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Content Marketing Defined

content marketing defined

Before I get around to answering common content marketing questions, allow me to cover the basics. Whether you’re new to the marketing game, need a fresh perspective with which to look at your marketing work, or just want to be able to explain your job to your mom, this post will help.

Content Marketing: Defined

Here’s one official definition, via Content Marketing Institute:

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

The key pieces of that mish-mash of words are:

1. Implement a strategy; no willy-nilly marketing, please.

2. Create awesome content.

3. Distribute awesome content. (Share your media!)

4. Do steps 1 – 3 in order to attract and captivate your target audience to drive results. (You do want to acquire and retain customers, right?)

What It IS

Content marketing means acting like a publisher who actively and consistently creates content customers are going to read and share. Content marketing is attracting and building an audience. It is understanding that marketing is not about selling but about the conversation we have with our customers (current and potential). Content marketers have to be able to identify a consumer problem or need and help answer or fulfill it. Providing solutions is what it’s all about! Focus on that and you’ll build positive consumer relations, establish authority, and grow your brand.

Any time you publish an original post to your company blog (like this one!), write an ebook, link to a webinar, add photos to your product photo gallery, create a new FAQ section, design an infographic, or record a video you are engaging in content marketing.

What It IS NOT

Content marketing is not any of the following:

  • Simply a piece of content 

Content marketing is not a viral video. It is not a native ad. It is not a brochure.

  • A hot new buzzword

Content marketing is not a trendy strategy or a passing fad. It has been around for decades, some might argue centuries.

  • The same as social media marketing

While content marketing is not the same as social media marketing, it is easy to understand the mix up. As in social media marketing, content marketing relies on digital channels and platforms to create and share content. But that’s only the beginning.

  • Just clever advertising

Sure, to be a successful content marketer you need to be clever. You also need to focus on educating, entertaining, and informing people so that they know, like, and trust you enough to buy from your company. That is where content marketing is very different than advertising. The latter is often seen as occasional interruptions of content that your audience does want to see but done with the end goal of selling them a product. Advertising is typically not something people want to read and share where as content marketing is!


Congrats! It’s more than likely you are already doing some form of content marketing. Good job 🙂

content marketing definition
And podcasts, and blog posts, and slideshare presentations, and case studies and more!

Clearly, content comes in a variety of formats. Depending on your distribution and promotion plan, your content can potentially be found on your website, on landing pages, on a national publication’s website, on your social media streams, in emails sent to your audience, or on someone else’s blog.

Examples of great content marketing

Get inspired by these genius content marketing examples.

Airbnb: More than a home-rental service, Airbnb has evolved into a holistic travel company. Its content strategy entails leveraging their product: hosts have assets that the brand can then use to promote its vision.

User-generated content is a proven strategy for the company. Just take a look at its engaged Instagram community of 2.2 million followers. Most posts are user-sourced and receive thousands of engagements each.

In addition to destination guidebooks which include recommendations from locals worldwide, Airbnb also publishes a print magazine that features content from hosts.

REI: An outdoor lifestyle company with strongly-held beliefs and a passionately devoted following, REI creates lots of content to support their community. Through content marketing, REI is able to breath life into their philosophy that “a life outdoors is a life well-lived.”

The company has found success with many types of content, especially long-form. Their Expert Advice learning library is a compilation of how-to articles and videos that drive SEO traffic and engagement. Long-form content gives brands the space needed to explore more in-depth topics and focus on storytelling that captures users’ attention and fosters a connection.

And, of course, there is the Black Friday #OptOutside campaign. Check out their blog for further inspiration:

I’m pretty sure I could go on forever; maybe I should compile a Best Content Marketing Brands: Top 50 list??? For now, if you want to dig deeper, look at LEGO, Anthropologie, Warby Parker, Harry’s (and Five O’Clock), Geico, or Blue Apron.

~ ~ ~

Good content, an integral aspect of inbound marketing, is relevant, consistent, targeted, and strategic. When you have good content, people often take action to view it. You see how content marketing can be used to drive brand awareness, lead generation, engagement, and trust. Don’t forget to always measure and track the success of your digital content in order to prove ROI. Now go create valuable content!

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