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9 Content Snacks from the Story of Content Marketing

Story of Content Marketing

The best way to excel at content marketing is to “be the story.”

That’s according to the new documentary by the Content Marketing Institute: The Story of Content.  The film, which runs a little more than 40 minutes, explores what content marketing is, its history and why it’s different. It does so through a who’s who list of interviews and case studies from brands big and small.

Major brands have transitioned from product companies, to media companies that happen to have products, by focusing on teaching and relevance. Large brands include John Deere, Proctor & Gamble, Red Bull, GE and Marriott.

John Deere, for example, started its long running brand magazine — an early and unlikely example of content marketing — called The Furrow in the 1800s.  The publication educates farmers about new agricultural technologies.  Marriott espouses a “publish or perish” philosophy to marketing and has resourced a production team to produce short movies.

Smaller brands include Marcus Sheridan’s story of River Pools and Spas, which is becoming a classic, if not amazing story, in content marketing circles.   When the brink of failure, the company stopped selling, started teaching and simply answering customer questions, to the company’s benefit.

Blendtech is another example, where an engineering company that initially didn’t believe in marketing, started a series of 145 “Will it Blend” YouTube videos that have earned a half-billion views.  Sales jumped 1000% after the first video and it’s a clear example of the “be the story” philosophy in that each video inherently demonstrates the value of the product without selling.

The documentary is embedded nearby — watch it over lunch or listen to the narrative as you commute home.  Below are a nine bites – takeaways of sorts – from watching it along with other suggested posts published here.


1. Juxtaposition of brand and personal content. “If you look in your email inbox, you look at Facebook, you look at Twitter, you look at Pinterest, you look at Instagram, you look at any of that, you will see – literally adjacent – here’s something from a company, and then here’s something from your mom,” according to Jay Baer.

2.Content is the only marketing that’s left,” according to Robert Rose, citing Seth Godin.  He elaborated, “It’s really the only way that a business, going forward is going to differentiate itself in a very crazy noisy marketplace.” He later suggests brands “focus on being good to a specific audience.”

3. The end of interruption marketing. “So marketing for a long time has been about interruption. I have to interrupt your day, by putting on a television commercial when you’re watching the game, or watching your favorite drama, or have to put an advertisement for when you’re thumbing through the magazine that will cause you to stop, or reading the newspaper that will cause you to stop, or god forbid, call you at home, and with an unwanted message,” says David Meerman Scott.

4. Marketing difference then and now. “Someone else owned the audience. So usually that was traditional publishing, so perhaps a newspaper or a magazine. To connect with those people you had to go through some intermediary – you had to figure out a way to get in front of that audience,” according to Ann Handley.

5. Earning attention to what end. “Advertising was fabulous at getting our attention, this burst of disruption. And then what did it do with that attention? Absolutely nothing. It just hung there. That was great, when you had to watch it,” says Kirk Cheyfitz.

6. Every company as a media company. “Instead of having to advertise in someone else’s channel, I have the opportunity to create my own valuable, relevant and compelling content in our own channels, to really create loyalty, build relationships directly, with what we like to call subscribers, instead of having to go out and pay for that attention, ” says Joe Pulizzi.

7. What’s old is new. “Content marketing preceded advertising, when you go back in history, the first ads really were content that was connecting with people around value. At some point, I think in the fifties we decided to dazzle and sparkle by talking all about ourselves instead of in terms of what they needed,” according to Julie Fleisher of Kraft.

8. Marketing is no secret. “That veil of secrecy has been lifted off marketing. People know when they are being marketed to,” according to David Jones of John Deere.

9. Culture shift. “You can approach it [content marketing] as a program, or as a culture. Programs live and then die. They are forced and not enjoyed; culture is who you are,” says Marcus Sheridan.

* * *

Finally, it’s worth watching this story of content marketing to the very end for the outtakes section.  It’s there you’ll also learn the documentary was sponsored by Brightcove, which is listed as the executive producer.  It’s incredibly forward thinking for a company to tackle a project like this one.

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