One reason that it has taken so long for the content marketing world to solidify is the elusiveness of trying to define what is - or isn’t - within its boundaries. The plethora of words that we use to describe seller’s efforts to woo the buyers within their market are often nebulous and elicit vastly different emotional reactions. That is to say, what we choose to call different methods of marketing are both a game of perception and a constantly-moving target. While the thesis of branded output will always be the promotion, either direct or abstract, of the brand itself, the idea of ‘content marketing’ as separate from traditional advertising seeks to distance itself from an ever-increasingly commercialized world. Of course, a longform branded article is just as advertorial as a banner ad or billboard - but this taxonomic separation is actually a sign of the new era of marketing; one that serves the needs of an increasingly sophisticated and demanding audience.
As a company that is built upon helping companies understand the value returned by branded content investments, we are very aware that there is little more drawing a line between advertising and content marketing than desired perception - but that’s not a reason to be cynical. Content seeks to provide value for the audience that, in return, manifests as value for the brand (whether it be lift, conversion or consideration). It’s cyclical, it creates a discourse between company and customer that commercial bodies must adjust to. Whereas old-school “advertising techniques” are one-sided pleas that either hit or miss, this new method pushes the ecosystem towards symbiosis. Last year, you couldn’t spend two minutes on the internet without finding a trade article declaring that “content is king”. But we, who have a birds eye view into the potent way that consumers shape the direction of branded content, know that content is not a monarch. Rather, it’s a democratic body - and that’s good news for all of us.