When thinking of traditional sales, the image of Gil Gunderson comes to mind. Good Ol’ Gil can never catch a break when he’s trying to make a sale on the Simpsons. Dressed in his button down shirt and tie, he’s worked several sales jobs and is always unsuccessful. Someone should tell Gil that traditional marketing is out and content marketing is in. At least that’s how it looks when you check out some of these statistics via Demand Metric:
- 91% of B2B marketers use content marketing.
- 80% of people appreciate learning about a company through custom content.
- Per dollar spent, content marketing generates approximately three times as many leads as traditional marketing.
- 70% consumers feel closer to a company as a result of content marketing.
- 60% of people are inspired to seek out a product after reading content about it.
Well, damn, it appears that content marketing is the new buzzword traveling through various marketing circles. However, there’s something about that word new that is a bit misleading. Content marketing is not a newly-created method of delivering content to an audience.
What Is Content Marketing?
According to the Content Marketing Institute, “Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
And What Is Traditional Marketing?
According to Strategic Marketing Solutions, “Traditional marketing techniques typically focus on identifying the right audience segment, understanding their behavior, and providing the proper incentive to get them to buy a product or service, and in addition, there is the location or channel consideration.” Sound familiar?”
Bazinga, it certainly does.
But Wait! There’s a Difference!
The difference between the two comes down to the image. Traditional marketing brings about the image of that annoying furniture salesperson you know makes a commission, so they constantly ask if you need anything, and, if you sit on that gorgeous couch, they’re there in seconds to tell you about payment plans.
Content marketing, on the other hand, is that cool guy or gal who can relate to what you want. This person offers you a beverage and says that they want the couch that fits you. “The white couch is good but it gets dirty quickly,” they say, “So if you have pets it may not be the best fit. I should know, my cat gets hair all over my couch.” And wow! They’re absolutely right! You have a fur baby who sheds, too.
Lexicon Content Marketing shared a list of differences between traditional and content marketing that further illustrates this point:
- The Pull
- Owned Media
- Long-Term Relationship
All and all, traditional marketing is seen as the old, cliché method, while content marketing is the fresh method that hooks your audience. Think of it as your grandfather sitting you down to tell you how he use to have to walk 15 miles in the snow to school every day when, now, you have your fancy yellow buses come and pick you up.
But Is this Really so Different?
This is where Jonathan Crossfield’s article, “Is Content Marketing Lost in Translation,” comes to mind. In it he discusses something that a lot of marketers aren’t willing to admit: content marketing can come off as being just as cliché as traditional marketing. He quotes a tweet from journalist Stilgherrian that summarizes this point: “Later I might go to the pub and ‘drive engagement’ with my community. WHY ARE YOU PEOPLE LIKE THIS?” But think about it. When creating your content marketing strategy, how many times do you say things like “engage your audience” when figuring out how to develop relationships? Is it really putting the consumer first when you’re sitting at your computer, trying to figure out how to “engage” them? Sure, we want our brands to benefit our consumers, but why?
Because we want our brand to succeed, and if the consumer benefits, they’ll come back. Just like traditional marketing.
Crossfield admits to sometimes catching himself spewing out some overused terminology in content marketing:
- Thought Leadership
- Brand awareness
“Can we get back to simply saying what we mean?” Crossfield asks.
When articles surface about how content marketing is “the new way of the future,” it’s hard to believe that it’s new when the two are so similar. If anything, it’s fairer to say that content marketing has been influenced by traditional marketing. When consumers stopped listening to that stuffy furniture salesperson, the salesperson was re-invented into the person who will sit down and tell a story about the shedding cat that the consumer can relate to.
This isn’t a new method to marketing, but one that’s been revamped to fit with today’s savvy consumer. People are tired of being sold a product? Fine, let’s sit down and talk over a cup of hot cocoa and content marketing. Do you want marshmallows? How about whipped cream? The marketing cycle continues as it always has.