The Evolution of Content Marketing

The Evolution of Content Marketing

Over 46,100,000 results turn up if you search ‘Content Marketing’ in Google. It is estimated that $2.1T (yes, that is T for trillion) will be spent on advertising in 2019. Digital advertising will consume roughly 75% of that budget and digital content production will be nearly a $80B business and growing rapidly.

There is no doubt content marketing is the newest trend in advertising, but is it really new? I recently put together a timeline to analyze the evolution of content marketing over the last 125 years. Did you know John Deere created the first known piece of content marketing in 1895 by creating a farmer’s guide on efficiency, with the hope the farmers would adopt John Deere’s equipment?

Nowadays, we see websites such as this one dedicated to recipes and CPG brands using that native content to push their product. Jell-O did this back in 1904!

In the 1930s Proctor & Gamble started a dramatic radio series featuring their detergents; they called them “Soap Operas.” The goal was to create content for their ideal consumers: household shoppers. For the next 50 years, P&G were actually in the business of creating award-winning daytime series such as “Guiding Light” and “As the World Turns.”

In 1982 came the launch of the G.I. Joe the magazine. Hasbro utilized the audience that Marvel had been able to create with comic books and created one of the most successful content marketing programs ever. The comic book had a massive impact on the toy line and created more than $1M of business in the first year.

By the late 1990s we were at the beginning of the digital age. CBS launched the first fantasy sports league online. Fantasy sports websites now make up $2-5B annually and fantasy sports players consume 4X more page views than those who don’t play fantasy sports.

By 1998, blogging became a viable medium for marketing content. Microsoft launches the first ever corporate blog and starts to create thought leadership among their website viewers. This successful tactic arguably creating the new era of digital content on the web. Now 100% of Fortune 100 companies have some type of blog, and 48% of them push content daily or multiple times a week.

In 2004, the way to consume content was forever changed. Facebook created a platform users in which users can interact with content mindlessly- a platform built for advertisements. The website accounts for nearly 20% of all time spent online by consumers and enabled brands for the first time to communicate with their consumers directly. Facebook now has an annual revenue of $17.93B.

In 2015, Under Armour, the industry leader in sports apparel, acquired MyFitnessPal and led the strategy of utilizing mobile application utilities as a means of content creation and distribution. In total UA acquired 3 fitness and nutrition applications for nearly $1B, with the hopes of providing these users content from UA and other health-conscience brands. Overall these UA owned applications have over 170M users using the applications.

ROI of Content

While the content and audience distribution evolves, what hasn’t changed is a marketer’s struggle to measure ROI with content. Nearly 51% of marketers have a difficult time measuring the effectiveness of content. Why is this?

In part, this occurs because there is misunderstanding how ROI should even be defined. Great content doesn’t mean immediate sales. When P&G created “Soap Operas,” they didn’t expect to have immediate ROI. They expected to gain awareness and consideration by the audience watching these daytime dramas. This could be one of the many reasons why P&G has been the category leader for the last 100 years. When Hasbro’s G.I. Joe had $1M of sales from their investment in Marvel, it a result of their trust in the audience that Marvel created and creation of a new unique way to engage consumers.

Whether you utilize view-through attribution, last click, or measure increased social media presence, recognize that content is a process. With great content, your return is inevitable. Your goal should not be a dollar amount, but rather how you differentiate and choose an audience that matches perfectly to your ideal consumer. If you trust this process, your investment of content will be fruitful.