What is content marketing? In defiance of definitions

Posted: May 16, 2014

Content Director of Narrative, Robyn Daly, gives the creative anti-definition of content marketing.

I tend to shirk definitions. It’s probably a common “ailment” among creatives. And perhaps also a personal vendetta against school science and learning the laws of this and that off pat.  Definitions seem to knock the soul out of things in their pursuit of describing the “truth”. Hasn’t anybody read Plato? Truth eludes definition, it’s a shadow in the cave. Or Stephen Hawking: something is only true until something else comes along and proves otherwise.

Content marketing at Narrative

A lot of people, both clients and colleagues, ask: “What is content marketing?” Sure there are definitions – in handsome supply.

“Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing valuable and compelling content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” – Joe Pulizzi, Epic Content Marketing.

Aaarg, that’s drier than a Savanna. So lets put some soul into it. Everybody loves a good story. Phillip Pullman, an author of children’s books, science fiction and fantasy, puts it perfectly: “After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”

Content marketing is all about stories. A good story will capture attention, cut through the clutter of advertising and marketing messages and add value to people’s lives. The story – content ­– comes with the compliments of a brand. That’s the marketing part of the equation. And the concept behind it all is that even though the stories aren’t pushing the brand (if they were, they would fall under advertising or PR), there’s subtle messaging going on: usually the brand is seen as the expert in its field and that it cares about its customers.

Take Stodels for example. The brand is a small chain of garden centres in the Western Cape. Their customers are passionate about gardening, but not necessarily loyal to one nursery. The Stodels digital magazine tells gardeners the stories they want to know most of all: what to plant, when to plant and how to plant. Stodels is seen as the expert, delivering added value to its customers. Their natural inclination is to choose Stodels nurseries over others, and, because they are armed with a host of useful information that will help improve their gardens, they are more likely to visit the nursery.

So back to the soul of content marketing: it’s about telling stories your customers want to hear. Get this right and you’ll find they are more likely to think positively about your brand and reward you with their business and loyalty.

Content marketing is a win-win for customers and brands.


Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 11.42.25 AMRobyn Daly is the content director for Narrative, a specialist content marketing media company.

Read more about content marketing.