From Integrated Marcoms to Content Marketing

Courtesy of fedobe

The old paradigm of Integrated Marketing Communication (or IMC) is dying. In a world fragmented by zillions of online, mobile and offline channels, consumers are tuning out advertisements faster than you can produce them. With endless "ad-free" options to choose from, nobody wants to be interrupted by your brand anymore.

What can marketers do in such a landscape? Enter Content Marketing.

According to the Content Marketing Institute...

Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

A content marketing strategy can leverage all story channels (print, online, in-person, mobile, social, etc.), be employed at any and all stages of the buying process, from attention-oriented strategies to retention and loyalty strategies, and include multiple buying groups.

Now wait a minute. Haven't we already done that through our various IMC campaigns. After all, we do have an advertisement on the daily papers coupled with a press release, a niftily designed website, and an awesome promotion on Facebook.

Before I go further, let us consider the three forms of "media" in which content can be disseminated, namely: paid, owned and earned.

Paid media are found in channels where media spaces are paid for (like most traditional advertisements). Owned media are the content platforms operated by the company itself. Earned media mentions are those generated through PR and social media engagement activities.

These can be neatly represented in the diagram below:

Courtesy of Leaderlab Leadership Network

As you may have guessed, earned media is the most trusted and valuable form of media. It is also the hardest to secure. Often, this depends heavily on your ability to create buzz, value and "interestingness" that goes beyond a sales pitch.

In the traditional IMC view of things, a company's brand take centre-stage. Where possible, all channels need to convey a consistent look and feel, with appropriate "messaging" that helps to solidify a brand's positioning in the minds (and hopefully hearts) of the consumer.

The keywords here are "integrated" and "communications". In other words, every touch-point should reflect a united identity.

However, truly effective content marketing focuses first on the utility, relevance and attractiveness of the content to consumers or other stakeholders. It establishes the organisation as a thought leader and builds trust. It also seeks to understand the contexts and concerns of its viewers, readers and listeners rather than fixate itself on selfish organisational imperatives.

The differences between the two are highlighted in the table below:

To succeed in the new consumer landscape, marketers need to change their roles from pushers of products to creators and curators of content. We need to shift the way we write, shoot, film and produce content. Generating a momentary buzz through a clever creative campaign isn't enough anymore.

We need to shift our minds from sales promotion to help provision. It isn't about how great our brand is but how helpful and useful we are. By generating engaging content that educates, enriches and entertains, we're able differentiate our products and services in today's hyper-competitive marketplace.

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