Is Content Marketing The New Advertising?

Content Marketing as AdvertisingWhen I ask people what they think marketers do or what is marketing, they almost always say that marketing is some form of advertising or promotion.

We all learned the “4 Ps” (Product, Promotion, Price and Place for those who don’t remember.) So we know that there is more to marketing than just promotion. But even this traditional definition is under attack. Traditional advertising and branding are under attack.

In this recent post from Copyblogger, Frank Strong makes a great case for why content marketing is the new branding.

I agree with his case and would add that content marketing is the new advertising. I have even said that all marketing is content. And soon, content marketing will become all marketing if it hasn’t already.

According to Frank, Branding is more than a logo or a tagline. Branding exists in the minds of consumers as a perception. And all the company assets support or extend existing notions or expectations. Great companies, then exceed these expectations with the experiences they deliver with their product of service.

Frank goes on to explain that “the essence of a brand lies within its meaning. And words have meaning. Words matter.” You can see where he’s going, right? It’s the content that supports the brand promise. And it’s not just your content. More importantly it is “what other people say about you” that matters most.

Great content and engaging stories help your company’s content get found and get shared. When great content is shared, commented on or liked, it is no longer your content alone. It is their content. And user-generated content is trusted more than advertising or promotion.

Echoing my recent talk on the battle for customer attention, Frank explains that “Content is currency — something we trade for our audience’s attention. That currency becomes more valuable every time it’s shared by someone other than ourselves.”

And so he implores us in marketing and business to focus on creating content worth sharing.

Thankfully, the folks at PRWeb, have created this guide to creating content based on a view of the level of customer engagement and the level of company effort to create. It says it is for small business but I think it’s relevant for all businesses. So check it out. And tell me what you think:

  • Is content marketing the new branding?
  • Is content marketing the new advertising?
  • Will marketing simply become synonymous with content marketing?
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Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.

21 thoughts on “Is Content Marketing The New Advertising?

  1. * Yes.
    * Yes.
    * It already has.

    In the social economy, content is the currency; and quality content the brand differentiator.

    If you’re not marketing content, you’re not marketing. Here’s my piece on Content Marketing –

    Good post, Michael. Thx! Enjoyed Frank’s article via CopyBlogger.

    I think you put it well in your post on Content Strategy #CMworld –

  2. Marketing goal is to drive sales. Promotions and advertising are tactics. Content is a tactic. Look at your market and create an integrated marketing program that fits your market and measure it always. Yes I believe content plays a much bigger role today given the Internet and social media. Good content drives demand. Not just leads.

    1. Charles, Sales goal is to drive sales.

      Marketing is content. Nothing more. And either the content helps the prospect or it annoys them. Great content will drive sales and much more, like higher retention, referrals that cost NOTHING, all of which can be tracked and measured.

    1. I agree. This was one of the best written pieces I’ve seen in a long time. I seriously want to write this article and then I saew his and thought, “well shit, I can’t say it any better than he did.” I hope he appreciates the shout-out and the respect.

  3. I don’t know, Michael. I have a lot of problems with these ideas.

    First, advertising has always used content – it is a marketing tool that utilizes content to present a message. Why separate advertising from marketing that uses content? They are the same thing, it’s just the platforms are different and the types of content needed may vary (a blog’s content will most likely be different from the content you find in an ad).

    To me, this phrase “content marketing” is frankly far overblown. Marketing is silent without content. It’s a given that you need content for any marketing you do. Separating “content marketing” from “marketing” makes no sense to me whatsoever.

    To say that content marketing will replace advertising also makes no sense. Advertising *is* content marketing because it uses content to present a message (I say again). The statement does not make sense to me.

    What am I missing?

    1. Hey Margie, It’s always an honor to get your thoughts here. I agree with everything you said. So I don’t think there is a disconnect between US. The problem is that most people think marketing only = promotion and marketing and content are separate. I agree with you 100% that they are not. But you can see from some of the comments that people think content is somehow separate from marketing, advertising or any other form of marketing activity.

      I have said in earlier posts that I think we need the term “content marketing” to help market good marketing (if that makes any sense). because the notion that marketing is somehow different or that it is more than *just* has been lost by way too many people.

      Effective advertising and branding is content marketing. Good marketing is content marketing. It just needs to be re-branded. So I think the only thing you are missing (because you totally *get it*) is that most people aren’t nearly on the same page.

  4. Thanks for stirring up the gray matter today, Michael. I disagree with your statement that “all marketing is content.”

    If you receive a DM piece that offers 20% off a haircut or an oil change, that might be a form of marketing, and a message has been delivered, but it’s not really content. At least I don’t believe it is.

    If you receive a tweet today which says you can “Buy 1,000 followers for $10,” there’s probably someone behind that tweet who calls themselves a marketer. They’ve delivered a message to you. But that’s not content.

    At a high level, isn’t what distinguishes “content” from “messaging” or “promotion” the idea that content at least attempts to provide something of potential value to the audience — extant of the product or service the brand ultimately wants to promote and sell.

    That value might be educational or entertaining. It might be significant or modest. But there’s at least an attempt to offer something of value, not simply offer something for sale.

    Yes? No?

    1. Vince, I appreciate your point of view and thanks for chiming in. I believe content is anything that conveys information. A DM, a cold call, a sponsored tweet all convey information. Without the information, it is just air. Businesses have products, people and content (and other stuff like buildings and profits).

      So I would say “no” to your question that messaging or promotion or ads or branding elements are anything other than content.

      See my earlier post on What is content strategy to see the nuance of the difference between having a strategy bto add value to customers v. deliver content no one wants and I think that will help to clarify.

  5. Thanks for the post Michael. Have to agree with Margie. It’s less that content marketing is the new advertising and more that the lines between the two are blurring at an alarming rate. Advertising disguised as editorial content is occupying more media and publisher real estate. It’s about trust and value as pointed out.

    Imagine you’ve got the same headline “5 proven ways to grow your brand – free whitepaper” and one person uses Outbrain to buy a click on their content headline served to a reader on a media site and another person buys a click using the same headline in a display ad on the same media site – which one is advertising and which one is content marketing? Maybe we should call it content advertising?

  6. Michael:

    I tend to agree with Charles Born re:content marketing being part of an integrated marketing plan. With 70-80 % of purchase decisions being made at the store (which is, after all is when the consumer casts his/her vote on what to use their hard earned money to buy), distribution, price, facings, shelf placement, etc. all come into play. Let’s not forget that, once purchased, the product needs to deliver on what the content is all about otherwise, the consumer does not re-purchase.

    1. Sorry guys, I’m just not clear on what marketing isn’t content. But I love the debate raging here. It wasn’t my intention to be provocative but happy we all got our brains spinning on this one!

  7. Love the disagreement here; especially you Margie, because I’ve been an admirer of yours for some time. Michael’s got a slightly different take on this than I did, but I like the way it has stimulated discussion.

    If I can break down my thinking, it might look like this:

    Traditionally, earned media not paid media built brands. Use PR to build a brand, advertising to defend it. This is not a question of which is better; each has merits and drawbacks; it’s more of how they are used together.

    Advertising, as you say Margie, is indeed content. Undoubtedly, but the way we use content has evolved to what I believe is our benefit. What I mean by this, is based on my premise from bullet #1: you can’t buy your way into conviction; you have to earn it. Once you’ve earned it, then you can easily defend it because it is reinforcing an idea already accepted.

    Remember The Body Shop? They did zero advertising. Need a newer example? How much advertising have you seen from Facebook or Google? The latter made headlines when they did billboards in NYC, which I believe was really a way to tap advertising to earn media — a tactic quite common in politics: think Larry Flynt.

    Content marketing is not replacing PR but it is augmenting 3rd party validation. The ability to lay an argument out directly to an audience that we have built and convince them of the power of an idea, long, long before there’s a call to action.

    Blogs are content marketing; they are not advertisements. We know this because blogs shilled as thinly veiled marketing brochures are not read. It’s a very different use of content, and the term content marketing has a very different use and intent than an ad.

    1. Thanks Frank! I totally get what you are saying.

      My point on content marketing potentially becoming more like ads: instead of running graphic banners, I am seeing more companies buy up banner space to promote traffic to articles. AMEX Open Forum and many other brands are doing this. Is that an ad? Yes. Is that content marketing if the ad is for content and drives to a blog? Yes.

      Instead of trying to create some “image” I am seeing brands try to earn awareness and consideration by prviding valuable content vs. interrupting visual messages.

      I love this discussion and I hope that helps to clarify how I extended your original points!

  8. Michael: Great post, I really enjoyed reading everyones comments. I’m fairly new to the advertising/content promotion industry and I’m trying to learn as much as possible. I think Margie has a good point in that there are so many different platforms for distribution i.e. Banner ad Vs. A Downloadable Case Study on a companies website Vs. A Tweet….And, I agree with you that “all marketing is content”. I think the key differentiators are the way it is delivered..If you could rebrand “content marketing” to differentiate a Case Study Vs. A Tweet/Google Ad, what would you call it?

    1. Thanks Chris, I appreciate you chiming in and adding to this great discussion. There is definitely a difference between the platform or channel and the content intention used their. Some channels (like banners) are more traditionally push-based ads but now can be used to promote valuable content. So this is where it is getting tricky. It is an exciting time to be joining the industry!

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