The more I use and think of the term content marketing, the less happy I am with it. Why? Because we’re often just missing the point.

Why am I not happy with the term? Don’t get me wrong, there’s probably quite few people on this earth who believe in content marketing more than I do (I know, that’s a bold statement).

However I start thinking that the actual term is starting to become more and more difficult to work with (in my experience). Behind this, there are actually two thoughts. I’d like to share those with you.

Content Marketing is a victim of its popularity

Unfortunately, the definition of content marketing depends on whom you ask.

If you ask me, I am going to give you a much more strategic and content-strategy-driven answer than others you might ask. The problem is: the term gets so much attention nowadays, that a lot of different disciplines jump on this train: SEOs, PR people, advertising people and native advertising platforms, corporate publishers, social media marketers, diverse tool providers and platforms… and the list goes on and on. And a lot of them are doing their own form „content marketing“.

Everybody claims to have the best qualifications for doing or advising on how to do this thing called content marketing, because (classic argument) they’ve been in the business of content since the beginning. This creates a lot of confusion.

So who is right? Just me? (of course :D )

The thing is: from their own perspective, everybody is right. Because content marketing is such a complex discipline and it involves different functions within and even beyond just marketing.

If Content Marketing is the answer, what was the question again?

Aside from the fact that many businesses really don’t care if they’re „doing content marketing“ or not as long as it works, the concept of publishing content for marketing & communication is not new, so let’s not sell it like this incredible invention.

What’s new is that businesses cannot afford, not to be interesting anymore.

The question is: How do we move from a model in which we could rent or buy attention to one were the people we want to address actually care and feel like we’re helping? Call it what you want (I like to call it „systematic usefulness“), as long as you create value and meaning through your communication instead of just describing it. (HT Robert Rose!)

Content Marketing should be channel & format agnostic

Another reason why I really start disliking this term is because of what it implies in itself. Channels come and go. So do formats.

When you look for information on content marketing, you’ll find an explanation which goes something like: „Content Marketing is a Marketing strategy that focuses on creating customer-centric content such as blogposts, whitepapers, videos, etc.“

Words shape the way we think and one of the very first things which come to mind when the concept of content marketing is thrown out there is what it looks like in practice. „oh yeah sure, all those blogposts and infographics, that’s content marketing“. We think of either channels or formats.

The thing is: the format or the channel is really not what makes it valuable, interesting, inspiring, entertaining or useful. HOW you deliver content is not the first thing you should worry about. You should worry about the message, the core story first. (oh by the way, please check out what we’re talking about, when we’re talking about business storytelling).

Content Marketing should be channel and format agnostic, because a strategic way to approach (Marketing) Communications is to consider the substance, the essence, the message and how it impacts perception of your brand or your organization. In the end, it’s not about rankings, producing and publishing infographics or blogposts or publishing „snackable content“ to engage audiences. These things are just what allows you to get the message across. So start asking yourself what message(s) you are getting across.

What do you think? Is „Content Marketing“ really just a „blurry concept“ by now? For you? For clients (if you are a consultant / agency)? Are we often missing the point when we talk about content marketing?