Content Marketing is currently one of the most talked-about topics in the communication industry. But what, exactly, is this supposedly new trend? What is new and which specific game rules apply to Content Marketing for trade fairs and events?
Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, is considered to be one of the first to have introduced this term shortly after the turn of the millennium. He defines Content Marketing 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”. Unlike traditional advertising, which takes a “buy me!” approach, companies use Content Marketing to increase brand awareness and gain lasting customer loyalty by providing relevant content. Of course, the ultimate goals here also consist of attracting customers and increasing sales.
The road to achieving these goals is paved with content that is highly relevant to the respective target groups, entertaining and informative, or even includes elements for interaction or follow-up. Experts recommend neither placing the product nor the company in the foreground, but rather focussing on providing the target groups with relevant information with concrete value.
“Don’t talk about products, talk around products”
After all, today’s customers tend to be sceptical of heavy-handed advertising. Their interest is aroused by content that provides added value, because it interests, entertains and informs them. In this way, the content gives them the opportunity to interact and identify with the company or brand and build a trusting long-term relationship, which ultimately has a positive impact on purchasing decisions. Therefore, according to the study “Content Marketing. Wie ‘Unternehmensjournalisten’ die öffentliche Meinung beeinflussen” (“Content Marketing. How ‘Corporate Journalists’ Influence Public Opinion”) conducted by the Otto Brenner Stiftung, the most important goals that companies in the German-speaking world want to reach with Content Marketing include positioning themselves as thought leaders, increasing brand credibility and promoting customer loyalty.
Digital content is king
This concept is not all that new. The French tyre manufacturer Michelin, for example, has been publishing its guidebook of recommended hotels and travel destinations for almost a century. It has very little to do with car tires. The Guinness book of records is a similar historic example. The game rules, according to which Content Marketing works in the digital age, however, have changed. Most communication and marketing departments now more or less fully support the growing gamut of digital communication channels. It has become relatively easy to distribute the same content in various forms across a variety of different platforms from a company’s own channels to third-party services, both paid and unpaid. As a result, the Return on Investment for Content Marketing is higher than traditional advertising, which is usually distributed according to “conventional media planning” and usually only addresses a single target dimension of the widening communication spectrum.
Well-crafted and properly positioned content—whether in text, image or video form—also serves SEO purposes. Companies otherwise have to pay good money for highly visible Google ads. It therefore comes as no surprise that 78 percent of the surveyed companies in the German-speaking world have indicated that their communication approach is partially or even completely driven by content. Red Bull and Coca-Cola are considered to be the international pioneers in this regard. In Germany, companies like Adidas, BMW, Daimler, Siemens, Henkel, Deutsche Post and Deutsche Telekom are gaining attention for their successful content marketing strategies.
But what type of content are these companies using to excite their target groups? To put it simply, increasingly journalistic. High-quality and independent. Siemens, for example, has set up its own newsroom to create high-quality journalistic content.
Content Marketing – an attack on journalism?
Content Marketing is understandably, therefore, not entirely uncontroversial. Media researchers like Lutz Frühbrodt have criticized the fact that some editorial-style websites like gesundheit.de or impfen.de have to be searched very carefully to find the company that is actually providing the informational content—in these examples, related to health and vaccinations. The same applies to the growing number of more or less clearly recognizable Native Ads, which appear even in well-known daily media alongside the actual editorial content.
Critics accuse content marketers not only of disguising the fact that the provided content is not editorially independent information, but also of distributing content solely for the purpose of collecting more specific information about their target groups via clicks, cookies or downloads.
Seen objectively, Content Marketing strategies are simply another way to gain attention, trust, leads and customer loyalty. In the age of Big Data, collecting data on potential customers as well as their interests, affinities and ways of obtaining information is playing an ever larger role in being able to provide targeted information all along the Customer Journey.