‘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. 

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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.