I’ve never been one to submit to catchphrases. The business world and, by extension the marketing world, is full of them.  

“Net-net, at the end of the day, we are living with a new normal of big data.”  Just typing these words gives me the shivers. But these phrases emerge, typically, around meaningful trends.  

For the past three years the dialogue about content marketing has gone from a whisper to a roar. And the expression ‘content strategy’ is now popular discussion.  

On many occasions I’ve heard pundits declare that ‘Content is King’. Most pundits have a vested interest so I understand the tendency toward hyperbole. But I want to make one thing clear. I disagree.

Content is not king. It is not a strategy. Content is a means to an end, a tactic. A very, very important tactic. But a business’s objective is not to create content but rather create enterprise value.

Content marketing adds to enterprise value by sustaining a measure of relevancy with people who engage with it in order to sell more products and services for the first time and over time.  

Relevance is the goal.

There are quite a few brands that get this. They are cleverly using a broad definition of content to generate engagement. They realize that content is a part of a total marketing strategy. That it lives within the same first principles that guide much of what we know about marketing.  

One company who gets it is Red Bull. Red Bull made a big splash (well, actually a safe landing on the ground) with the Stratos campaign.  

Red Bull reportedly made record sales when it sent a man into the stratosphere only to jump and parachute back to earth. I have no doubt that this is true, but this campaign, albeit large, is part of an overall strategy of engagement with their core target market.  

It’s a lifestyle brand that promotes all manner of crazy and extreme behaviors. Go to the website and it will become immediately clear. Stratos was one part of an ongoing effort to sustain engagement through relevant content.  

The strategy was not to create the content, but to deliver the right content to their consumers over time. Sustained relevance was, and is their goal. There are a lot of examples of great content campaigns and content rich marketing programs:  

  • American Express OPEN Forum.
  • Table Spoon from General Mills.
  • Patagonia’s The Cleanest Line.

All of them deliver engaging content, knowledge transfer and user interactions among the many features. These campaigns are supportive of the overall business and extend or enhance the brand’s overall value proposition.  

However, creating great content is only one part of developing a world class content marketing practice. The really hard part is making the decision about what, amongst all that content, you should provide to who.  

It’s in one part a math problem. If you take the number of pieces of content across editorial, promotional, video, adverts, user generated by the number of channels you can distribute in such as email, web pages, e-zines, newsletters, blogs, in-app targeted toward some number of market segments then you have a very large combinatorics problem.

Today there are technologies to use data and insights about people’s interest to address how to deliver relevant content.

Taking a page from ad technology, we are now able to automate the insight generation and real-time decision about what is the best piece of content to serve an individual across multiple channels while remaining safely on the first party side of the privacy wall.  

Top content marketing organizations and those that are just beginning to drive a formal content marketing process will see dramatic increases in the performance for that investment in content. It turns out that sustaining relevance with customers and prospects works.  

Content is critical but isn’t king. Relevance is king. Long live the king.