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Content Marketing: A Historical Strategy in the Digital Age

Content marketing is a historical strategy in the digital age.

Haven’t you heard?

There’s a new, smart way to authentically connect with customers in the digital space, and it’s growing in popularity every day. In fact, it might sound a little familiar: It’s called content marketing.

But here’s where the industry buzz is wrong. Content marketing may be “hot,” but it isn’t new.

Actually, if anything, it’s historically proven, and it’s been helping big-name brands build customer trust and loyalty for more than a century.

In the past 100 years, content marketing has taken on many different forms for many different industries, businesses, and brands.

Here are three examples of how this strategy has helped companies thrive — long before the rise of the digital age.

Building Legacies

In 1895, John Deere started publishing a magazine called The Furrow. Farmers — John Deere customers — were its main readers, but the publication didn’t sell the brand’s products. Instead, it educated its audience on agriculture and technology.

And that’s why The Furrow is still popular today: John Deere built a community of successful farmers loyal to its insights and advice, and, by association, its products.

André and Édouard Michelin, the founders of Michelin Tires, began writing “The Michelin Guide” in 1900. This practical, helpful guide “encouraged motorists to travel in the recently introduced automobile” and showed people where to go and how to get there safely and conveniently.

More travel meant more automobiles — and more automobiles meant more tires and more business for Michelin.

In the 1940s, Pan Am (Pan American World Airways) created the very first in-flight magazine, Clipper. The idea was genius: Its customers had a few hours without many distractions. Why not entertain them with branded content?

Pan Am capitalized on this by creating a magazine full of interesting, helpful content about destinations.

Learning from the Past

Why did these three content marketing strategies work?

The reason is intuitive: When you give your audience something beneficial, rather than just a sales pitch, you’re connecting with them on a deeper, more meaningful level.

And when you’re providing insights, advice, and value, you’re demonstrating that you’re informed and attuned to your customers’ needs, meaning they can trust you.

That’s an insight about human nature, not just marketing. And that’s why it’s still valuable today, even in a rapidly evolving digital landscape.

Naturally, with the boom of the digital age, your content marketing executions may have changed, but there a few proven rules that still stand true:

  • Educate. Why are people addicted to social media? Because they love new information. Teach your audience something useful, even if it’s not directly related to your business. (Think like Michelin: Your niche may be about something that interests or influences your customers.)
  • Entertain. People want new information, but they don’t just want the facts. Customers are reporting that “interesting content” is one of the top three reasons they follow brands on social media. Keep your audience entertained, and you’ll keep their attention.
  • Build trust. When you’re providing value for your audience, they trust you. Here’s proof: 78 percent of consumers believe that businesses that create content are interested in building good relationships with their customers.
  • Create a community. When you unite a group of like-minded individuals with helpful content, you have the best brand ambassadors of all.

Content marketing has proven itself to be a smart, meaningful way to connect with customers. And that’s because it doesn’t just build trust; it helps build loyalty that can last for years — even decades.

Find your brand’s voice, and start building your content legacy.

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 Post by Bethany Taff.

About Bethany Taff

I love helping others succeed in both my professional and personal lives. Other areas of my life include house hunting (even though I'm not buying), antiquing and coffee. All three together equals the perfect day.

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