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:
- The Beekeepers Journal (Since 1861) – news, information and tips for beekeepers;
- John Deere’s The Furrow (Since 1895) – which is seen by some marketers as “the epitome of content marketing”, sharing agricultural news and lifestyle content;
- The Michelin Guide, started by the tyre manufacturer to provide maintenance tips and recommend places to stay when travelling, has also been in print since 1900;
- The Guinness Book of World Records (Since 1955), a chronicle of annual world records, branded by the Guinness Brewery;
- Weight Watchers Magazine (since 1965), sharing weight-loss and health stories, and recipes.
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.
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.
- The History of Content Marketing. By the Content Marketing Institute. Published in 2016, available at https://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2016/07/history-content-marketing
- Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack of 1758,
PAGES 12 and 13, available at http://www.magiastrology.com/PRA_p12_13.htm
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.