Click play to listen to the rant.

A-Well-a everybody’s heard about the word!
Content, content, content’s the word.
A-Well-a don’t you know, about the word?
Well, everybody knows that the content is the word!
A-Well-a content, content, c-content’s the word.
Pa Pa Oom Mow M-Mow…

It’s, it’s been a long year.

Content. Placed in front of ‘marketing’ and it’s a whole new discipline. An art form. Desired by everyone, including customers. They want it. They need it. They crave it.

When Marketers say “people don’t want ads, they want content”, what they really mean is, it needs to be a really strong creative. Which is exactly what Creatives have been saying for decades.

The truth is, the application of content marketing has become seriously misguided. So much so, that if we’re led to believe the current zeitgeist, it can solve all of marketing’s challenges.

Customers want our content.
They don’t trust ads.
Customers want to hear our voices.
They wait patiently for our newsletters to hit their inbox.
Customers want to watch our stories.

It’s all about the likes and follows. Those are the metrics that keep the lights on…

The origins of content marketing

Depending on which timeline you go by, the origins of content marketing can be traced back somewhere between 1732 (Content Marketing Institute – CMI) and 1895 (Contently). Penton Custom Media was the first to coin the phrase ‘content marketing’ in 2001 and both the CMI and Contently agree that the CMI launched in 2010.

We can safely assume that content marketing is entering its teenage years, influencing marketers with its raging hormones and excitable naivety.

Whether we accept it or not, content marketing is growing. Faster than ever before – 84% of us now have a content strategy (SEMRUSH) and the industry is expected to grow by $269.24 billion between 2020 – 2024  

…that’s a lot of content.

Now, this blog isn’t about questioning the legitimacy of content marketing, heck, it’s what I would consider my ‘bread and butter’. Nor is it about semantics and how it’s just a buzzword for PR. This is about its execution and why it fails.

Purpose of content

We all need a purpose in life. People, brands, dogs and content. Cats don’t – lazy simpletons.

When you cut through the crap, content marketing has several key purposes:

  1. Drive traffic to your website – That’s why I chose a click bait title and produced this piece around the phrase ‘why content marketing fails’. People are searching for it. SEO, link acquisition, backlink profile etc.

  2. Content for your website – keep them interested in what you’re selling by having material which showcases your best bits through a digital shop window (this was the origins of ‘content’ – IT people asking for stuff to put on webpages).

  3. For lead generation – encouraging people to sign-up, providing a transaction of value to build that marketing database, prospects for the sales team etc.

  4. Nurture those leads – guide them through a journey (it’s not linear) that takes them through the decision making process, via your CRM, newsletters, emails etc.

  5. Maintain your database – give people something that’s educational or entertaining, or, as the cool kids say “edutainment”, so that they won’t tell you to piss off by unsubscribing, blocking you, or ignoring your calls.

  6. Build online communities – yes, really. It’s so you can leverage that audience by sharing promotions, offers and you know, generate actual sales or applications. Contributing to customer lifetime value (CLV) and all that jazz.

This sounds easy. It’s not. And it’s not helped by the typical response of “WE NEED MORE CONTENT.”

If there was ever an example of less is more, content marketing would be it.

Why does content marketing fail?

Like most things, content marketing fails because of how it’s executed. We’ll have the theories, following the thought-leaders, heck, we may have subscribed to every digital tool going, but if the approach is shit…

  1. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Have you actually undertaken research to find out what people are actively searching for? Answerthepublic? Google Trends? Have you looked at what content is driving traffic and used it to influence yours – themes, keywords, format, etc.?

  2. Producing ‘blogs’ around why your product is so good. Of course, you’re going to tell me this degree or screwdriver is incredible. You’re selling it! Leave those messages for the product pages. Get a testimony or case study – turn it into a story. Give people tangible proof what you’re saying is true.

  3. Spam. It’s just spam. Provides no value to the recipient. That newsletter just cost them. They’ll never get that time back. How dare you.

  4. You haven’t thought about its distribution have you? You’ve produced something because someone said you should and now you have no clue where it’s going to go. Distribution first. Always. Start. With. Distribution!

  5. Wrong content. Wrong platform. It’s Instagram. Artistic imagery and selfies. It’s not for PDFs and SmartArt. Make it native to the platform. Consider the content people see on that platform. Use it to inspire the format.

  6. “It’s not for content, it’s for lead gen.” If your content isn’t being developed with lead gen in mind, you’re doing it wrong.

  7. Don’t say you’re supporting social causes just for the hashtag love. Actions speak louder than words. Pay your fucking taxes and focus on making actual changes. No virtue signalling. Stop it.

Seriously, how much brand purpose crap do you see online when 99% of the people preaching about it, haven’t even heard of Corporate Social Responsibility?! A rant for another time.

Make content marketing work

The whole point of content marketing is to intertwine your efforts with all the other revenue-building activities. Oversaturation of self-promotional messages, ads, and offers will piss people off, not enough and you won’t have a roof over your head.

Include them as part of a podcast, video, blog as a ‘shout out’ or CTA, they’re easier to digest and more subtle in their execution.

Create an editorial calendar. Focus on internal and external key dates. Plan your content with a defined purpose, outlet, and format for each month.

Treat your content as if you were an editor of a glossy magazine – ads and all.

Give value. Tell stories. Provide information. Be entertaining. Build that engaged community. But remember…

I mean, sure, build a large, engaged following for your content. Create the newsletters, podcasts
and blogs. Why bother including links or ‘ads’ in your content highlighting what you sell?
The likes alone will cover the P45s.

Share your thoughts

What do you think makes good content? Have you got any further suggestions as to why content marketing might fail? Do you think cats are lazy? Let me know in the comments below, send me a tweet @CJPanteny, or get in touch.

And if you liked this blog, don’t forget to share it on your socials and bask in its ranty goodness.

See you next time.


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