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Content marketing – what is it and how do brands use it?

We thought we’d start this blog post off with a definition of content marketing.

A dictionary-style definition is “the creation and sharing of material that aims to create interest in a brand, product or service without explicitly promoting it”.

This definition isn’t taken from one particular source but merges a few definitions out there. The issue is this doesn’t really explain what this looks like from a brand’s point of view.

So, let’s take it back to basics.

Essentially, it’s very self-explanatory. It’s using content as part of your marketing. The key point is that there’s no direct sales pitch included. It’s about building up brand awareness and brand equity in a way that results in sales in the long run from both new and existing customers.

Lots of brands use blogs, podcasts and newsletters as part of their content marketing strategy. But it can also include infographics, quizzes, webinars and so much more.

Our content marketing top tips

Now we have summarised what content marketing is, we’re going to look at some basic rules you can apply to help boost your content marketing strategy.

Again, we’re taking this back to basics.

Tip 1 – Tell don’t sell

As mentioned above, content marketing aims to promote the brand, product or service without actively trying to sell anything. Think about how you can bring value to the person consuming the content in a way that builds a connection between them and the brand. Over time, this will change their behaviour and result in increased sales.

Tip 2 – Think of the customer

Too often, marketers lock themselves away in a metaphorical dark room and decide what the best content is. But, ultimately, it’s not you who decides what is or isn’t good content. It’s the customer. If you can, use data to help inform your decision-making. Looking over the stats from content you’ve already produced could help you get a gauge of what they like to see.

Tip 3 – Repurpose content

Creating multiple pieces of content can be daunting especially if you only feel comfortable with one style. So, think about how you can repurpose one piece. Whether it’s a podcast, video or blog, this is your ‘pillar’ content. Once you’ve shared this, you then create micro pieces of the content from this. These could be clips, quotes or graphics which are shared individually to promote the pillar piece. Also, think about how you can turn one piece into a different format. For example, could a blog be turned into a podcast?

Content marketing examples

So, we’ve explained what content marketing is and how to get the most out of it. We’re now going to look at how some brands are using content marketing and hopefully provide you with some inspiration!

John Deere

If you’ve read some of our content before, you may have noticed we like to delve into the archives for our case studies. This time it’s John Deere and The Furrow, an agriculture magazine it started over 125 years ago!

Focused on producing articles that are helpful to farmers, The Furrow still exists today and has a loyal, engaged readership. The team behind the magazine are a mix of full-time farmers and experience agriculture journalists, meaning they are completely in tune with what is happening in the world of farming.

David Jones was the publication manager at John Deere in 2018 and claimed that, across the last 50 years, the words “John Deere” would appear less than half a dozen times in each magazine.

University of Hull

Choosing which University to study at is a huge decision. And one that a lot of young people make each year.

There are ways a University can differentiate itself from the crowd, whether that be its location, its course offering or the social side of things. But the University of Hull is also trying to become a trusted source of information when it comes to university life in general.

They use a bank of students, called Student Influencers, who produce content covering a range of topics which the University then shares across social media.

Sometimes, this is Hull-specific content, but other times they cover topics such as “How to get the most out of an Open Day”, “Budgeting and Finance” as well as “What do these words mean” which breaks down the language used at universities such as ‘lecture’ and ‘seminar’.

By creating content that answers their audience's questions, rather than what the brand wants to talk about, they’re able to build a relationship with prospective students.

Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary Vaynerchuk (AKA Gary Vee) is a little different to the two examples above as he’s using content marketing for a personal brand rather than a business brand. But, the principles are still the same.

Gary Vee is a big advocate of content marketing. He’s written a book (Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook) on the subject and constantly bangs on about it across social media.

His overarching approach is to document everything and then pull snippets from that. He is a great example of how to use pillar content and then repurpose that single piece into multiple smaller pieces.

A few years ago, he even released a PDF which maps out how he breaks a piece of content down. You can check it out here.

As well as that, he is great at bringing value to his audience. Agree or disagree with what he has to say, he gives away insights for free every day. Very few of the people digesting his content are his agency's ideal clients. But he is building up so much brand equity with them, that when there is a chance to engage with him and purchase something he has to offer, his audience doesn’t think twice.

Wrapping up

So there we have it! Hopefully, this introduction has made it clear what content marketing is and how brands are utilising it. As you’ll see from the examples above, there’s no one specific way of doing it either. It’s about what’s right for your brand and, more importantly, what’s right for your audience.

If you’re looking to build a content marketing strategy or you have one and it’s not working for you, get in touch with us today. Email with the subject line “Content Marketing Help” and we’ll book in a free, no-obligation chat with you over a coffee to give some initial pointers and discuss how we may be able to help you moving forward.


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