When rebrands go wrong

(And how to avoid the pitfalls)

'Content marketing' is a meaningless buzzword that needs to buzz off

The term content marketing is driving Kristof Fahy, William Hill’s CMO, “nuts”. Apparently all he hears every time he goes to a conference is “content marketing, content marketing, content marketing” and his patience is waning. 

lara profile

It does feel a little as though the term content marketing was created purely to fit a conference agenda, to make the people sat on stage sound like they’re talking about something clever and new, when in fact they’re talking about the same things marketers have been doing for decades: their jobs.

Answering the question “what is content marketing?” lands you in a bit of a quagmire. As Fahy lamented at Advertising Week Europe this week: is the butcher that sells him his sausages on a Saturday and tells him how to cook it a content marketer?

My answer to that particular question is: who gives a toss, it doesn’t matter. The butcher is doing his job of serving the customer. That’s what matters. Not which particular part of his budget he had to spend on the biro and till receipt he scribbled the recipe out on, or what glossy term he can label this everyday action with when he’s asked to come up on stage and talk about it or craft an awards entry.

Many marketers could probably say with confidence that they are now set up as digital-ready or even digital-first organisations. But the advent of “digital marketing” (another catch-all, often meaningless term that could probably warrant another ranty column), with all the opportunities it provides via social and mobile and so on, has now presented another worry about reorganising again in the hope of chasing something apparently new and different. And like moths to the lamp, agencies, brand marketers and marketing commentators are rushing towards the mirage that is “content marketing”.

The question shouldn’t be “what is my content marketing strategy?” in the same way that marketers shouldn’t be asking “what’s my TV strategy?”. Start with the founding idea and brand truth and the platforms and mechanisms will follow.

Content marketing is marketing. Sometimes that takes the form of a video, or a partnership with a media owner. But it’s also that conversation Kristof has over the counter with his butcher. Content isn’t a wondrous new marketing tool just because brands have figured out how to use the internet - it’s been around since the the first brand was ever founded.

Every time a brand talks to a consumer - at them, in conversation with them, or even sometimes when a brand is just listening - it creates content.

Content marketing isn’t a discipline. It’s everything a brand does. If your organisation is sprinting to chase the hubris-ridden content marketing hare, it’s entering a race it is never likely to finish.

Readers' comments (20)

  • I lost interest after you said sausages.

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  • This article is quite honestly drivel, almost certainly written for the purposes of raising Marketing Week's profile from an SEO perspective on the term Content Marketing.

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  • The term content marketing is prevalent at the moment to a degree that causes annoyance, but the concept is valid. It helps to remind people that in the digital sphere at least, people are drawn to content that is useful and authentic and not just bland showcase collateral. So if the butcher encouraged shoppers to follow him on twitter for suggestions on recipes, how to cook videos or news about the availability of seasonal food, he maintains the relationship with the customer away from the store and if a small local butcher, may be able to compete with a nearer national chain as the personal service is re-enacted in social media.

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  • From someone who sells "Content Marketing" as a service, for a company that has defined the term and paved the way. I can with much credibility, experience and expertise disagree whole heartily with your opinion. Your sweeping generalizations and shallow attempts to simplify a complex digital approach is offensive. Moreover, it leads me to believe you Lara are completely uneducated and misguided in all essence of the industry that is Content Marketing.

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  • This is very weak article. Yes, Content Marketing is buzzword, so is Innovation, Big Data, etc but it does not mean these things are not real or relevant to today's business environment.

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  • Mmmmm sausages

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  • Agreed: The term "Content Marketing" is nebulous--everything on the Web should be considered content. The real buzzterm is "Inbound Marketing." That's where your content gains traction in the eyes of permissions marketing and brand evangelism.

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  • At the beginning I had the same feeling.I thought it was by far too much and i was going crazy
    Than I begun to see great cases especially on B2B, I made tests and now I completely changed my mind and think that is the best way to be found on the internet in Google first rankings.The real problem is that a strategy of contents is difficult to deploy and keep consistency. b2bmobile.eu

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  • This argument is starting to get reall boring. Spend some time on great marketing or content or whatever you want to call it, rather than writing negative articles.

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  • Well said. I have always wondered what content marketing was and you have put it in a nutshell. As you say every email, conversation, video etc... about your product is content marketing. Another pet hate of mine is website content. When you are selling a product it is a very visual thing and adding content wording detracts from what you are trying to sell. In much the same way as content marketing is about conversations as well as other ways of marketing then surely photos of your products form part of the content on your site. There is another entire article for you to write about :-)

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