Hey! So this just seems a simple question to answer, right? But the answer boils down to how you define content marketing and in which perspective you put forward this question.
Many digital marketing students come up to me and say, “No, content marketing is not ADVERTISING!” Okay, fair enough — clearly the phrase has the word ‘marketing’ in it, so it cannot be advertising, right?
When I ask them “Why”, a usual answer says advertising as “tell & sell”, whereas content marketing as “tell stories & make them experience it.” Though this answer might be seen reasonable, it not quite accurate. Why? As this description might make it sound that content marketing is only top-funnel content. But, It’s not.
Does it Matter?
Of course, it does. Here’s how Google’s “Instant Answers” define content marketing as,
“A type of marketing that involves the creation & sharing of online material (like videos, blogs, graphics & social media posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products/ services.”
That is pretty much close to how even the students define it. There are generally 3 forms of media for guidance — earned, paid or owned. Earned would be Press Releases (or PR), Paid in advertising and owned as content marketing? That’s a thought you need to think on now.
According to Content marketing institute (or CMI), Content marketing is defined as, “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating & distributing relevant, valuable, & consistent content to attract & retain a defined target audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer call-to-action.”
Now, the one by Google’s “Instant Answers” is deeper than the one which is defined by CMI — it doesn’t differentiate between top funnel to lower funnel, but does add a valuable term “distribution”.
Next, the question arises, how does one define “distribution”?
There are three ways to define content distribution accurately.
- Earned media —pitching journalists or influencers to cover your target content
- Owned media — sending an email out to your target list
- Paid media — doing native advertising to amplify content’s outreach
In CMI’s definition, there’s also a use of the term “strategic”. So, if a business has a very small user base (email list), then would doing owned media promotion be a strategic way for content distribution? Now, What if the business didn’t have decent PR resources or email lists, but possess plenty of budget for paid promotion? Here, scaling the content distribution window using paid media would indeed be a strategic move to fulfill your brand goals.
An average television ad promotion costs around 5$ for distribution of every 1$ spent on creation. As per my research, an average content marketer does the opposite, which is why many content marketers align this craft for storytelling. Well, it’s not. It’s all about telling stories and amplifying those stories to reach your target audience through the right funnel at the right time — and most importantly, doing it strategically.
So, is content marketing advertising in 2019? YES and NO. If content marketers make use of paid media avenues in their strategy, then the answer is Yes, but, if they promote their target content only among their email list and existing social channels, then the answer is No. However in 2019, the content marketers use a mix of all three forms of media to distribute and amplify the content outreach strategically.
Unless a business or brand is having good user base of target audience and/or a huge influencer network list, the only possible way to scale up distribution is through the native content amplification (to be used in a non-interruptive manner)
The verdict is that advertising at times is important and in content marketing, it’s an important component and highly impacts its amplification.
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