Mark Schaefer Talks Content Shock, Marketing, and Clarifies the Path Ahead


To be honest, I was a little late to the content marketing party.

Six years late to be exact.

And even as I grappled with the fundamentals, I remember having a moment of insane clarity when I came across “Why Content Marketing Is Not A Sustainable Strategy” written by (who I now know to be) the globally-recognized keynote speaker, educator, business consultant and author, Mark Schaefer.

Unfortunately, the very lively debate on the more sensational aspects of the term he coined, “Content Shock” somehow obfuscated the desperate need for change that he predicted as far back as 2014.

And today as our strategies to engage fail to keep pace with our strategies to produce, it seemed like the perfect time to go back to him to better understand the road ahead.


Is the “content marketing overload” playing out like you expected or is it different from the time you wrote the original piece?  

The primary predictions I had made in the original post were that it would be harder and more expensive to compete, that social sharing would decline, and that content marketing would not be viable for some companies due to the increasing cost to compete. This has been documented as happening. Almost all of the people who originally thought I was nuts have apologized!  

Ironically, I never regarded Content Shock as a controversial post. Really, it’s common sense.  

If I had to do the article over, I would probably add that Content Shock is a wave, not a trend. It has actually occurred with every media type in the past and it will continue moving forward, so we can use this for our strategies as we consider where we are in the cycle.

“Creating great content is not the finish line. It’s the starting line. Business results on the web don’t come from content; they come from content that moves. Even if your content is great, there’s no guarantee it will rise to the top in an increasingly competitive world.”

Mark Schaefer,

The Content Code: Six essential strategies to ignite your content, your marketing, and your business

How do you think Artificial Intelligence and our ability to exploit it will impact content marketing and, of course, marketing in general? 

I’m an optimist in that certainly this is going to make everything we do smarter, more personalized, and more relevant. However, I also know that where corruption can occur, corruption will occur and people are going to abuse it.

We are in a time where marketers are probably abusing technology in their hunt for a marketing easy button. We are willing to spam and annoy thousands of people in the hope that one will click. That just has to stop. But overall, AI will make our jobs easier, and hopefully more meaningful to consumers.

“Being known is really the only sustainable competitive advantage a person can have today.” 

Mark Schaefer

What is the most overrated/misapplied tactic in content marketing/marketing? 

I would say content marketing in general is being misapplied today. Most people are working off of a 2013 playbook and blogging or podcasting their hearts out when the world has changed. Content does not work like it used to, primarily due to Content Shock issues. The fundamental philosophy of inbound marketing is broken and the world of content is now largely pay to play. That’s fine. We just need to adjust, as we have always done, as we always will do.

“Nobody is born a thought leader. It’s something you need to earn in the mind of your audience, slowly over time. You should approach the process of becoming known with humility and respect to those who came before you.”

Mark Schaefer

KNOWN: The Handbook for Building and Unleashing Your Personal Brand in the Digital Age

How do you see/define/measure content quality today? Has it even been anything close to a constant?

Content quality has to be defined in the context of the competitive situation. If you are in an un-saturated content niche, then your content simply has to be “Google-sufficient” in the short-term. As the competition increases, then the quality of the content (and generally the cost) has to increase — which is why some companies will have to drop out. If you look at the most crowded niches like fashion and retail, these companies are making mini-movies starring celebrities in order to stand out.

ALSO READ: The Creative Curve: An Interview with Allen Gannett

Where does content marketing fit into, well, marketing? I mean – Is it an umbrella philosophy or approach that ensures relevance within ALL marketing or a silo campaign/buzzword/tactic that can contribute for some but not all? Is it optional or mandatory?

Content marketing in some form is close to mandatory because that is what is driving SEO for the most part today. So, if SEO is important, and it generally is for most businesses, content probably plays some role. The trick is finding the right content to match your true market need and competitive situation. You just can’t go out and do whatever everybody else is doing. You have to determine your own option to maneuver.

“You don’t have to have fire-breathing dragons and a Hollywood production staff to win. You don’t have to be Game of Thrones. You just have to be the Game of Thrones — relevant and superior — in your niche.”

Mark Schaefer 

About Mark W. Schaefer 

Mark W. Schaefer is a globally-recognized author, speaker, podcaster, and business consultant who blogs at {grow} — one of the top five marketing blogs of the world. He teaches graduate marketing classes at Rutgers University and has written six best-selling books, including The Tao of Twitter (the best-selling book on Twitter in the world) and The Content Code, named by INC magazine as one of the Top five marketing books of the year, and his new book KNOWN: The handbook for building and unleashing your personal brand in the digital age.

Mark also wrote the classic first book on influence marketing, Return On Influence. His many global clients include Pfizer, Cisco, Dell, Adidas, and the US Air Force. He has been a keynote speaker at prestigious events all over the world, including SXSW, Marketing Summit Tokyo, and the Institute for International and European Affairs. He has appeared as a guest on media channels such as CNN, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and CBS News.

Follow Mark Schaefer on Twitter

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