We like to mention the most advanced types of content marketing, mostly because they’re inspirational. They’re on the far right-hand side of a maturity model we mention to clients.
What do we include in that ‘run’ category? When someone likes your brand content so much that they’ll pay for it, that’s saying something. Net-a-porter achieves this with its Porter magazine, which goes up against Vogue, Cosmo and others on newsstands. GE also achieves it but by selling advertising space. It’s This built America [link no longer available] publication, a bit of a love letter to industrial resurgence in the US, has carried display ads from Ford.
That’s the promised land. But are some of the other great and often cited examples really content marketing?
We recently walked in on someone proclaiming Lego as the world’s best content marketer. After all, they argued, one of the most successful films of recent years was basically one big ad for the Danish company. And no one can deny the brand’s clout (link no longer available).
But was Nintendo becoming a great content marketer when the Super Mario Bros film came out in 1993? Not many people will tell you it was.
How about the Foo Fighters and especially lead singer Dave Grohl investing their time and encyclopaedic musical knowledge in last year’s Sonic Highways documentary series? It was a great series, in Grohl’s “love letter to America and its music”, but was it really about more promotion and profit for one of the world’s top bands?
Now take the examples of Red Bull Media House, a “multi-platform media company with a focus on sports, culture and lifestyle”, launched in 2007, or (back to Denmark again) Jyske Bank running a TV station, all to keep customers and employees up to date on world financial and economic news.
Clearly part of the promise about content marketing has been about the move away from media companies, via any person (mainly through written blogging / social media), to any company becoming a publisher.
Are the media ventures mentioned here just about making money – the Lego movie made a lot (just shy of half a billion dollars) – or do they serve a deeper purpose? Here’s another litmus test: a few years after their birth are they still giving something to their creators?
We’d argue the latter two options are. Lego will probably do another movie, make a lot more money and keep its brand sky high in our minds. The Foo Fighters have secured their place in the rock and roll hall of fame (metaphorically, quite possibly literally too – though they’re not eligible until 2020) and they might well do other side passion projects. But we’d say those two examples aren’t content marketing.
Does it matter? It kind of does because citing bad examples confuses clients and discredits a serious new way of reaching people. OK, it’s not so new – and we’ll be writing about that more next time – but let’s not confuse a movie, endorsements, product placement and other tactics with content marketing.
Follow us on Twitter – @ColContent
Download our exclusive research and report ‘PR’s love-hate relationship with ‘brand journalists’ – and why it matters’