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I’ve never been one to submit to catchphrases. The business world and, by extension the marketing world, is full of them.  

“Net-net, at the end of the day, we are living with a new normal of big data.”  Just typing these words gives me the shivers. But these phrases emerge, typically, around meaningful trends.  

For the past three years the dialogue about content marketing has gone from a whisper to a roar. And the expression 'content strategy' is now popular discussion.  

On many occasions I’ve heard pundits declare that 'Content is King'. Most pundits have a vested interest so I understand the tendency toward hyperbole. But I want to make one thing clear. I disagree.

Content is not king. It is not a strategy. Content is a means to an end, a tactic. A very, very important tactic. But a business’s objective is not to create content but rather create enterprise value.

Content marketing adds to enterprise value by sustaining a measure of relevancy with people who engage with it in order to sell more products and services for the first time and over time.  

Relevance is the goal.

There are quite a few brands that get this. They are cleverly using a broad definition of content to generate engagement. They realize that content is a part of a total marketing strategy. That it lives within the same first principles that guide much of what we know about marketing.  

One company who gets it is Red Bull. Red Bull made a big splash (well, actually a safe landing on the ground) with the Stratos campaign.  

Red Bull reportedly made record sales when it sent a man into the stratosphere only to jump and parachute back to earth. I have no doubt that this is true, but this campaign, albeit large, is part of an overall strategy of engagement with their core target market.  

It’s a lifestyle brand that promotes all manner of crazy and extreme behaviors. Go to the website and it will become immediately clear. Stratos was one part of an ongoing effort to sustain engagement through relevant content.  

The strategy was not to create the content, but to deliver the right content to their consumers over time. Sustained relevance was, and is their goal. There are a lot of examples of great content campaigns and content rich marketing programs:  

  • American Express OPEN Forum.
  • Table Spoon from General Mills.
  • Patagonia’s The Cleanest Line.

All of them deliver engaging content, knowledge transfer and user interactions among the many features. These campaigns are supportive of the overall business and extend or enhance the brand’s overall value proposition.  

However, creating great content is only one part of developing a world class content marketing practice. The really hard part is making the decision about what, amongst all that content, you should provide to who.  

It’s in one part a math problem. If you take the number of pieces of content across editorial, promotional, video, adverts, user generated by the number of channels you can distribute in such as email, web pages, e-zines, newsletters, blogs, in-app targeted toward some number of market segments then you have a very large combinatorics problem.

Today there are technologies to use data and insights about people’s interest to address how to deliver relevant content.

Taking a page from ad technology, we are now able to automate the insight generation and real-time decision about what is the best piece of content to serve an individual across multiple channels while remaining safely on the first party side of the privacy wall.  

Top content marketing organizations and those that are just beginning to drive a formal content marketing process will see dramatic increases in the performance for that investment in content. It turns out that sustaining relevance with customers and prospects works.  

Content is critical but isn’t king. Relevance is king. Long live the king.

Damon Ragusa

Published 23 October, 2013 by Damon Ragusa

Damon Ragusa is President at idio Inc. and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow Damon on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn. 

1 more post from this author

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Graham

Ok I'll admit, I've never read a more confused post in my life.

over 2 years ago

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Bob MacDougall

Absurd. He contradicts himself. The red bull stratosphere event WAS content. Without content you have nothing so you can try to change the definition of what content is - but it's kinda obvious what it is. WO/the space stunt, there would be no audience. You don't get engagement unless you have content.

over 2 years ago

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Edwin Tam

Essentially, he's saying that relevancy is important for content creation. That's true.

If we don't create useful/relevant/<add synonym here> content/data/insights/<add your content type here> for our customers, then what's the use of content?

Personally, I think content isn't a strategy. It's a way of communicating.

What we understand as content strategy -- I'm still working through the difference between that and Content Marketing -- is really identifying your audience, developing meaningful core messages, editorial & reuse workflows and generally keeping things in order.

In Red Bull's case, their marketing strategy could be "Do crazy stunts (action), document them (content) and distribute them to people who like doing crazy stunts (deliver)" [Or is it a tactic?]

Their content strategy could answer: "How do I repurpose this kick-ass content for my own channels? And PR outlets, if they want?"
Their content marketing strategy could answer: "How do I get people to view and talk about this humungous stunt?"

Thoughts very much appreciated!

over 2 years ago

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Jonathan Henley, Actively seeking a new challenge at potentially your organisation...do get in touch!

Well I would like to offer my views here:
How many times has one of your children, a young adult or perhaps even a colleague asked you the following question: What does [insert word of your choice] mean? How often has your initial, immediate response been “What is the context?” Several, I bet. One needs the context to deliver a satisfactory answer. Context can, and does, change meaning, twist emphasis, and enforce or undermine relative value of that meaning to the audience.
You Give Good Content, But Do You Give Good Context? Content is King but context rules!

http://rockthedeadline.com/blog/content-marketing/you-give-good-content-but-do-you-give-good-context/

over 2 years ago

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Gianluigi Cuccureddu

No it's as following, it's actually a diarchy between content and context that create that relevancy.

over 2 years ago

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Richard Stacy

The author is right. Content is not king in the social digital space. Content is king in the mass media, or audience-based media space. In the social space relevance is defined much more by information, answers to questions, response to complaint - that is what people want.

Creating an audience in the social space is very difficult (although it can happen - Red Bull being a good example). Therefore content marketing is not usually the best approach. You don't need a content strategy - you need an information strategy, a strategy that matches answers to questions.

over 2 years ago

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Chris Michael

Nonsense. Content is king as long as it is good (ie relevant) content. And it is much more than just a tactic.

over 2 years ago

Steve Davies

Steve Davies, CEO at Fitch Media

Content is one ingredient in a shared 'experience' between a brand and its audience -- this experience may foster engagement, generate delight, advocacy or make buyers rush to your site/shop or pick up a phone to turn that experience into action.

Context is one of the finer distinctions in any communication which makes it relevant, and therefore likely to be listened and responded to.

The important point which I'd hoped to read in this article was that the content 'in not' king, because it serves a purpose and is not an end in itself.

Even in a media business content is part of a wider engagement proposition which includes delivery (how accessible and conveniently the content is provided) and response (whether it can be shared, discussed with others or acted upon).

There are plenty of poor content marketing examples which fails to recognise (and sign-post) what a viewer should do next with the content, or provides it on a platform which can only be accessed on a limited range devices (is anyone still creating Flash-based content campaigns?).

Content is a tool, a very powerful tool, if properly developed with the end-user in mind..

over 2 years ago

Philip Allen

Philip Allen, Studio Director at D. Agency

Just as it seemed we were being set up in this article to understand that 'Content isn't King' but 'Right content, right audience, right time' was King, we then see that 'Relevance' is now King according to Damon.

Unfortunately, the word 'relevance' is quite ambiguous - by this analogy, if you sell widgets then having pages on your site displaying widgets means you are being relevant, right? - I think we all know that's not the whole story.

over 2 years ago

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Jonathan Henley, Actively seeking a new challenge at potentially your organisation...do get in touch!

Content+context+true thought leadership+vision+innovation=....er...
successful engagement across all channels.

It's in the mix, don't you know. it's called a marketing mix for a reason, and that reason is that as a conductor of the channel players, it is the great marketers job to orchestrate great messages and identifiable benefit and value to drive customer purchase and loyalty.

Get your audience that far, then make sure their experience is a brilliant one.

over 2 years ago

Steve Davies

Steve Davies, CEO at Fitch Media

Quote: "@Jonathan_Henley - It's in the mix, don't you know. it's called a marketing mix for a reason, and that reason is that as a conductor of the channel players, it is the great marketers job to orchestrate great messages and identifiable benefit and value to drive customer purchase and loyalty."

Spot on. We've been doing this for years. An intelligent approach to marketing optimises content within the mix and avoids a short-sighted ideology which heralds any one component as 'king'.

over 2 years ago

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Jonathan Henley, Actively seeking a new challenge at potentially your organisation...do get in touch!

For 'relevant' you could quite easily use: focused, targetted, appropriately worded.
We should not forget the importance of understanding not just the 'where' and 'how' our customers buy or consume messages, but in what tome of voice they like to be spoken and using what visual metaphors.
I love metaphors.

over 2 years ago

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Jonathan Henley, Actively seeking a new challenge at potentially your organisation...do get in touch!

Steve - I am humbled by your positive feedback. Not too humbled, but it's nice to know I am not a lone voice. Do keep in touch.

over 2 years ago

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Ben Matthews, Senior Planner at Havas EHSEnterprise

I think intelligent people understand that the term 'content is king' is really just a way of saying - you had better make it good and worthwhile or nobody will engage with it.

over 2 years ago

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Thomas Haynes

As I started to read this I was thinking "relevancy can't be more important than content quality - what about Red Bull's content strategy?" and then I got to the bit where Red Bull was used as an example.

I doesn't make sense to me. Extreme sports aren't that relevant to energy drinks or that relevant to the average consumer. Red Bull's content works because it is really fun and engaging. The "relevancy" is not important at all.

What I find so interesting about Red Bull is that they don't "orchestrate great messages and identifiable benefit and value to drive customer purchase and loyalty." They don't even mention the product at all.

over 2 years ago

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Mark Hopkins

I agree, part of the strategy that sits behind good content marketing is ensuring relevancy to the target audience.

There's much more to content strategy than just 'sustaining a measure of relevancy to your audience' though, and your blog fails to cover this.

In fact, the more I think about it, there are glaring misconceptions about content marketing in what you write.

[To be fair, there are also some interesting points, too - specifically learning from the ad world to deliver targeted branded content in real time; which btw is already happening.]

For one, content marketing doesn't assume that your target audience already actively engages with the brand. Again, part of the strategy is how you cut through the white noise (be it SEO, audience profiling and TOV) and get the relevant content in front of the relevant audience.

Again, the 'strategy' that sits behind this would also cover off ways to get the reader/visitor to return to this content time after time, do something actionable (other than just spend) as a result and, ideally, advocate the brand via social media or WOM.

Your point about creating enterprise value is also incorrect. There are many different end goals that content marketing can help you achieve. Some of these include increased brand recognition and changing public perception - both of which aren't directly linked to capitalisation worth.

And then there's the earned space: the very best content marketing will generate earned media. You can't tell me that's not 'strategic' brilliance.

To be fair, Damon, I respect your words and their ability to provoke a response. My own take on this is content marketing is more than a 'meaningful trend' and far more than just sustaining relevance with your TA. After all, what marketing tactic is so able to clearly engage with its audience that a customer can tell you clearly what the brand stands for, and happily purchase the product when it's clearly more expensive than its rivals, which occupy the same supermarket shelf (eg: Red Bull).

over 2 years ago

Damon Ragusa

Damon Ragusa, President at idio Inc.

My goal with this article was to provoke just this type of discussion. Although I missed on a few I believe the majority jumped right in.

I believe @Jonathan_Henley put it best in that "content" (in all its ambiguity) is part of an overall marketing mix. There is no King here. I spent that past seven years solely measuring the impact of paid media. Before that I measured brand equity. Today I'm focusing on how content, broadly defined here, works for a brand. You quickly realize how interconnected all these things are. So yes, its a formula and content, relevancy (which I think really is targeting/audience alignment), channel, etc. are part of its functional form.

But to add a bit more fuel to this fire...in the advert side of the world there is a split between the "creative types" and "analytic types". Message vs. placement, offer vs. channel, etc. I clearly see a similar dynamic in the world of content marketing. If you create a great piece of content and deliver it to the wrong person (they don't find that piece relevant to them) then its a waste of time. And bad content is just that, bad for everyone.

So start by creating good content...aligned to interests of the people you talk to. But it mustn't end there. Look at the amount of ad tech out there to deliver a single display ad. Content marketing should be taking a page from ad tech and thinking about how to best target and test brand owned content across comm channels to make it the most relevant and engaging experience for the people the brand talks to.

over 2 years ago

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Jonathan Henley, Actively seeking a new challenge at potentially your organisation...do get in touch!

Thanks for the name check, Damon;-) One does what one can to shine a light into the dark corners of our knowledge and sector (blah, blah, blah ) ;-)

over 2 years ago

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Nick Stamoulis

Just like any King needs his court in order to effectively rule, content has to be relevant/applicable to the audience you are trying to reach and engaging enough to capture their attention. Content is King only when it's part of the overall marketing mix, has a purpose, and actually does something for you and your audience.

over 2 years ago

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AZ

Nice try with the title. From what I understand from it, there is good king and bad king, relevant content is the good kind. So the conclusion is 'Content Is King', sort of.

over 2 years ago

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marcus

You had me at content but lost me at combinatorics.

But your last line, yes I stuck at it, is essentially right.

You need to deliver the right content, to the right people at the right time across the right platforms and then you need to encourage them to engage with the brand as a result of that content, tell others and share that content and then keep them interested. Thereby creating the brand story.

And this needs to be backed up with organisational excellence, a good product and measured. It's known as branding.

over 2 years ago

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Jonathan Henley, Actively seeking a new challenge at potentially your organisation...do get in touch!

Combinatorics? Did I miss that? That's just not a word is it? ;-)

over 2 years ago

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Michael Durwin

Relevance of what?
Ah............. relevance of content, the King!

over 2 years ago

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Devran Erogul

Confusion here! Content is a result of your strategy. Strategy (or tactic) is something different that you can deploy to communicate with your audience accordingly. Content is something, nowadays, every and each marketing campaing should have use as a tool.

Without content your brand and campaign whatever, will never engage with your audience and on the contrary you should provide solid content.

Who cares with your stupid brand without any good content. It is just another enegy-drink. But with that stratospher jump, not it is a good relationship with the word "extreme". Which RedBull wants to.

over 2 years ago

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Visakan Veerasamy, Marketing at ReferralCandy

Straw man argument

Any decent marketer knows that a good content strategy has to be relevant, has to be contextually sensitive. (See: Red Bull, Oreo).

What does "relevance" mean in the absence of content?

The entire blogpost could be reduced to "make sure your content is relevant."

over 2 years ago

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Jonathan Henley, Actively seeking a new challenge at potentially your organisation...do get in touch!

The entire blogpost could be reduced to "make sure your content is relevant."

But where is the fun in that? ;-)

That's just a soundbite tip.

over 2 years ago

Damon Ragusa

Damon Ragusa, President at idio Inc.

If you're looking for sound bites, I like this one: Relevancy is delivering quality content to an individual based on their unique interests at the right time and over time.

over 2 years ago

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Charlie McGhee

This post is hilariously dumb.

I follow Econsultancy as my own agency operates in the same sphere but this article is causing me to me to seriously consider my position.

Damon - this is a terrible, contradictory, poorly researched article. I say hilariously dumb because it is ironic how far you've missed the point, considering you're talking about content marketing.

The fact is, after reading an article like this it doesn't matter if content is king or not. Your point is totally irrelevant since anyone reading it will be distracted by how clueless you appear.

From one professional to another, do a little more research next time - if you want people to take you seriously when you're talking about content, make sure you're own content can't be shot down as easily as this article.

I'm never going to forget how bad this article was...in fact I may even use it as an example #contentmarketingfail

Econsultancy - WTF?!

over 2 years ago

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Ian

This feels like sophistry and semantics to me. It's just a headline to grab the attention of readers at a time when every other blog is extolling the virtues of content.

I'm glad the other comments here back-up my initial impressions that the article is contradictory and just plain wrong.

Take the relevancy out of content and you have bad content
Take the content out of relevancy and you have...

over 2 years ago

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