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Content Marketing: Advertising? Storytelling? Or Both?

According to a recent study from Nielsen, 92 percent of consumers worldwide say they trust "earned media", such as friend and family recommendations and word-of-mouth, more than any other form of advertising. While this likely isn't a jaw dropping statistic for anyone, it does emphasize the importance of switching to content marketing from traditional advertising.

Consumers prefer garnering information about new products and services from peers before traditional marketing materials. And as such, brands seeking to thrive must move from becoming a marketing machine into a peer-like entity that tells stories and shares experiences. Which is exactly what content marketing aims to do.

Great content marketing roots itself in brand storytelling to generate authenticity and create stronger and more lasting customer engagement. How does this differ from traditional advertising? Here are a few key characteristic comparisons between content marketing and traditional advertising:

Creating a pull.

Traditional advertising tools, such as television commercials and radio ads, aim to strategically side-capture consumer attention while they are already engaged with the defined media. In contrast, content marketing aims to be something consumers seek out. It draws on providing valuable information, through resources such as company blogs and social media outlets, that engages the whole of a consumer's attention.


Traditional advertising, due to its natural brevity as a short newspaper ad or quick radio clip, must focus directly on the brand to promote a product or service. Content marketing takes a more holistic take to provide desirable information throughout the consumer's buying process. This type of marketing puts consumers first by delivering information not just about the brand itself, but also about brand-relevant and tertiary information designed to improve consumers' lives. Even if it isn't directly related to selling the product or service at hand.

Owned media.

Content marketing is owned and primarily distributed through brand-managed channels such as company blogs, social networks, custom magazines, white papers, newsletters, and more. These channels frequently include share and other social media buttons that allow the consumers themselves to further promote and advertise the brand. In contrast, traditional advertising is more inflexible as it uses paid placement spots in magazines and on radio to get brand information out.

Telling stories.

Traditional advertising is great for making a quick impression. It seeks to wow an audience with a quirky visual and catchy tagline. However, traditional advertising often fails at developing a more meaningful impression. And this is exactly where content marketing thrives.

Content marketing at its best tells an in-depth, engaging story. The consumer audience spends time searching out company blogs to dig into custom content and digest meaningful and relevant information. Content marketers must be a mix of journalist and storyteller - capable of crafting a narrative and providing accurate, thought-provoking ideas and timely information to better help their consumer audience navigate their world.

Long-term relationships.

Again, traditional advertising was specifically designed to capture an audience's immediate intention, make a hard impact, and drive consumers to make an instinctive purchasing decision. Content marketing isn't about quick and easy. This is your long-term relationship marketing. Great content marketers separate their content into different lifecycle stages, tailored to meet consumer needs before, during, and even well after their purchasing decision has been made. This means building a brand and platform that is seen as a valuable information resource as well as a desirable product or service.

The landscape is rapidly changing for marketers. While there will always be a place for traditional advertising, content marketing is quickly becoming the top choice for many companies when it comes to deciding where to put their advertising resources. In order to stay ahead of the competition, businesses will have to devote greater amounts of time to creating valuable information in order to do more than capture the quick attention of the passing consumer, but to also keep that same consumer engaged and seeking the business itself out. In short, this is the era of content marketing--and it works.

To learn more, check out our white paper, "What is Content Marketing? And Why It's So Important."

Topics: content marketing - content marketing tips - storytelling

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