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Idea: Why the Term ‘Content Marketing’ Still Misses the Point

By Rex Hammock

Eight years ago—January 23, 2008, to be exact—I received an email congratulating my personal blog, RexBlog.com, for being ranked No. 13 on a list of the most prominent content marketing blogs of that era. In a later post that day, I thanked them for including me on the list, but I explained why I didn’t like the term content marketing. I still don’t. (However, I did say I’d use any term that potential clients prefer when googling for our services.)

What I wrote eight years ago is what I still believe.

Today, the term content marketing is ubiquitous—applied to everything from native advertising to social media to search engine optimization. Indeed, it has become so ubiquitous, a debate is brewing over whether or not the term is headed to that landfill where dated internet buzzwords go to die (Web 2.0, dialup, netizen, digerati, social media guru, etc.).

Here’s a shortened version of what I blogged eight years ago.

I agree with my friend Doc Searls that the word “content” is a (meaningless) word dot-commers started using back in the ’90s as a wrapper for everything that could be digitized and put online. It’s handy, but it masks and insults the true nature of writing, journalism, photography, and the rest of what we still, blessedly (if adjectivally) call “editorial.”

I believe using the word “content” voluntarily to describe [the services Hammock provides] insults the talent, skill, creativity and craft that goes into the media my colleagues and I create and manage in collaboration with our clients.

I believe the term “content marketing” makes it sound like we’re providing a service that shovels out some commodity created primarily to fill up space or time.

Creating “content” is not what we do at Hammock.

Helping a company tell the stories that define its brand. Adding value to products. Encouraging loyalty or involvement. Educating. Activating. Those are the things the talented individuals at our company do with and for the talented individuals who are our clients.

[Of all the services we provide], “generating content” is absolutely the least valuable to our clients. And I say that knowing the content we create is consistently judged to be among the best content created by people at companies like ours.

Bottom Line for Marketers: In the words of Talking Heads: Same as it ever was. Your customers don’t want, nor need, more content. However, they crave help and insight and anything you can do to assist them in reaching the outcome they seek. If you believe the most valuable thing you can provide a client is mere content, then it’s okay to call it content marketing. If you want a customer for life, then it’s never going to be fulfilled with “just content” or “just marketing.” The media, from print to video to digital and beyond, must be as important to you and your customers as your product and brand—and as vital as the air your customers breathe.


(Photo: Thinkstock)