Joe Chernov, VP of content marketing at Eloqua, knows of what he speaks. He is an award-winning content marketer in business-to-business marketing, having created with his collaborator JESS3, content such as The Content Grid and The Blog Tree infographics; The Future of Revenue animated video; and The Social Media Playbook and Social Media ProBook e-books.
Joe recently took some time out to answer questions about his field and where he sees it going.
Siobhan Fagan: How would you define content marketing?
Joe Chernov: There are lots of competing definitions of content marketing, all of which seem to be chock full o' buzzwords. I define content marketing as what your company produces when it stops looking at the world through its own lens and instead begins to see through the eyes of its audience.
There are two important nuances in this definition. The first is that it makes no mention of media type -- people tend to define content marketing from the bottom -- that is, media type, such as e-books, videos, infographics, etc. -- up. Content marketing isn't about format; it's about a shift in perspective.
Secondly, it makes no mention of "customer" -- content marketing isn't restricted to creating stuff to get customers to buy more of your products. It's about appealing to a far, far wider audience -- a population that surely includes your customers, but isn't limited to them.
SF: How are people doing it right and how are people doing it wrong?
JC: The people that are doing it right are starting from their audience's interests and working backwards to the content itself.
Take Mindjet, a collaboration software company. They are running one of my favorite content marketing programs. They are publishing a series of illustrations that juxtapose two different personas, like "dog people" vs. "cat people," and they are asking their audience to tag on Facebook friends and industry figures who they feel embody the attributes of one persona or the other. They later publish a follow-up illustration with the avatars of those people who are emblematic of one persona or another.
They are receiving a boatload of social media engagement, lots of new people are talking about them, and their EdgeRank is spiking. What's all the more fascinating is that although they never talk about their product, people are experiencing their culture through their content. After all, each graphic comes to life via collaboration. In the end, that's what's most important -- their company is all about collaboration software, and their content is a lighthearted way to experience that culture.
As far as who is doing it wrong, that's not really for me to say. I like what Mindjet is doing because it's original. If you are striving for originality, I'm a fan. If you are deliberately aping what someone else is doing, well ...
SF: How does content marketing reach customers/audiences in ways that other marketing methods do not?
JC: I was talking to a friend this weekend about Facebook. He said, "It's not that I don't click on Facebook ads, it's that I don't even see them." When it comes to "push" marketing, mankind is in a state of accelerated evolution. It's like we've built up some from of biological immunity to ads or content that aims to "jack" our attention. We don't even see them anymore.
Content marketing, if done well, is a way around this issue. It's a way to get people to discover and engage with your brand ... on their own terms. To your earlier question about the definition of content marketing, this is precisely why it's ultimately about a shift in perspective, and less about the content type or distribution channel.
SF: Looking forward, what do you think is the greatest opportunity for content marketing?
JC: If content marketing is about brands becoming publishers, then, provided brands take this charge seriously, we as consumers could be on the verge of some fascinating, immersive experiences with content. After all, brands like Coca-Cola and Google are heavily engaged in content marketing, and given their budgets (relative to publishing company budgets), just imagine what they could create if motivated.
Editor's Note: To read more from July's content marketing focus: