The Story of Content documentary review

This week we finally caught up on the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) documentary on the rise of content and content marketing.

“Content is the only marketing left”

The Story of Content: Rise of the New Marketing is an easy watch, presented by a number of expert ‘talking heads’ and illustrated with a number of successful content marketing examples, which serves to remind us digital communicators of the power of content as a brand differentiator. Or, as Seth Godin is quoted: “Content is the only marketing left.”

It opens with a brief history of marketing, and how marketers essentially try to describe the value of their company’s product or service in different and changing ways. In the 20th century, for example, you had to reach your buyers through third-party distribution networks, such as placing adverts on TV or radio, or creating advertorials or campaigns for newspapers and magazines.

“Don’t think customer, think audience”

It was fascinating to see how soap-sellers Proctor & Gamble took this one step further into content production, by producing addictive soap operas for their predominantly housewife audience to give them an entertaining break from the housework – “Don’t think customer, think audience.” Here’s an early episode presented by Duz washing powder and Ivory Soap:

Going back even further, farm equipment manufacturers John Deere created The Furrow magazine in 1895 to provide neutral editorial in the form of help and information content for farmers, to help them improve their operations.  (Click on the image below to read Contently’s history of The Furrow.)

The Furrow – a history by Contently

“No one cares about your product…”

…they want information or to solve a problem. Of course, how customers get their information today has been transformed by internet access. Brands such as Blendtec, with it’s Will It Blend? YouTube channel, have capitalised on this with content that appeals to buyers but also sends the strongest possible marketing message to millions of viewers about product quality. Here’s Blendtec founder Tom Dickson, for example, most recently blending a selfie stick:

“Be the story”

The CMI documentary is full of soundbites and expert advice on how to use the power of content and build relationships with your customers – from finding a specific audience to serve and having a custodian of the audience’s point of view in your organisation, to developing in-house content creation skills and making the new marketing rules in your own industry. Red Bull, Marriott and Jyske Bank are interviewed and documented as modern media production examples to inspire brand storytelling – “Be the story.”

If I have a criticism, it’s that these are all big examples with big budgets to put behind their content efforts; the focus is on the content opportunity and so there are no hardships or failures documented here. As pointed out in the 45-minute film, content is not cheap or easy or quick, however. Getting it wrong can be costly.

Smaller operators with smaller budgets will have to think even harder and more creatively in order to find the content gaps that will help them stand out in their markets. With the additional challenge of operating in a more mature digital environment, where everyone is shouting to be heard, success in content marketing will require ever-more innovative ways of connecting with an audience suffering information overload.

For Firehead, as recruiters in the digital communications space, therein lies the challenge. Finding and hiring the right talent is a key solution to cutting through the noise and creating content that connects. The digital skills gap exists and adds an additional challenge to professional communications with customers (although it is one we are trying to address through our growing training offering).

Overall, however, the CMI’s Story of Content is an interesting watch that is inspiring for both brands and creatives. Here’s the documentary – just click to view (opens in a new window). A screening kit with discussion guides is also available.

Click to play The Story of Content

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