Content Marketing - History and Evolution

Posted in Marketing & Strategy Articles, Total Reads: 4155 , Published on 17 November 2013

Viral marketing, Digital marketing and Inbound marketing. Have you ever thought what all these have in common? Content.

Content marketing involves creating and sharing of content by a company for free which is useful to the consumers in order to acquire them to use the company’s product or service. Content marketing has become a buzz word and businesses are trying hard to leverage content to create awareness about their brands. This content would help attract prospects and convert them into customers and possibly evangelists in the future. Usually the content that is distributed by the company pertains to the product or service that the company provides.

This article gives insight into the history and evolution of content marketing with elaborative examples, its importance and how to apply content marketing in this era where products are hard sold to customers and advertisements have become intrusive and sometimes filled with useless information.


Through Magazines:

Content creation traces its roots to The Furrow – an agricultural magazine published by the agricultural equipment manufacturer John Deere in the year 1895. It is now available in 40 countries and 12 different languages. The magazine had details about seasons, information on tools and techniques for farmers. The magazine is still published and available in an iPad app now.

Through Advertisements:

Advertisements are a good way to distribute content thus making the viewer think that the company is an expert in its field and hence would tend to prefer to use the company’s product or service in comparison to its competitors. The content can be in the form of facts, snippets of information for a large base of B2C consumers or in the form of white papers, market studies for B2B customers.

Example: Schneider gives links to white papers and case studies in each of its advertisements. These ads have a link to download the content online along with a passcode to access it. This also drives the traffic to their website. So, even if the customer is not interested in that particular product or service, he tends to get to know what other products or services are being offered by the company.

Alongside Products/Services:

Content pertaining to the product is extremely useful to the customer to use it if distributed along with the product when the user buys it.

Example: Hawkins and Prestige distribute free cookbooks of recipes along with pressure cookers and Tawas. Prestige has included links to other cookbooks available online in its website. It has created a SmartChef community and has listed culinary experts to answer user queries on proper usage and cooking methods. People can consume and also create content online. It has a leaderboard for people creating good content and features their recipes along with their photo in the next series of cookbooks that it distributes.


Through Online Channels:

Publishing content through online channels help a wider reach and in organic reach of the brand. Internet users tend to trust organic search results compared to advertisements. With proper content, visitors and SEO, the brand is able to get featured in results in an organic way, thus gaining more trust. Moreover, it is actually featured to the user who is interested in the product or service. This helps brands engage customers from scratch.

Research by Content Marketing Institute shows that 93% of buying cycles start with online research. Thus by creating content, the user actually starts a relationship with brand even before purchase and develop trust assuming that the product or service is a market or technology leader in its area of offering. And the best part of it is that it is a low cost method of marketing. A lot of startups and copywriters have sprung up in developing countries like India, Philippines and Pakistan offering content creation to companies globally.

Example: Fevicol publishes Furniture Concepts magazine every month in both online and hardcopy format. It gives furniture and design ideas to carpenters, consumers and interior designers. They form a bond with users emotionally by getting them to think. Fevicol has also launched FevicolDesignIdeas website which features themes and furniture ideas. This content is created by both individual users and experts and the best designs are included in the next magazine.


Content marketing dates back to 4200 BC, where cavemen used to paint on the walls of caves about themselves. This is custom publishing in other words. Some companies have created user created blogs and forums which are curated by the brands to allow interaction and share tips on proper usage of the product.

Example: Burberry, the UK clothing brand, lacked online presence. Hence, it created a website where people can post pictures wearing Burberry. It was featured in the homepage of the website along with links to social media to enable sharing. This enabled creation of content and methods and styles of wearing Burberry clothes with these as live examples. Thus, content has been democratized this way.

A flip side of democratization of content is that the companies are no longer owners of the brands. With the control of the content lying with the consumers, they are free to express their views, opinions and both the good and bad experiences with the brand.

Example: McDonald’s created a user created twitter hashtag #McDStories to let people share their experiences over the social network. But customers and employees used the opportunity to also convey their bad experiences and their opinion of the foods served. Some even added the hashtag #McDHorrorStories which went viral. Though McDonald’s pulled off the campaign in two hours, it had already done considerable damage. And it still continues to do so on twitter.


To have an impactful content marketing,

• The content should not sound like that company is trying to sell the product or the service

• It has to be created often

• Must have consistent messages in each publication

• Quality should not be compromised for quantity

A marketer should view Content marketing as a marathon and not as a sprint.

For marketers, content marketing has thus become an important tool to acquire a cutting edge advantage over the competitors. It takes time and persistence to acquire loyal customers and brand evangelists. But once this is established, the brand will be able to capitalize on all future interactions with the customers. Perhaps it is time to add two more Ps to the present era marketing – Patience and Persistence.

This article has been authored by Mano Ranjan & Mitesh Menda from NMIMS Mumbai



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