Wednesday, September 11, 2013

It's Time To Put the Content-Marketing Snake Oil Back Into the Bottle

A magazine-publishing colleague sent me this rant that I thought was worth sharing:

I know you’re impressed by the content being put out by some non-publishers, but it’s time to put a halt to the snake oil and Kool-Aid being handed out in the name of “content marketing.” Some marketers are losing all sense and perspective.

I got word that a big ad agency wanted to talk to my publishing company about content marketing for its financial services client, so I set up a call with a team at the agency. Their specific task is to promote the client’s “529” college savings plans.

“We love your content about how parents can save and invest money,” the team leader said. No surprise there, since some of our advertisers like to promote their 529 plans adjacent to articles geared to parents.

”OK, are you interested in using the articles on a web site or in other media?” I asked.

“Oh, we don’t want to publish the articles, we just want to link to them from the client’s Facebook page, and the legal department wants us to get your permission.”

A quick look at the Facebook page showed there was already a link to one of our articles that fell squarely into the “fair use” category. Only a paranoid corporate lawyer, or outside counsel trying to keep the meter running, would ask for written permission to publish such links.

Seeing that there was no money to be made from licensing our articles to the agency’s client, I took a different tack: “Since we have so many articles that are relevant to your client’s target audience, have you considered running ads adjacent to such articles?”

“Oh, the client has no budget for media buys,” came the response.

OK, I get it. The client is spending probably north of $100,000 for a high-priced agency to create a Facebook page that has fewer than 2,000 “likes,” even though the only real people who “like” a bank’s FB page are bank employees and retards. [Editor’s note: I apologize for my friend’s slur against the mentally handicapped. I know several mentally retarded people, and none of them are stupid enough to waste time on Facebook.]

And the purpose of the page is not to drive traffic to the client’s web site but instead to web pages that advertise competing 529 plans. Meanwhile, the client is spending not a penny to promote its own products. Brilliant!

A simple explanation: Stupidity
There’s a simple explanation for what my colleague experienced: The client has been reading the work of too many content-marketing experts (who a year ago were social-media experts and two years ago were SEO experts). It asked the agency for three things: 1) Social media: Check. 2) Content marketing: Check. 3) No paid media (AKA advertising): Check. Never mind that the agent isn't supplying any content or doing anything that passes as marketing.

Yes, I'm impressed by some of the web sites and publications that non-publishers have created (See The Content Marketing Craze: 7 Ways Publishers Can Fight Back), but most of what passes for content marketing these days is crap.

Fortunately, some brands are jumping off the bandwagon and realizing that good content isn’t free. You either have to pay professionals (and I don’t mean that intern in the PR department) to create it, or you have to pay someone else for content that was created by their professionals (such as magazine writers and editors).

These brands are also realizing that just because they build it -- and post it, and tweet it, and like it --  doesn't mean people will come. Their wonderful content will not “go viral” unless they spend money inviting relevant consumers to see that content. In other words, unless they advertise.

Related articles about content marketing from Dead Tree Edition and other sources, with pithy quotes from each:

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