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Substance Abuse: The Fleeting Value of “Content Marketing”

October 24, 2013 | Justin Gray | 2 Comments |

Content marketing has killed the notion of value.  Well, the notions of content marketing at least.  Ok, really the notion of creating crap and calling it content.  So, as usual, marketers have taken something great, when used in balance, and commoditized it.  I don’t blame them; it’s easy to do.  In management, we look for tangible measures and counting something works pretty damn well.  Number of leads.  Amount of content.  Total of… whatever.  It all seems so easy.  Lets just do more.  More is better.  No it’s not, stop it.

Anyone who has spent any amount of time around me knows I talk a lot about value.  A lot.  We live in a hyper value society so when that equation breaks it’s even more noticeable.  You see examples of imbalanced value all the time, they’re called failed models.  Travel agencies, taxi cabs, and (I really hope) real estate agents – all examples of failed models.  Why?  Because we hate using them, they’re expensive and better options came along which made them seem so archaic, they simply died.  Eventually all markets equalize, all paths lead back to zero.  The latest craze gets the attention of everyone, the rush of “me too” commences but then the consumer demands quality.  Market leaders begin to emerge, differentiated by quality, and eventually everyone else dies off and we’re left with what matters.  If there’s one thing in life that’s true, it’s that quality is the universal equalizer.

So, as with any fad, content marketing is going through this hockey stick spike of interest, but it’s on the tail end of the that spike.  You’re starting to hear things like “avalanche of whitepapers” when buyers try to weed through the rapid-fire barrage of “content marketing”.  I also hear things like, “We’re not focusing on whitepapers anymore”, or “We want to focus on video and infographics, you know, the fun stuff.” Hey, I love fun content too – but the key is to remember that your buyer determines fun, not you. The buyer’s definition of fun has to do with problem resolution, while being easy to consume.  Make the pain stop.  If you aren’t helping your buyer, or at the very least entertaining them, you’re creating crap.  Trash the crap in your content pipeline.  Now.

When I was growing up, I thought dandruff must have been the worst thing in the entire world.  Head and Shoulders commercials made it seem like it was social leprosy.  I wondered, did I really only “have one chance to make a first impression” as their tagline suggested?  It was a level of finality for which I was unprepared.  Of course, in that simple wordplay lays undeniable logic – what we say and do matters. Matters when the buyer can’t see us, or worse, we have no chance to see them, to read their reactions and appeal for another go at a first impression.  Your content represents you, your product, and your value.  What are you really saying to your buyer?

Shake the dandruff off your content and get to the root of the value handshake because whether you know it or not, you’re making bad impressions everyday with your low value content.  When you alienate your buyer by ignoring their needs, the opportunity to redo that exchange is yanked off the table, not only for you, but also for the company you represent.  And believe it or not, the impression that you are a hollow, value insufficient, substantively bankrupt, corporate twit is even worse than dandruff.


  1. Tim O'Connor on November 1, 2013 at 1:40 am

    The real underlying issue here is Marketers not measuring the things they do. So when you point out correctly to trash the crap content, I dig that. But the missing piece is how do you know what content is crap and what is gold. As John Wannamaker apparently said, “Half my advertising is a waste. The problem is I don’t know which half.” And so it is with content. Trust you’ll be covering that topic in your workshop. Sounds like a great seminar with a lot of potential value.

  2. Jeff Weinberger on November 1, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    Content marketing has always been a construct for marketers who are trying to justify spending time and money on stuff. As you point out, this happens because “stuff” is countable and if I produce more “stuff” I must be doing a “better” job.

    I don’t think it’s as bad as “Content marketing has killed the notion of value” but I do agree there’s little value in most “content.”

    Maybe the measurement of success in content, and therefore value, should be how much it helps your prospect or customer?

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