A great deal of content marketing is a mixture of snake oil storytelling and winning-the-lotto delusions.

Most humans are emotional idiots, and I very much include myself here. Again and again we fall for the same tired old tricks. Humans love stories. Facts are boring. When I was young, my mother used to say: “Don’t tell stories.” In other words, don’t tell lies.

So much content marketing lies to customers and deludes the organizations who buy or produce it.

Buzzsumo is a truly excellent social media search engine that finds out what the most networked content is. When I searched for “content marketing,” the most popular piece was about llamas, dogs and a creative ad legend who “goaded audiences into sampling Lay’s Potato Chips" (“Bet you can’t eat just one”). So, now we know how the obesity epidemic started.

Other highly popular content marketing articles include:

  • Confessions of a Google Spammer
  • Crowdsourcing for Content Marketing
  • McDonald's Launches the Big Mac Lifestyle Collection for Fans of Beefy, Cheesy Everything
  • Ad of the Day: Geico Makes Clever Preroll Ads That Are Basically Unskippable
  • Why SEO Is Actually All About Content Marketing

The language of content marketing is hyper, addictive, viral, traffic maximizing, etc. Visual content is magical. No, no, it’s video, you must have video. You must be on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook! Every channel is magical, every format is a must-have. But more than anything else, you must produce, produce, produce. Because if you don’t produce endless content Google won’t love you and Facebook won’t love you and you’ll be ruined, just ruined. When content marketers go to sleep they dream of sheep going viral.

It’s all delusional. The viral video is as rare as Bigfoot. You’d be better off playing the Lotto. In fact, much content marketing is a very expensive way to play the Lotto, with ever smaller odds of winning. Not just that, content marketing erodes long term value. Content marketing is like a croissant. It goes stale very quickly. And the more you produce the more stale your website becomes. Instead of customers who want to buy your product finding your product page, they become much more likely to find some three-year old irrelevant piece of content marketing. In content marketing, there’s nobody around to take out the trash, so your website becomes a toxic dumping ground pretty quickly.

Every couple of years, your organization realizes what a mess they’ve made and a redesign is called for. Redesign is rehab for content marketing. Call in the agencies. Let’s put some fresh lipstick on the pig. And while you’re at it can we tie a nice bow around its neck? One with a QR code on it? Or something that’s the latest fad, whatever it is.

So, what’s the answer? Be useful. Answer questions that customers truly want answered but traditional marketers hate to answer, such as: total cost, who your competitors are, product weaknesses, how to install, etc. Have a much smaller website but constantly test it with your customers, evolving and refining it based on evidence of what customers do.

You win attention today by paying attention to your current customers, not by constantly trying to grab the attention of potential ones.