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All marketing is content, but is all content marketing?

All marketing is content, but is all content marketing?

Many well known names in the marketing space have been touting the phrase "All marketing is content". Yes of course all marketing is content. It always has been.

What are TV commercials made of if not content? And billboards? Put bluntly it's a pretty stupid phrase, and one that has little relevance for the future of how we approach marketing.

The more important question we should be asking at this juncture is "Is all content marketing?".

When it comes to the world of marketing very little is sacrosanct, and the proliferation of native ads is now blurring the line between publishing content and advertising.

There used to be clear delineation on how different types of content were used across a business, but now all of these formats are blending - and it's due to several changes in the marketing landscape.


Never one to turn down a new channel opportunity marketers have been leveraging 'inbound marketing' over the past few years. Those that once waved the 'Digital Advertising' flags are now pushing clients to create inbound marketing strategies and sites designed to leverage content. 

Ad Blockers

Another very simple reason why so many marketers are looking for new avenues like native advertising, is due to the increase in ad blocker usage. Whilst the overall effectiveness of online ads appears to be reasonably stable, the reality is that with 67% of millennials using an ad blocker the market for online ads is growing narrower.

In comparison the same millennials spend approx. 2 hours per day consuming content on their mobile device alone.

One of the most popular forms of blended advertising right now is 'Native Advertising', which is also known as sponsored content.

Buzzfeed was one of the first platforms to bring this forms of advertising in, and now 80% of publishing platforms online offer this as a service. This channel is very hot right now and many marketers are jumping in with both feet, but the real thing we should be asking ourselves is - is this going to make anything better?

Currently only 5% of branded content online accounts for 90% of all engagement.

This means that 95% of branded content online is either rubbish that no-one wants to read, or just isn't being distributed in ways that readers can even find it.

So while there are two very different issues at play here the common factor is the simple fact that there is so much content online right now, that breaking through all of the white noise to grab audience attention can be incredibly difficult to do.

Are we abusing the content channel?

So why is this such an issue? Is it because of all of the new 'inbound marketers' churning out branded content like there's no tomorrow? Is it simply a lack of education in the marketing sector as to what a value piece of content entails? 

Or is it the readers fault for showing interest in click-bait titles such as "The 5 steps I used to make $20 trillion dollars in 7 days!" which self-perpetuates screeds of similar articles into the online sphere?

Are we getting lazy with creating content for marketing purposes?

Has the hunt for data points simply overtaken our creativity and the joy in crafting something beautiful and delightful for the user? 

As marketers we have a bad tendency to find a new channel that works and then simply throw everything we have at it until our market gets pissed off and moves on. This is why ad blockers were created in the first place, let's be honest.

Are we creating a rod for our own backs in the form of native advertising? Is the inbound marketing dream going to destroy content marketing? Are publishers simply going to turn into advertising content spouts?

It's all about the value.

As long as we focus on providing real honest-to-god value to our audience, content marketing should remain a viable and worthwhile channel to reach our online markets.

It's the value that currently suffers in regards to content creation, and is being driven by the "all content is marketing" mindset.

Most businesses approach to content marketing has no documented strategy, just a broad 'spray and pray' approach bombarded with CTA's, banner ads, pointed sales chat and of course gated content to drive lead capture.

Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, is now famous for having said,

Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003.

Don't get my wrong, the spray and pray approach can yield some traction - just like any marketing campaign.

But dedicated content marketing and publishing strategies, focused on providing real value to an audience, proves that a structured approach (devoid of sales jargon and CTA's) can build a strong and loyal audience that will stay true to that brand for many years to come.

We need to start with the content and the value. Then we can look at using advertising as a means to distribute or promote that content. Be it to an existing audience, or to attract new eyeballs.

Make the content the core and the rest of your marketing activities simply fall into line; social ads, boosted content, native ads, social media, SEO and so forth.

So while not all content is marketing, all content should be value.

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