When I was a little girl, I spent many hours at my grandparents’ home, which was a vintage hunter’s paradise. It was jam-packed with antiques, old clothes and plenty of quirky things, from ancient postcards to long lost buttons.

Amongst the many treasures I found in the long childhood afternoons spent at their place, I vividly remember an old book titled “Cooking with Maggi”. It had a tiny Maggi logo on the back, and guess what, lots of recipes using Maggi stock cubes.

It was perhaps my first experience of content marketing. Only it probably wasn’t called that back then.

According to Wikipedia, content marketing involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire and retain customers. (It) can be presented in a variety of formats, including news, video, white papers, e-books, infographics, case studies, how-to guides, Q&A articles, photos, etc.

(No word on old-fashioned hardback books, but we can assume they’re included in the how-to guides).

Now, unless you’ve been hiding in a cave for a while, you’ll know that content marketing is on everybody’s lips nowadays. It’s being brandished about as the solution to all corporate ailments, the panacea that will make brands compelling and successful. And everyone is at it, left, right and centre.

However, content marketing goes back a long time. If you haven’t heard about John Deere’s The Furrow magazine, I encourage you to do a quick search on Google. Brandished as one of the first content marketing initiatives, it was launched in 1894 and is now present in 40 countries in 12 languages.

So if content marketing has existed for ages, why the current hype?

To a large extent it has to do with the fact that online content marketing, when done properly, can very effectively support SEO, PPC, social media, email marketing and conversion rate optimisation. This is, of course, vital for today’s organisations.

However, content marketing will only help your brand if you’re producing the right content, going to the right audience, at the right time.

  • The right kind of content: Is your content truly valuable? Is it relevant? Is it in the best format possible for its purpose and is it presented in a way that’s easy to digest?
  • The right audience: Do you have a clear picture of who they are? Do you know why you’re targeting them? How are you going to distribute your content it so it reaches them?
  • The right time? Is your content intended as a one-off or as reference? Are you sending it out at the best time for it to reach your audience? Is it seasonal? Is it linked to a current event?

A magazine on farming tools and techniques and rural lifestyle, going out to farmers and with a seasonal element to it? Tick, tick, tick.

A book with quick recipes targeting busy 1960s housewives, in a format they could keep in the kitchen and use at their convenience? Tick, tick, tick.

So next time you sit down to ponder your content marketing strategy, stop for a minute and ask yourself: does your content really tick all the boxes?

PS For more examples of “historical” content marketing initiatives, check out this infographic.