The Evolution of Content Marketing

Written by: Paula Ferrai

For as long as there has been a product or service there has been a way to market and promote it. In just over 100 years, modern marketing has evolved from print to radio to television to digital, providing new ways to reach audiences.

But how can brands stand out from the competition to reach audiences in a saturated sales age? The trick is to add value by providing informative and enjoyable content to drive brand awareness, loyalty, and ultimately sales. This is achieved through content marketing.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing focuses on developing and disseminating relevant and valuable media content to attract audiences and drive engagement, brand awareness, sales, and customer loyalty.

Rather than hard-selling products and services, content marketing aims to provide consistent and useful content that adds value to people’s lives, ensuring positive impressions that will potentially lead to a sale.

Today, content marketing comes in the form of websites, social media, podcasts, blogs, apps, print publications, press releases, and much more. 

The evolution of content marketing

Content marketing roughly began with the advent of the printing press in 1440 which helped create pamphlets that marketed products and services. However, humans have arguably been communicating through content since the first cave paintings of our early ancestors.

A few hundred years after the invention of the printing press, Benjamin Franklin released Poor Richard’s Almanack in 1732, which was designed to promote his printing business. This was followed by Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company’s The Locomotive magazine in 1867 aimed at marketing their trains. Interestingly, The Locomotive still continues to be published to this day. 

These, together with a few notable endeavours in between, laid the foundation for the dawn of what we know as content marketing today: building an audience by creating helpful information to make people realise the need for a product or service.

The best example of modern content marketing comes from agricultural equipment manufacturers John Deere’s release of The Furrow — a magazine aimed at providing helpful information to farmers. But the magazine also included engaging stories that readers found enjoyable. The Furrow grew in popularity and reached millions of readers, many of whom weren’t farmers. They put the reader first by creating valuable, relevant and enjoyable content which proved to be a successful strategy and what we know as content marketing today. It’s no wonder that The Furrow is still being published to this day.

Unsurprisingly, many brands followed John Deere’s footsteps and began creating content designed to attract target audiences. In 1900, French tire company Michelin published the now infamous Michelin Guide, a large-scale publication designed to provide advice about travel and car maintenance. Despite cars not being widespread at the time, the Michelin Guide aimed to encourage more people to buy cars and travel on the roads (and purchase their tires). The Michelin Guide is still being published today, although it is more of a restaurant guide now.

Since then, numerous consumer publications were released that catered to specific audiences giving brands their first opportunity to place targeted advertisements. These included Popular Mechanics, Advertising World, and Architecture Magazine, among others.

1900 to 2000 saw the birth of new forms of content marketing thanks to the powerful new communication mediums of radio and television. In 1933, Proctor & Gamble sponsored a serial radio drama with their new soap product, coining the term “soap opera”. The ’60s saw televisions being introduced into people’s homes, resulting in the birth of multi-channel marketing. This meant that brands could spread their content and messaging across multiple platforms.

Then, with the advent of social media in the early 2000s, content marketing had reached its final form: a pervasive marketing opportunity for brands across new platforms and media channels. Multi-channel marketing, social media, and search engine optimisation (SEO) have created a new age of content marketing backed by data and algorithms. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and many more have become the primary channels brands use to reach their audience. Indeed, we’ve come a long way from The Furrow.

So, what does content marketing look like today?

Content marketing trends for 2022

Thanks to our digital evolution, brands have access to more sophisticated marketing tools and channels to reach their audiences in a targeted way.

Here are the major content marketing trends for 2022:

  1. Blogs

Blogs are a powerful way to provide relevant and valuable information to audiences through long-form written content. They are the modern equivalent of The Furrow and the Michelin Guide, in that they are able to disseminate content in creative, engaging, and thought-provoking ways that are enjoyable to readers while still driving brand awareness and loyalty.

Take our WeAreBrain blog for example: we release regular blog content aimed at providing our audience with the most relevant and informative content relating to all things technology. From deep dives into complex tech topics such as AI, blockchains, and the Metaverse to top tips on how to start a business (and everything in between). we hope to educate and inspire them to make their mark in the tech world, and if we can assist in some way by creating bespoke digital solutions, then our work is done.

  1. Social media

With nearly 60% of the world’s population using social media (4.62 billion), social media is the most effective channel for brands to reach their audiences. Social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok allow brands to leverage multiple types of media content (videos, music, messaging, photos, live streams, etc.) to engage with current and potential customers.

The instant, always-on, and pervasive nature of social media makes it the most powerful means for brands to create and share their branded, targeted content to captive audiences. Social media also allows brands to show off their personality in ways like never before, many times directly with their followers 

  1. Podcasts

There are currently over 424.2 million active podcast listeners globally, making it one of the most popular emerging channels for brands to reach audiences. Many brands and media outlets have begun creating their own podcasts to create and spread content that aims to add value to listeners while also serving the purpose of brand marketing.

Podcasts are a great way for brands to share relevant content in long-form and in an often casual style. Opinions can be expressed easily in a conversational manner that allows for a deeper penetration into content aimed at providing value to audiences. 

  1. Videos 

These days, people watch more than they read. A powerful video with quick editing and exciting music can grab viewers’ attention quicker and can cram more information than a static image with a slogan. Nearly 70% of consumers prefer to learn about a product or business through video. 

Although video content production can be costly in some cases, the benefit is that videos can be shared across platforms, widening the net for audience engagement. Branded video content will always be a surefire way to drive engagement, loyalty, and sales for businesses, especially in the digital age and the emerging metaverse era.

Evolve your content marketing

For brands wanting to further their impact in their market, it is a good idea to bolster your content marketing initiatives with quality content that focuses on niche topics. The aim is to turn your content marketing into knowledge marketing. What do we mean by this?

Thought leadership is a powerful way for brands to create and share content that sets them apart from the competition. By focusing on a relevant business topic, brands can become subject matter experts and thought leaders, making them an authority on a particular subject. When you become an authoritative voice on a topic, people intrinsically trust you and will engage with your content more seriously.

The primary aim of content marketing is to provide relevant and engaging information to audiences that adds value to their lives to drive brand awareness, loyalty, and sales. Brands can deliver on this more meaningfully when they become authoritative thought leaders on particular topics that are relevant to their audience as it allows brands to deep-dive into topics.

The future of content marketing

We see that more brands will aim to become thought leaders on niche topics as a new form of deeper engaging content marketing. As our business landscape develops into the future, we will no doubt see more pervasive content marketing approaches being adopted to reach broader audiences. 

As our digital world evolves, so will our approaches to reaching audiences. The Web3 and metaverse era will usher in new and exciting opportunities for brands to create and share their content.

In just over 100 years, our marketing opportunities have progressed from print to binary. The mind boggles at what ways and means we will be able to deliver content marketing to audiences in the next 100 years.

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Last modified: May 23, 2022
Author info
Paula Ferrai
Paula leads our Marketing & Communications team. Her career started 20 years ago in advertising, and she’s since picked up a wealth of experience both in the corporate and agency worlds. She loves scuba-diving and dreams of swimming with dolphins again.
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