Content marketing has over the last five years become very popular within the marketing industry. Interestingly, content marketing in practice has been in existence for over 100 years.
Before we look at examples of early day content marketing pioneers, let us first explore exactly what content marketing is.
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach in the sense that its primary goal is to add value to the user through engaging, relevant and informational content and by virtue of this build a relationship with the user so they eventually become a customer of your brand.
In short, content marketing is pull rather push marketing.
The reality is that so many brands think they’re executing content marketing when in fact they are often simply producing a brand-centric video or article and sticking their logo on it in the hope that it will pass as content marketing. There are numerous examples of this in the field, but to save a particular brand from ridicule let us focus instead on exemplary cases of content marketing.
It seems like some of the best examples of content date back to the turn of the 20th century when industries were less crowded and marketing didn’t cost as much. Savvy brands at the time took advantage of this and began building long term relationships with their customers through content.
The first known example of this is John Deere, the manufacturer of agricultural machinery. In 1895 they published a magazine called Furrow.
If you want your brand to win at content marketing always be sure to put the user first
The main strategy of the magazine was always to tell stories that people enjoyed reading and provide them with knowledge that they can apply in their farming operations. This sounds fairly straightforward, but one principle John Deere always abided by, was avoiding self promotion. A challenge so many brands struggle to overcome when embarking on a content marketing strategy.
Tom Sizemore, longtime Furrow art director associates the success of the magazine with their content strategy that focused on farmers’ problems rather than on John Deere products.
Another excellent example of content marketing from yesteryear is courtesy of the Michelin tyre company. Their content marketing was so strategic that many people still to this day don’t realise the Michelin tyre company wrote the Michelin Guide in 1900!
With only 3,000 cars being driven in France at the time, the founder of Michelin, brothers Édouard and André Michelin wrote the guide in an effort to increase the demand for motor vehicles and consequently car tyres.
The guide was predicated on providing useful information to motorists, such as maps, tire repair and replacement instructions, car mechanics listings, hotels, and petrol stations throughout France. It was initially distributed for free but later when the guide evolved to focus on restaurants it came with a small price tag.
By creating value in a market completely different to manufacturing, that is the restaurant industry, Michelin was able to get people in their cars and driving to restaurants all across Europe, thus boosting sales of their car tyres. The guide is now synonymous with the prestigious 1-3 star impartial review system, and their guides are now published in over 23 countries.
If you want your brand to win at content marketing always be sure to put the user first. Put yourself in their shoes, and ask yourself what type of content you need to produce (an article or video) to ensure the user consumes the content and goes away feeling like the outcome has been net positive.
A user would have gained value from consuming your content while not being aware of any brand self promotion from your end. The user should ultimately be asking which brand produced the content because they were so impressed by it. To elicit such a response from a user in 2019 you’ll need to master the art of storytelling.