Don’t be fooled by the hype. Content marketing is not a modern-day concept. Brands have been telling stories to retain existing, and attract new, clients for over a hundred years.
In fact, content marketing has been around since 1895, when John Deere (one of the world’s largest manufacturers of agricultural machinery) first published their customer magazine The Furrow. The mag is now available in over 40 countries and is published in 12 languages.
In 1900, Michelin Tyres released a 400 odd page resource book with tips and tricks for drivers on maintaining cars. It covered everything from basic maintenance and driving tips to travel hints. Not surprisingly, they gave away more than free 35,000 copies. After that, Michelin decided to cash in, and started charging for the book.
Jell-O jumped on board the content marketing bandwagon in 1904. They started distributing free copies of a cookbook that included all manner of creative ways to use Jell-O. Before their foray into content marketing, Jell-O was virtually unknown. After a mere two years, their sales had skyrocketed to over $1 million per annum. Quite a tidy sum back then.
In 1922, American retail giant Sears, launched its very own talk radio station in Chicago. Using the call sign WLS (World’s Largest Store), the station even experimented (quite successfully) in a whole variety of innovative news broadcasting techniques like weather and crop reports. Sounds quite similar to Red Bull’s recent diversification into the world of news publishing.
David Ogilvy, dubbed the Father of Advertising, wholeheartedly promoted the combination of direct response advertising and long form copy (otherwise known as content marketing) throughout his long and illustrious career (1949–1973). David Ogilvy believed that creativity and informing and helping customers was paramount.
Even Nike used content marketing early on. In the early 1960s, Bill Bowerman (Nike founder) published a three page booklet on jogging. Then in 1966, Bowerman published a 90-page book on jogging. It sold over a million copies. That booklet almost single-handedly introduced the whole concept of jogging to America. And guess what? It didn’t mention Nike at all. Not even once. Because, if it’s done properly, effective content marketing doesn’t need to push brand names.
Skip ahead to the 1980s, and we see Hasbro partnering with Marvel to create G.I. Joe comics. With over 150 editions created, the series ran until 1994 and spawned multiple spin-offs. This content marketing ploy completely changed the face of marketing within the toy industry. By 1985, the comic was Hasbro’s highest selling title and the toys were flying off the shelves.
According to all reports, the term ‘content marketing’ was finally coined in 2001, by Penton Custom Media.
So, why is it that content marketing seems to have gained so much momentum in the last couple of years? If it’s been around forever, why all the hype and all the buzz?
Well, the old impediments to content marketing no longer exist. Just about anyone can set up a WordPress account and become a publisher. With blogs and social media at our finger tips, we have all the distribution channels we need. And, it allows you to connect with your clients in a very real way. The only limitation is our imagination.