Content marketing has been around since 1895, according to Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute.
The roots of content marketing
John Deere launched a magazine called The Furrow with the intent of educating farmers on the technology changes occurring at the turn of the century. This publication still exists today. John Deere didn’t hold a monopoly on content marketing over the years.
Recognizing the power of entertaining and problem-solving content, the US Army developed Army Motors and The Ordnance Sergeant magazine during WWII. These monthly publications evolved into PS Magazine, which was first published during the Korean War in June of 1951. The magazine communicated to soldiers the important takeaways from the many technical manuals the Army produced. They did this through the use of comic book-style cartoons.
The public affairs people in the Army figured out that pretty girls and humor could drive content consumption, as opposed to dry technical manuals. These manuals are being distributed to the present day.
This type of dynamic content marketing remains strong today. Examples include Joe Pulizzi’s own Chief Content Officer Magazine and the Affiliate Summit’s Feed Front Magazine.
The above are examples of enterprise-level content marketing campaigns. They have three major attributes in common. They represent one-way storytelling, siloed campaigning and a creative approach. This adequately describes most forms of marketing-purposed content until the 1990s when mass acceptance and adoption of the Internet occurred.
One-way storytelling lacks real-time feedback and meaningful ideas. It doesn’t resemble a conversation, significantly build robust communities or create complex connections and communication between people, groups, and brands. It’s simply a brand communicating a message as it sees fit hoping its audience will consume it and come back for more.
The mass adoption of the Internet didn’t immediately change one-way storytelling in marketing. Traditional marketers and geeks ruled this space throughout the ‘90s. Neither of which could envision the connectedness or information flow that exists today. However, the deployment of forums, quasi-social media platforms, blogs, and more recently, smartphones, began to shed light on new ways to use content in marketing.
Dynamic Story Telling
It took 116 years for a powerful enough information infrastructure to be built and for enough people to be connected in a robust enough fashion for content marketing to evolve from one-way storytelling to dynamic storytelling.
This means that the enterprise can un-silo its campaigns, move from a creative focus to a content focus, promote meaningful conversations, build robust brand communities and nurture new complex connections and communication between people, groups, and brands.
The Coke Content Initiative
In August of 2011, Coca-Cola announced a new marketing initiative called Content 2020. The goal was to help sculpt popular culture to earn a share of it by creating thoughtful ideas.
The campaign recognizes that consumers are always connected and in real-time. According to Coke, consumer-generated content outnumbers company-generated content for most of its brands.
To positively impact or steer consumer-generated content, it requires a lot more idea-filled plan. This initiative was developed by Coca-Cola’s VP of Global Advertising Strategy and Creative Excellence, Jonathan Mildenhall.
No blog post can present the details of this groundbreaking initiative as well as the two videos produced by Coke. While they are long, they are worth the watch.
The Enterprise Takeaway
Coca-Cola is the first to launch such a robust and dynamic content marketing plan enterprise-wide. The plan recognizes that content should power every aspect of a brand, and the ideas it delivers can sculpt popular culture and create brand significance.
For most enterprise companies, content has a seat in the nose-bleed section and is almost exclusively one-way storytelling. If a brand doesn’t tell its own story, popular culture will tell its own version of the story.