investment in owned media. In particular, where brands are investing in content instead of advertising.
Firstly, these brands will have to try and find the talent and get used to working with editorial which most aren't used to; secondly, this will further disrupt the publishing and media business models of old."
Hence clients asking for support - to think like publishers, to adopt the methods and rhythm of an editorial approach, and to help them genuinely be more customer-centric in their marketing.
As for further disrupting old models, quite right too. Change is good. Let's learn from Googles ZMOT research and make marketing less wasteful and more valuable to people.
And for the record, this isn't about paid vs. owned media. Obviously advertising isn't dead. But it's clear that ATL advertising is increasing the gateway to a longer-term, more valuable experience.
Content marketing in 2013
So as we move into 2013, the sense of optimism and excitement with which the content industry ended 2012 continues to grow.
And as content marketers, as long as we continue to demonstrate to clients that ours is an effective, efficient and accountable complement to other marketing disciplines, then everyone will benefit - particularly brands prospects and customers.
All the best for the year ahead.