Posted by Paladin on May 14, 2016
Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away, there was an agreement between media companies and consumers. In exchange for free programming, news, information and entertainment, consumers would agree to read, watch, see, hear, notice, or, in some cases, mostly tune out, commercials. It was the way things worked. It was all neatly tied up in a bow and both sides clearly understood their roles.
The Big Change – The Internet and Ads
And then in 1994, the World Wide Web happened and the game changed. But for a while, things didn’t change that much. People still read physical newspapers and magazines, listened to car dealers scream at them on the radio, watched commercials during their favorite TV shows and glanced at billboards as they drove by. OK, that last thing, miraculously, hasn’t really changed, but it’s pretty much the only thing.
After that period of calm, say around 1998, everything suddenly went nuts. Life as we knew it moved to the Internet—everything we did personally and professionally. And along with that, brands and their ad agencies followed with SEO-focused websites, banner ads, pop ups, pop unders, slide ups. slide overs and myriad other marketing mechanisms.
And people clicked. Believe it or not, click through rates of 10, 20 and 30% were the norm. Everyone was happy. Banners were cool, interesting and worked! People clicked and clicked and clicked.
Until they didn’t.
Another Big Change – Social Media
Everyone began to freak out. Brands wondered how they’d reach consumers now. Publishers, both online and off, wondered how they would survive. Consumers figured out how to rid the Internet of all those pesky banners with ad blockers. And let’s not forget what the DVR did to TV commercial viewing.
Then, right around 2004, Facebook became a thing—a very big thing. And along with it, Twitter, Foursquare, MySpace (yes, MySpace was once a big deal), Friendster, Digg, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Blogger, Tumblr, LinkedIn and many more.
These new social media sites made people and brands happy, and still do in many cases. People could post pictures of their every move and get attention! Brands could “interact” with people like actual human beings! Most interaction between brands and consumers took place under the organic structure of the social network untainted by blatant, paid advertising. And then, just like the demise of the banner, it changed again.
The social networks, funded by over eager venture capitalists, suddenly woke up and thought, “Oh no! We have to make money! How are we going to make money? Oh yeah, advertising.” And then, all over again, the social web was infiltrated with advertising. And people were disgruntled; in fact, a recent Harris Poll found that 75% of Millennials and members of Gen Z hate ads in their social media feeds.
And the Last Big Change – Content Marketing
Around the time the social networks began funding themselves by selling advertising to brands, content marketing, sponsored content, native advertising, inbound marketing (or whatever you want to call it) saved the day. Just like that, ads weren’t ads anymore. Content became the ad and consumers wanted more.
For a short time, people balked at this approach, claiming “how dare anyone ruin sacred content with advertiser sponsored content?” But with traditional advertising failing, brands seeking new ways to reach consumers and media companies doing whatever every they could to stay afloat, content marketing was—and still is—in.
Publishers like Buzzfeed and Gawker became masters at the game implementing sponsored content into their organic content. Saturday Night Live has cut its ad load by 30% and, instead, implemented content pods. In the case of Gawker, the publication works with brands to craft unique content, as well as create blog content from existing brand promotions, which netted the publisher $100 million in gross revenue in 2015.
Conferences like Content Marketing World and companies like Hubspot were born to tout and put into practice content marketing for brands looking to better connect with consumers. According to research firm PQ Media’s Global Content Marketing Forecast, content marketing will become a $313 billion industry in 2019.
Brands looking to get serious about content marketing must shift their mindset away from the traditional marketing mentality which categorizes content and advertising as two separate entities and looks at consumers simply as eyeballs. Now, they’re essentially one, working together, and consumers are potential brand ambassadors.
It’s a long game. It’s a trust building game. It’s a game whereby the brand shares helpful, informative information that directly answers and, ideally, solves a consumer’s need or concern. It’s information that’s available wherever and whenever the consumer looks for it. It answers a question. Sometimes it can even be emotional. It’s not just “Buy my stuff.” It’s “Here’s how you can solve that problem, and here’s a product that might help.”
So how can you leverage content marketing? Take a look at this piece, which examines how 25 brands made effective use of content in their marketing efforts. As quick examples, content marketing enabled Cisco to reach their lead goals for $100,000 less than anticipated, and DemandBase generated 1,700 new leads and connected with 125 webinar viewers, helping them generate over $1 million in new revenue.
Content marketing helps brands better connect with consumers. It’s all about being there, front and center, when a person sits down in front of their computer or conducts a Google search on their phone. To succeed as a brand in today’s marketing landscape, you need a comprehensive content marketing program in place and seasoned content marketing professionals to execute that program.
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