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October 8, 2013


A Motion to Kill Content Marketing

by Tom De Baere
The word "content" in Content Marketing deserves more credit. Will you vote ? (image from  Amsterdamnewspolitics)

The word “content” in Content Marketing deserves more credit. Will you vote ? (image : Amsterdamnewspolitics)

Whenever I talk to fellow marketing managers about Content Marketing, I feel as if the word “content” in itself just kills the whole conversation.

When the word content is used, people think of text. They think of paper, copywriting, layout, online and print. Some are more informed, and know that content marketing is more than the output of content creators.

Content marketing is all about providing customers with answers to their questions. The format in which these answers are delivered to them is irrelevant. By providing these answers, you lift your brand to become a company that is seen as a go-to-resource for knowledge and insight. By providing these answers you become a trusted party to which they’ll turn to when they have a problem, a question, an opportunity.

And doing that, my friends, is scary stuff for marketers.

A shift to customer centricity

I just feel it. Marketing is ready for something new. Advertising as we know it is dying. And it is becoming increasingly difficult to break through the massive amount of channels and information out there. How are marketers of today going to reach their audience when nobody is listening anymore?

The answer is, surprisingly, rather simple. More and more marketers are becoming aware of the change they need to make to their marketing. Thanks to a new wave of inbound marketing forces in our industry like Hubspot, Marketo, Eloqua and the likes. And thanks to thought leaders like Jay Baer, Joe Pulizzi, David Meerman Scott, Seth Godin, Joseph Jaffe, Lee Odden, Robert Rose, …

Today our industry is moving to what matters for your customers. Customers are fed up with promotions. They are fed up with spam. But they embrace companies that mean something to them. They embrace companies that help them solve their business issues. They love to interact with companies that help them to improve their business.

That type of marketing, my friends, is meaningful marketing. Hail hail to marketing that provides the answer to declining banner click-through rates, declining brand equity and in the end declining revenues.

Instead of focusing on marketing that is needed by your company, focus on marketing that is wanted by your customers. This type of marketing focuses less on selling, but more on buying.

This type of marketing operates right at the centre of what matters to your customers. Find out what matters to your customers, relate that back to what you can do for your customers, and provide him with marketing that brings them to you while at the same time solving their business questions.

A motion to kill content marketing 

I don’t know who invented the term Content Marketing. Most probably we can give that credit to Joe Pulizzi, the famous founder of the Content Marketing Institute, and author of multiple best-sellers.

But the issue remains. The word “content” as in “content marketing” just kills the whole conversation about where marketing is going to. Although content marketing has the same meaning at its core as meaningful marketing, the word “content” doesn’t give the concept the credit it deserves. Content marketing deserves more credit. It’s bigger than content. 

Sales and marketing are changing because of the informed social customer. Marketing and sales systems, teams, and organizations will need to adapt in order to survive in this new reality. And content marketing is the fuel to get all of this going.

Adopting meaningful, instead of content

If you are with me, you know you’ll have to change your mindset about what marketing is about. You’ll need to inspire, train and guide people within your marketing and sales teams about how to behave in this new reality.

But please, vote my motion to kill the content in content marketing. It just doesn’t give content marketing the credit it deserves.

Warm regards,


P.S. Voting can be done in the comment field below ;-)

  • tracibrowne

    I have to disagree with you Tom. I think it’s the marketing bit that kills content marketing. Content on it’s own is just perfectly fine. I also disagree a bit when you say the format doesn’t matter. I think the content should be delivered in the way a customer wants to consume it. No, the delivery mechanism isn’t more important than the content, but it is crucial to the content getting in front of the right audience. I mean…if a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

    And I’m also pretty sure anyone under the age of 40 doesn’t think content is only text.

    • Hi Tracy !

      Glad you disagree with me. Because I am a strong believer in content marketing. Formats do not matter when you think about the message you want to pass through the content you build. But in the end, the format matters for sure depending on where you want to position your content along the buying cycle or life-cycle of the customer. Totally with you !

      My argument is a reflection about my own sentiment. When talking to people about content marketing, I feel as if content marketing is not well understood. Is it a product brochure? is it a webinar ? is it a press release? is it a blog post? yes, all of that, but the philosophy behind the way you approach content is different. You approach it from what customers want from you, i.s.o. what you want to say to customers.

      Thanks for the comment Traci !

      P.S. I am 39 ;-)

      • tracibrowne

        Ah…a cusp-er ;-)

        • I had to actually look that up ‘a cusper’ ;-). And yes, you are right ;-)

  • HubSpot uses “inbound” to refer to the action, not the stuff. The action is, people finding you, choosing you because they want to, because they like you. Not forcing your way in front of them. The format doesn’t matter, I 100% agree. Storytelling hasn’t gotten any less important since the birth of mankind, but the packaging and distribution changes constantly. So if you tell stories that resonate and HELP your audience execute better or think differently, you’ll come out on top.

    But we’re in marketing. We ruin everything. We like to label things, we like shortcuts, we jump to “do this for leads” instead of “do this for our audience’s benefit” even though they’re *actually the same freakin thing.* We suck at getting out of our own way. I don’t think “meaningful” is the way to go, because it sounds like we’re laying it on thick or taking up a nobler-than-thou cause (like we’re justifying our own work). But yeah, it’s about resonating with actual people, not just “reaching” our “prospects” using “content.”

    Cheers to this post.

    • Hi Jay.

      Yes the word “inbound” brings us closer to the truth of how we marketers see solving the marketing issues of today (information clutter, ad overload and social networks).

      It also reflects that people are coming to you, because, well, you are useful to them. From that, you build trust, and guide them through the buying process.

      The reason I am using meaningful might have got to do with the fact that I am not a native english. To me “meaningful” means that our marketing has a value to a buyer, instead of blunt sales pitches or promotions. Meaningful to me means that a company going for this type of marketing genuinely wants to help customers with their marketing by for example giving insight, best practices, and risk mitigation advice.

      On twitter I had suggestions coming in to add an adjective like “useful” or “valuable”.

      You as a native english, is that more reflecting what I mean ?

  • Brian Clark

    Content *is* meaningful, that’s why content marketing works, and has since well before we called it that. I’m afraid that this article is the opposite type of content — designed to be provocative, but ends up only taking up space.

    Sorry if that’s harsh, but you didn’t say anything here other than you have a hard time explaining content marketing to others. Maybe try a different approach rather than ask a multi-billion-dollar industry to change something that’s working just fine?

    • Hi Brian, thank you for your reaction.

      I am a big believer of content marketing to be clear. And no, I did not write this article to be provocative. It is a genuinene expression of how I (yes me myself and I) feel when talking about content marketing. I feel bad when people do not understand the real meaning of content marketing. That’s why I wrote this article. It makes me sad to see people continue to use classic marketing techniques not knowing better.

      Is this a Belgian thing ? Because that is where I live and work. I meet a lot of people in the Belgian marketing scene who don’t know what I am talking about when I talk about this major shift in marketing as we know it. Maybe Belgium still needs a lot of education on this stuff.

      This whole blog is about content marketing. It tries to spread the word about content marketing. And no, this little blog post is not about trying to change the word content as in content marketing. But, yes indeed this little blog post seeks help from people like yourself to find answers on how I can spread the word and explain to people what content marketing really means.

      My approach will remain the same. It will remain to spread the word about content marketing. This is a truly honest attempt to lift content marketing to a level that it really deserves. And if that means writing a blog post perceived as provocative, but getting the word out about content marketing, I am willing to take the risk.

      I think we are on the same page…. are we not ?