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There are 773,692 words in the Bible. It is one of the most read books of all time. The content message in the Bible is everywhere. We all know it, even if we think we don’t. 

As content marketing strategies go there is a lot to admire. Dale Lovell illustrates just how much content marketers can learn from the Bible.

In this post I want to illustrate just how much content marketers can learn from the Bible.

Don’t believe me? Let me explain...

Develop a brand narrative 

At the core of the Bible is a strong narrative voice. It’s this narrative voice that gets the message of Christianity across so clearly. How does it do this? It tells a story that’s how.

Isn’t this what every blog post about content marketing you’ve ever read tells you to do? Of course it is. Engage with your customers by sharing an interesting story with them? This is what the Bible does in bucket loads.

Think of all the Biblical stories that you know: Adam and Eve. Noah, Moses, Jesus, to name but a few: these are very powerful stories that have been remembered for generations.

It is these stories that have helped spread Christianity and made it one of the world’s leading religions.

How does the Bible tell this story?

At the heart of the Bible and Christianity are the 10 Commandments. These 10 rules are the key set of laws that govern all Christians. It is a framework from which all of the Bible and other Christian teachings and writings stem from. This is what all content strategies need. You need to have your own set of brand rules, establishing tone of voice, target audience and story.

Before any content is created brands and their agencies need to work out what their core beliefs and core outcomes are. As we outlined in our Content Marketing Guide 2013 there are many questions that content marketers need to ask before creating any content at all.

What story do you want to tell? Who do you want to tell it to? What is your ideal outcome? 

The Bible has a creative core of ideas behind it that speaks out to a reader on every single page. How many content marketing campaigns have this creative forethought behind them? Red Bull does and so do Coca-Cola and Amex. More brands need to.

The content marketing wheel keeps on turning

The Bible is just a starting point in terms of content creation for Christianity.  The Bible is the content strategy document for Christianity, but as a brand Christianity provides various “multiple touch points” for consumers to engage with their content message. 

These include:

Hymns

What is a hymn if not music with a religious brand message included? These hymns, if written today by a brand, could be distributed via Spotify, YouTube, ThisisMyJam and countless other online music hubs, including national radio, creating a valuable distribution channel for your content. 

Psalms

The book of Psalms is the longest book in the Bible, which contains 150 short poems. The Bible understands that sometimes consumers are not interested in overly long forms of content; but we are open to shorter, more accessible brand messages.

Many of the messages in the Psalms can be broken down to single sentences. Think Twitter, Facebook updates, message forums, video ads and anywhere else where short messages can work. The Bible got there first.

Art

Some of the greatest works of art have been created with a Christian message behind them. In many instances they have literally tried to illustrate stories from the Bible. The results have been extraordinarily successful, such as Da Vinci’s Last Supper (above).

Content marketers today need to think about how they can develop their content messages around visual concepts; Instagram, Pinterest, infographics and Flickr – these are extremely good ways where there is an opportunity to create something that is in-keeping with your brand and offers another opportunity to connect with your customer base on different platforms.

If you can find a Da Vinci in the process, all the better!

Sermons

Some marketers forget that content marketing takes place offline as well as on. Where is there a better example than in the Bible and Christianity as a whole? This is a religion built around the church service and sermon.

Think about how all of your content marketing activity can be harnessed for face-to-face interactions. Think press conferences, blogger events, Meet-ups, Google+ hang-outs, sales meetings, staff training; anywhere where you can speak directly to your target base and create advocates of your brand message.

And remember, you can film these too, creating more content for your brand stories. 

Inspiring user generated content

If, as a brand, you can inspire others to be so inspired by your content that they start to create content that shares and promotes your brand - content that can often then in turn inspire more and more content to be created - then you are on to an extremely powerful thing.

For example, Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, you could argue, is user generated content promoting the brand of Christianity. How iconic and recognisable a symbol is the below?

What else can the Bible teach us about content marketing? Quite a lot more actually. 

Expert thought leadership

If you look at the New Testament, obviously one character stands out, Jesus. The brand story is, to a large extent, Jesus’ story. All the significant stories in the New Testament follow Jesus.

He is the expert, the storyteller, the one you get behind and support. As a consumer, we all buy into his story. He appeals to all of us in some way or another. 

Content marketers can learn from this

There is a lot to be said about promoting your brand through a recognisable persona, someone that appeals to your customer’s tastes and can promote your brand through dialogue.

A good example is Steve Jobs. Apple customers loved his passion and attention to detail, everything he did, -every talk, every interview, every article he wrote, helped promote Apple. Likewise we have Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook.

Online we have Matt Cutts for Google; Rand Fishkin at SEOMOZ, Pete Cashmore at Mashable and Dale Lovell at Content Amp (wishful thinking on my part here!), all of whom are only marginally less well known than the brands they represent. 

From YouTube video channels to Twitter handles, guest posts to Google Author rank; content marketers need to promote a persona, or multiple personas, that can easily be identified with your brand.

Why? Because the personal approach is one of the best ways to connect with your customers online.

Seasonal hooks

Have you ever wondered how there are so many key events in the Bible around peak holiday times? Easter, Christmas, the Bible has them all covered! How did that brand get so lucky?

Joking aside, it’s worth looking at what inspiration we can get from the Bible here. The thing to remember is that many of what we now view as Christian holidays are actually based on old Pagan festivities – so key events have actually been added to the calendar to tell the brand story of Christianity.

I’m not suggesting you try and create a new brand based holiday, but content marketers should think about what message – and what story – they can tell around key holiday periods that will speak to their customers. 

Try something different

Many content strategies fail because they try to cover all the bases and appeal to everyone. You need to set out your stall and commit to what you believe in. It’s what magazine and newspaper publishers do – and it is what determines their success or failure.

Be bold in your content strategy; if done correctly consumers reward such action. How many content marketing campaigns actually try something different and actually give off an emotion and a sense of themselves as a brand?

The Bible does this. Can you say that for your content marketing strategy?

10 content marketing commandments to take from the Bible:

  1. Create a core set of beliefs – develop a content strategy.
  2. Use narrative to tell your brand story.
  3. Create content that can inspire your customer base.
  4. Don’t be afraid to be original with the content you create, the argument you make and the stories you tell.
  5. Create different forms of content – long form, short form, video, music and images - multiple touch points for your customer base to engage with your brand.
  6. Develop an expert to spread your brand message and to become a brand advocate.
  7. Create a content calendar – key dates to inform your story.
  8. Amplify your content message using all multiple platforms that are available – spread your message. 
  9. Place your content strategy at the heart of your organisation. It shouldn’t be the function of your marketing department; it should be the core of your company ethos.
  10. Evangelise; practise what you preach – blog, guest post, social network and share.
Dale Lovell

Published 23 April, 2013 by Dale Lovell

Dale Lovell is Content & Publishing Director at Adyoulike.com and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

12 more posts from this author

Comments (14)

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Paul North

Paul North, Head of Content and Strategy at Mediarun

Great points! I'm off to crucify my MD to ensure the success of Mediarun.

over 3 years ago

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Sarah

Well, you have certainly been original with your content!
Perhaps I should now throw away all my marketing manuals that swamp my office and go buy a new shiny bible and get reading! Certainly food for thought!

over 3 years ago

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Pierrick

The advices given in this article are rather good! But the comparison to the bible is really poor. It's almost like you wanted to write an article on content marketing, and the first book you could find on your table was your Bible, so you were like "Hey, why not write an article on both?". It's the feeling I have...

You're using the 3 or 4 stories you've heard about the bible to make your point, but have you ever read the book?

I think the bible has some very interesting narrative content and can teach a lot to marketers. But if you want to use some examples from it, read it first, choose carefully what's relevant for your article, explain the context of the stories, the culture around it, etc..

over 3 years ago

Dale Lovell

Dale Lovell, Chief Digital Officer at Adyoulike

Thanks for the feedback Pierrick. I have read the Bible, yes, as a child and more recently (I downloaded it on my Kindle for this article). I am aware that the Bible has plenty of interesting stories but I wanted to write something that anyone - even those with a limited knowledge of the Bible - would be able to gain something from. Hence the fairly obvious examples from that story. I make no attempt at saying I am an expert on the Bible; this is a marketing website so I was keen to promote the marketing analogies that can be raised from the Bible, rather than an indepth feature on the Bible.

over 3 years ago

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David Wedge

That is certainly an interesting line of thought, for most businesses prayer comes in to the equation somewhere!

I like your points on originality and being bold, I read a lot of blogs and many fail to differentiate themselves.

over 3 years ago

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Pierrick

Thanks for your answer Dale, I was a bit agressive in my answer, sorry about that :)

over 3 years ago

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Todd Mumford

Hi Dale,

This is a good analogy. Story and brand narrative totally apply here.

Where you might get an argument in the reference of the bible as a guide is in terms of the part about choice.

Religions, and this one being no exception, have been forced on particular groups of people in the past. Christianity itself was diversifying and not unifying before becoming singular in approach during the reign of Constantine. In fact, the analogy might be closer to direct marketing, since the narrative in a community concept was modeled by activities of the Church.

Content marketing is about choice. Consumers are actively seeking out information about brands, campaigns, events.

In those times, information-seeking was not tolerated, nor was it condoned.

over 3 years ago

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David & Katsue

I have seen the same thing over the years...My wife always said to me honey Jesus is the Master Marketer-Just look at the network he started with just 12 people...your article is excellent and many people that we have met in this industry are using. Biblical principles and do not even realize it...

about 3 years ago

Alessia Cesana

Alessia Cesana, Freelance Consultant

In the paragraph about trying to please everyone and fail I would have made a stronger point about how strong definite opinions create a buzz for Christianity after a couple of thousands of years still. That's the kind of content that go viral because people who agree or totally disagree with it will share it to make their point about it so it seems a valuable comparison.
Loved the article btw :)

about 3 years ago

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Richard Skeen

The widespread familiarity with the bible among the judeo/Christian world makes your analogy work, but only for well established brands. Two points that might add valuable nuance to your idea: 1. As content readers see the Bible as literature or sacred text or a common denominator - isn't that the genius and challenge of Brand Bible? (and so many big brands) 2. Worth noting that the Psalms, Proverbs and books of the Prophets pre-date the New Testament by many centuries (and were added to the Hebrew "Pentatuach" or core Old Testament content. By supplenting this core content with commentary, nuance and poetry, the early redacters made the book popular.
One final thought on your analogy - the Jewish Talmud (69 volumes of rollicking, brilliant commentary on the Bible) - would be the social media content of the brand?

about 3 years ago

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Chris Files

A friend sent me a link to this, saying "Some very good principles, though I don't think any present day marketeer would get away with crucifying their brand ambassador!" (similar to Paul's comment, at top), so I responded with this email to her, and figured I'd share it as a comment too, though it's a bit lengthy (uh, can you tell I'm a preacher? oh well...). I wrote:

Thanks, that was a thought-provoking article.

We have conversations in congregations (or larger gatherings) sometimes about “marketing”, with some arguing that the Church (when I use the capital letter, it’s just to indicate the wider Church as a whole, as opposed to individual churches) should market like a business, and others disagreeing.

I would certainly agree with the author’s primary point that the Bible can teach a great deal about marketing: the narrative, the personae, the inspiring others to create user-generated content which points back to the original message.

However, I think people looking at Christianity and/or the Bible from a business perspective, as well as many Christians, forget that we’re looking at Jesus through our own cultural perspective. The author speaks of Jesus as one who’s story and teachings “appeal to all of us in some way or another” -- which is true for many people today (including some who just see him as a historic sage, and not the Son of God) -- but true because Christendom has ruled the west for the past 1500 years.

I think your point about marketers crucifying their brand ambassador gets right to the point: ...in that they didn’t. That is, his followers didn’t crucify him. Rather he was crucified by the powers that be (after which his followers went and hid behind closed doors, actually) because he pissed a lot of people off. I would say that’s the opposite of an effective marketing strategy. Jesus preached a message of living your life for the sake of others, a message of loving your neighbor (including your enemies), a message of fully welcoming those that both the culture and even the scriptures said were impure and unworthy. He called the not-good-enoughs to be his followers, hung out with the social outcasts, and regularly spoke words that were counter-cultural and rebellious. That’ll get you attention, but it’s probably *not* good marketing.

But, of course, the Church lives in a marketing world, and so *that* Jesus often isn’t the one that gets presented. (I actually think that *that* Jesus would still piss a lot of people off today.)

So, back to my opening sentence, I’m one who is not in favor of the Church marketing like a business (which wasn’t the point of the article, but is related), because though businesses seek to offer products that will be helpful consumers, businesses still exist for themselves, for their own bottom line. I think it’s a problem when the Church does this (call it a concern for "butts and bucks": how many butts are in the pews, and how many bucks are in the offering plate), which is sadly too often the case. The Church, when it’s truly doing what it’s been called to do, exists for others, for the people outside its walls, not the people inside.

And regarding the point of the article, I do agree the Bible can teach some marketing principles, though maybe not in all the ways suggested, if we remove the culturally-Christian lenses that we still look through, which have tamed the Bible’s message in significant ways.

...See, I said it was thought-provoking. So, those are my thoughts. :-)

about 3 years ago

Dale Lovell

Dale Lovell, Chief Digital Officer at Adyoulike

Hi Chris, thanks for your feedback on the article and (generally) agreeing with the points I tried to raise in the piece.

I take your argument on board and agree - we view the Bible and Christianity as a whole through the spectrum of perceived wisdom/hindsight - something I was taught never to do as a history undergraduate way back when. But I think some of the marketing related points are valid. Apart from Jesus, which other characters in the Bible do you think would have made great content marketers?

about 3 years ago

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Carl

For me the most interesting points is that the bible has managed to sell something fundamentally untrue. It has manged this with a narrative that is full of inconsistencies and contradictions. It also contains numerous passages advocating genocide, rape, mutder and torture. The story in the bible is not the interning part - the fact that people manage to hold it up as an example of how to behave is the extraordinary thing.

about 3 years ago

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Tommy Tommy, Specialist at Chemical company

Easter and Christmas are pagan holidays....why would anyone who is truly Christian use the Bible to sell these holidays?

over 1 year ago

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