The difficult task of defining "content"
Updated: Feb 11, 2019
The lines between "content marketing" and advertising, public relations, and social media continue to blur. Or perhaps more accurately, they continue to overlap, a bit more every day. Driving these overlapping worlds is the fact that content is platform agnostic. That is, it can live on a brand's bespoke editorial platform as much as it can on Facebook as much as it can (to a very simple degree) in banner ads.
The Content Marketing Institute defines it as "a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action."
We mostly agree with this, in principle. But it is admittedly vague, and could be applied to traditional advertising for centuries. ("9 out of 10 dentists recommend Crest" is "valuable, relevant, and consistent information, but it isn't "content marketing.") So we have our own definition that underpins what we do as a content-driven creative agency. Here's our take.
Content is a brand sharing information that is adjacent to your service or product, with the ultimate goal of increasing your audience's likelihood of becoming a customer.
This idea of adjacency is the crux of the definition. Content provides context to your brand. It provides thought leadership relative to the industry. It gives value to your customer that isn't just in the interest of selling a specific product or service, but that makes better customers.
We here at Obvious are idealists, and we believe that content - when done correctly - serves the greater good of an industry. A rising tide that floats all boats. For example, Patagonia talking about the environmental impact of dams across the world helps create more aware adventurers. Or Google talking about using technology to eliminate gender bias in films. Or GE given the world updates on the coolest things they found every week.
This is information that is adjacent to the products and services they sell, but helps move their respective industries forward in a purposeful direction.
We map our strategy against a matrix that pinpoints where "content marketing" has the greatest impact. (Note that depending on where your customers are in the conversion funnel, or what type of product or service you offer, content may or may not be the right solution. In broad strokes, it matters most when brands need to built a trusting relationship with their customers, as opposed to strictly a transactional one.)
When we work on content programs, we seek this sweet spot - creative content in an audience-relevant format that focuses on adjacent trends/topics, that provides a high level of value to a brands target customer.