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May 29 2013   5:21PM GMT

Xerox gets it: The power of good content marketing

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Ivy I’ve been writing a fair amount about content marketing and related concepts, like native advertising, lately. Content marketing is the publication of material designed to promote a brand, usually through a more oblique and subtle approach than that of traditional push advertising. The essence of good content marketing is that it offers something the viewer wants, such as information or entertainment.

The idea is that people are sick of the traditional push advertising model, in which consumers (AKA “people”) are interrupted in whatever they’re doing with an unsolicited communication of some sort, through a flyer, an email, a banner, an interstitial ad, a telemarketing call. The first reaction to these is typically annoyance, which is not likely to be conducive to attracting and retaining customers. It’s often argued that online marketing — no matter how intrusive and obnoxious — is a necessary evil, the price we pay for free content. Good content marketing offers another way.

Content marketing approaches the problem from a different angle, offering something of value as a sort of a goodwill gesture in the assumption that people are going to feel more well-disposed toward a company that seems to want to do something for them rather than one that wants to manipulate them. The history actually goes back over a hundred years:

  • 1895: John Deere launched the magazine The Furrow, providing information to farmers on how to become more profitable. The magazine, considered the first custom publication, is still in circulation, reaching 1.5 million readers in 40 countries in 12 different languages.
  • 1900: Michelin developed the Michelin Guide, offering drivers information on auto maintenance, accommodations, and other travel tips. 35,000 copies were distributed for free in this first edition. Although Michelin eventually began selling these books, the publication still set a precedent for both informative guides and content marketing distribution.
  • 1904: Jell-O salesmen went door-to-door, distributing their cookbook for free. Touting the dessert as a versatile food, the company saw its sales rise to over $1 million by 1906. Read more

Funny thing — I was inspired to write this post by a marketing email. I was culling newsletter subscriptions and clicked on one from Xerox. Before I scrolled down to the unsubscribe link, though, I had a look. I clicked a link to a PDF on stress management and found good, useful content. They hooked me immediately by introducing a new word — eustress — meaning positive stress, and then provided a very nice guide to dealing with the other kind — distress. There were no ham-fisted references to Xerox in the copy, only a brief message and links at the very end. The newsletter also offered links to more useful business-related tips. Well done, Xerox! I’ll save the PDF, check out the other links. Odds are, if I’m in the market for any products Xerox offers, I’ll look there first.

Because I have a blog, well — here I am, posting about it. I’m going to tweet about it too. So, what do you think? Does good content marketing work?

twitter-bird-callout  Follow me on Twitter@tao_of_grammar

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