self-pro·mo·tion noun. Promotion, including advertising and publicity, of oneself effected by oneself (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company)
In the last two days I’ve received 3″ of unsolicited catalogs. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Over the next couple of weeks I expect to get a minimum of 3″ per day in the mail. God help the mail carrier! The first thing most people will think is that these are from companies I have purchased from in the past. Those people would be wrong.
Over the last couple of years I’ve sorted the catalogs into piles of companies we had purchased from at some point and those from whom we had never purchased. Initially the Purchased From pile was bigger, which was what I expected. Over time though the Not Purchased From pile has dwarfed the other.
So how does Content Marketing tie in here? By definition Content Marketing involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire and retain customers.
All of the brands want me to purchase from them, but especially the Not Purchased From brands. They are putting their product offerings in my mailbox 2 to 3 times a season vs the Purchased From brands putting their offerings 1 to 2 times a season.
Content Marketing is a hybrid of both the Not Purchased From and the Purchased From brands that show up in my mailbox each day. By creating useful content and making it available to the end user digitally provides another way for the user to consume information. The awareness created leads customers to explore a bit further, to trust the brand, to respect the brand and in the end be more likely to purchase from and recommend the brand.
Verizon is attempting to take this a step further with SugarString.com a technology news site it is bankrolling to compete with Wired and the Verge. But the telecommunications company has put conditions on its editors/reporters – it is expressly forbidden to write about net neutrality and revelations around the spying from the NSA. Not exactly they way to go about providing consumers with unbiased content.
Coca-Cola has done it right with their Journey website; Verizon can take a page or two or three out of their book. Using their distributor network to provide local viewpoints on local Coca-Cola sites the effort has taken off. These sites are demonstrating how successful content marketing is done without censorship or pandering.
To answer the original question… is content marketing just self-promotion?
In a way Yes It Is. The primary reason to provide this content is to get the consumer to bond with the brand, to purchase more from the brand, to view the brand as the best choice.While it is not directly advertising it is demonstrating the brand’s thought leadership, transparency, innovation etc.
Self-promotion is not wrong. A strong brand will use multiple methods to win and retain customers, content marketing is just one of those methods.