Content Marketing is a Couple Thousand Years Older Than You Think

This post was first published by Brendan Reilly on March Communications’ blog PR Nonsense.

Recently, I found myself surfing the interwebs, as I often do, for a good read. Being a PR professional and an avid consumer of all types of media content, I started reading an interview with New York Times bestselling author Guy Kawasaki, where he offered his thoughts on content marketing, social media and a few other interesting topics.

It’s a good read, but there was one statement in particular from the article’s author, Brad Miller, that really caught my attention:

“While content marketing has been around for as long as the written word, it has taken itself to a whole new level over the last few years, considering the sheer volume of content that is being produced.”

Content marketing has been around as long as the written word? That certainly piqued my curiosity – especially since content marketing has only recently become a term that everyone seems to be talking about. Luckily for me, there was a hyperlink included in that statement that allowed me to explore this further. Hey, look at that. The combination of engaging content and hyperlinks directing readers to additional sources of information actually works. Who would have known?

Anyway, that link took me to an infographic that spelled out exactly what was meant by content marketing being as old as the written word. For thousands of years, both individuals and brands have been using storytelling as a means to convey messages, attract customers and build loyalty.

Some of the items included in this infographic were a bit humorous. For example, saying that early cave paintings were among the first signs of custom publishing and offering an example that “loosely translated to ‘6 ways a spear can save you from a wild boar.’”

Some of the other examples will resonate more with certain people, depending on when they grew up. As a child of the 80s, one that caught my eye happened in 1982, when toy company Hasbro partnered with Marvel Comics to create a G.I. Joe comic book. This completely changed the way toys were marketed, capitalizing on crossover appeal that is now a staple of the modern marketing and entertainment worlds.

When you stop to think about it, that comic book is similar to company blogs today. You take a topic that your business is centered on and that your target audience is interested in and wants regular content about, and you use it as the mouthpiece of your organization. Before the Internet and social media, only companies that could afford to staff, publish, distribute and promote their own trade magazines could do what every business with Internet access now has the power to do.

Technology has advanced to the point where the vehicles we have for creating, disseminating and consuming content are unbelievably powerful and easy to use. Yes – the term “content marketing” only came into existence in recent years. But, the idea has been around since that first caveman realized he could sharpen some tree branches into spears and trade them for whatever his heart desired.

It’s about telling a story that people can relate to. Content marketing is effective storytelling, and storytelling is the oldest art form there is. You just have to know how to tell the right story to the right people.

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