If the Selfie was the consumer buzzword of last year, then the marketing buzzword was ‘content marketing’.

But a year after the hype peaked around this new spin on brand-as-publisher marketing, marketing practitioners are beginning to see through woolly thinking and flaky logic.

What exactly is ‘content marketing’?  Is all marketing content ‘content marketing’? And what’s content marketing for?  Ask 100 different marketers, and you’ll get 100 different answers.

Let’s see if we can get some clarity.  Wikipedia doesn’t help – it defines content marketing so broadly so any marketing content counts as content marketing, with the bizarre exclusion of content designed to drive brand loyalty

‘Content marketing is any marketing format that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire customers.’

Wikipedia

Since virtually all marketing involves some kind of content, the Wikipedia definition of content marketing means content marketing is just, well, marketing.  Same goes for the Content Marketing Institute definition.

 ‘Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action’

CMI (Content Marketing Institute)

Surely all good marketing – from ATL TV ad campaigns to BTL direct mail should ‘seek to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action’ and do so with relevant and valuable content?

Other definitions try to be a little more focused. Oracle, whilst offering a similarly broad definition, at least narrows content marketing down to a form of digital marketing

‘Content marketing: creating and distributing digital assets to meet your business goals’.

Oracle

And Dan Blumenthal’s definition suggests that content marketing is about the production and publishing of online content that people search for (and therefore want, and therefore is useful for SEO)

Content marketing is what web searchers are looking for.

Dan Blumenthal (Jan 2013)

Then the ever-insightful Sam Decker differentiates content marketing from other forms of digital marketing as the production, publishing and placement of branded content that is specifically not product advertising

Content Marketing is creating or curating non-product content—be it informational, educational, entertaining, etc.—and publishing it to contact points with customers to get their attention, to focus on the topic around your solution, and pull them closer to learning more about you

Sam Decker (from SMT article May 2013)

Likewise, Heidi Cohen’s definition distinguishes content marketing from other forms of digital marketing as the planning, production, publishing and placement of branded content that is about helping or entertaining people, rather than overtly selling a product

Content Marketing provides consumers with useful information to aid purchase decisions, improve product usage and entertain them while achieving organizational goals without being overtly promotional.

Heidi Cohen

Fitting all these together, we begin to move towards a more useful definition that doesn’t seek to boil the marketing ocean.

Content marketing is a form of digital marketing communication that uses helpful or entertaining branded content rather than product advertising to achieve marketing goals, and does so through online content planning, production, placement, publishing and promotion.

Paul Marsden – Syzygy Group

Thoughts? Okay, so it’s not perfect, it’s a mouthful and work in progress – but it does distill down the above definitions into a more pragmatic definition of content marketing; what it is, what it is for, and its key components (the 5 P’s of planning, production, placement, publishing and promotion of helpful or entertaining content).  Thoughts?

And let’s discuss tomorrow.