The rise of content marketing

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The popular seaweed snack, Tao Kae Noi, which comes with a little booklet entitled “Tob Story” is a good example of content marketing to reinforce brand to consumers.The popular seaweed snack, Tao Kae Noi, which comes with a little booklet entitled “Tob Story” is a good example of content marketing to reinforce brand to consumers.The popular seaweed snack, Tao Kae Noi, which comes with a little booklet entitled “Tob Story” is a good example of content marketing to reinforce brand to consumers.

By Oon Yeoh

Oon Yeoh Profile Pic

Oon Yeoh Profile PicTypically when an organisation or a company wants to do branding and marketing, it would employ advertising in its various forms – TV and radio commercials, newspaper, magazine and online ads, billboards and so on.

The problem with this well-worn approach is that consumers, with their short attention span in this digital age we live in, have learned to block or tune out advertisements. So, they’ve become less and less effective.

A new way had to be found to get a brand’s message across. One new approach is something called content marketing, which can be described as the creation and sharing of content for marketing purposes.

There are three crucial differences between advertising and content marketing:

First, in advertising, there is always a media buy involved to display the ad. You buy a spot on TV or radio, a space in newspapers or magazines and banner ads on websites, for example. In content marketing, the content resides on properties either owned by the brands (website, apps) or controlled by them (social media channels, YouTube channels).

Second, in advertising, content is episodic in nature. In content marketing, we are looking at continual and engaging narratives.

Third, advertising is a form of push marketing, which is disruptive and generally not appreciated by the audience. Content marketing, in contrast, is all pull. Audiences actually seek out the content because it’s useful, entertaining and interesting.

Actually, the basic concept behind content marketing is not new. You can go as far back as 1895 to see it in practice by tractor maker, John Deere, which launched the magazine, “The Furrow”, which taught farmers on how to make more money.

Of course today when people talk of content marketing, they mainly refer to digital content but it doesn’t have to be. If a company publishes a printed product – a book or a magazine, for example – for the purposes of branding and marketing, it can be considered a form of content marketing.

If you want to see an example of this approach in action, the next time you go to a supermarket, look out for the popular seaweed snack, Tao Kae Noi, which comes with a little booklet entitled “Tob Story”.

The booklet contains the rags-to-riches story of its founder Aitthipat Kulapongvanich of Thailand (Tob is his nickname). Although the content is not an advertisement or even an advertorial – it reads like an interesting biography – the inspirational story of its founder is bound to endear the brand amongst its customers.

A digital example –  this one homegrown –  is P1’s 15Malaysia project which saw the WiMAX provider funding the production of 15 independent films, directed by 15 local directors, under the guidance of Pete Teo.

Although the 15 films are not about broadband or WiMAX, the publicity generated by this initiative offers branding value to P1, which says its support for the 15MALAYSIA project represents the company’s “underdog brand spirit as well as its desire to create compelling and relevant local content available exclusively online”.

One of the best international examples is American Express’ e-magazine, Open Forum, which provides insightful content to help small business owners grow their business. Like all good content marketing material, the articles are not advertorial in nature but genuinely useful and interesting to small business owners.

American Express is a popular card amongst big corporations. Small businesses represent a growth opportunity for the company, so by creating an e-magazine with useful content and resources, it is able to brand itself amongst such companies.

Although content marketing is still a rather new concept in Malaysia, it is a growing trend in the US and it’s just a matter of time before it becomes popular here, too. The reason is obvious. Due to shifts in consumer attention, companies are challenged to move beyond episodic, short-duration “push” campaign initiatives into longer-term, often continual “pull” marketing initiatives. That’s what content marketing is all about.

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