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July 13, 2014

What is a Content Identity?

by Tom De Baere

content identityThe goal of any marketing initiative is to reach your business objectives. These business objectives can be very divers. You might want to create awareness around a new product, get more market share or sell more of an existing product in existing markets or new markets.

In practice you’ll create strategy elements and tactical elements that align with each of these different business objectives.

In the world of content marketing, that means developing content programs specifically aimed at each of these business objectives.

But once you get multiple content programs, or when your content programs become larger, it becomes complicated and difficult to keep you focused on the goal of a particular program.

Aligning content and business objectives

Some content doesn’t work as good against reaching your business objectives as other content.

Let me explain.

If your business goal is to become a thought leader in wearable tech, a piece of content that explains how to use the latest wearable gadget won’t do you any good.

In the case of thought leadership, what you need is to show that you are capable of thinking outside the box, connect dots that nobody else connects, and show in your products and services that your are going into the direction of these leadership thoughts.

If these thoughts are not visible in your content, then you going to miss your business objectives.

That’s pretty simple, right?

The definition of Content Identity

Little has been written about the concept of a content identity (that is to say, my friend Google didn’t find anything about it).

So I’ll take the honor of drafting a first definition:

a content identity describes the general purpose of a number of content pieces. It is your guide when planning content to reach a certain business objective.

Understanding the content identity of each content program greatly influences the content ideation process further down the line.

For example, as a CRM software vendor you are planning to launch a new version of your software. Your initial business objective is to generate new customer leads. In that case a matching content identity could be to inspire your prospects about what business challenges they could overcome by using your software.

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Nothing to difficult about it, but when you start brainstorming what content to put behind your content program, it keeps you focused on the business goal.

Depending on the chosen content identity, some content formats are better than others, as I’ll discuss a little bit later.

Different types of Content Identities

Here are a couple of content identities that I came up with. If you come up with more, let me know in the comment field at the bottom of this blog post.

  • Inspiring: the content must inspire customers, talk about innovation and the newest trends, and be leading in thought leadership in its category.
  • Provide direction: the content “thinks” with customers, and adds knowledge/expertise.
  • Facilitating: the customer is in control of the direction he takes. The end is a custom proposition. Content is facilitating the creation of a custom proposition.
  • Servicing: the content serves to make customers happy through excellent service. The basis is emotional i.s.o. functional.
  • Entertaining: the content is to entertain people to create a brand connection between your brand and the consumer.

Matching content identity with content topics and content formats

Once you have chosen your content identity, the usual next step is to develop content topics within a content program.

Although not complete, Smart Insight shows us an interesting model to map content identity with content formats. Depending on the content identity, some formats are better than other formats.

content identity versus content formats

Interesting model from Smart Insights & First10,  to map content identity with content formats.


Russ Henneberry @russhenneberry  made an interesting mindmap that I want to share with you. It provides another angle on how you can use content identities.

Mapping content identity with content topics

Mapping content identity with content topics

Here is a direct link to the mindmap :
Russ is mapping content identity with content topics. He uses it to cluster his blog post ideas into content identities with the purpose of grouping types of content.

I think this is a much better way of looking at content identity. This model doesn’t block you to think in terms of formats. Instead, it gives you much more freedom within a certain content identity. It moves decisions about content formats to a later stage in the content marketing strategy development.

By moving decisions about formats further down the creation process, the creative process around topics is much easier.

Including content identity in your content marketing strategy

Content identity is used fairly early in the content marketing strategy creation process.

Usually I choose content identities straight after the buyer insight or buyer persona creation phase. From there on I develop the content strategy by choosing the big themes to focus on. Then brainstorm topics, map content along the customer life-cycle and plan and create the content.

All in all a little part of the content marketing strategy, but I think a very essential part of the strategy creation process.

What other content identity examples can you think of?

Warm regards,

Tom De Baere

P.S. If you want to keep following my thoughts on content marketing, social business and meaningful marketing, subscribe to this blog (just drop your email in the form below).


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