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The term “content marketing” has become a buzzword over the last couple of years. And while it’s on every marketer’s lips, it remains an abstract concept for many business owners who are wary of incorporating trends into their marketing strategies. However, chances are they’re already practising content marketing without even realising it. A look at the history of content marketing explains why.

It all started with a calendar. Not like the generic, branded calendar from your local estate agent stuck on your fridge, but a proper one, loaded with useful content.

Content marketing, as we know it, can be traced back as far as 1732, when Benjamin Franklin began publishing his annual Poor Richard’s Almanack to promote his printing business. However, the almanack didn’t necessarily market or promote Benjamin’s business per se.

According to the Benjamin Franklin Historical Society, Poor Richard’s Almanack provided readers with everything from annual forecasts to aphorisms, poems, calendars, observations, and even mathematical puzzles. It added value to consumers’ lives as they moved from day to day and just happened to be produced and published by a brand, which in turn resonated with consumers.

In the centuries following Poor Richard’s Almanack, many entrepreneurs followed suit with publications of their own. Bookstores started printing their own books and periodicals, followed by businesses and industry bodies which began publishing their own journals and newsletters. Some of these publications still are in print:

Content Marketing today

Fast forward to this day and age, and we’re seeing more of the same on varying levels of innovation and in different formats. Think: websites, blogs, vlogs, apps, digizines to podcasts, to name a few.

Check out this video about Red Bull’s content marketing strategy:

Another widely cited example of successful content marketing in this day and age comes from Adidas, who launched GamePlan A in 2016. It’s a digital magazine, aimed to build company morale and retain employees, but the content is so good, that it’s circulated much wider than the company.

Just like Poor Richard’s Almanack, GamePlan A is not there to market a brand or its products but to share value-adding leadership and lifestyle content to inspire and entertain.

In conclusion

And the good news is you don’t necessarily need an Adidas budget to do it. Start a blog. Put some thought into your social media strategy. Interact with your existing and potential customer base with interesting, even entertaining news and information. 

Who knows? You just might be the founder of the next Poor Richard’s Almanack or Gameplan A.

Additional sources:

 Infographic: A Brief History of Content Marketing. By Contently. Published on 2 April 2018, available at https://contently.com/2018/04/02/infographic-brief-history-of-content-marketing.

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