A marketing asset or even a series of assets does not a content marketing campaign make. It’s the difference between a series of random musical notes and an extended jam from a well-drilled jam or jazz band: one produces a coherent body of music, the other a whole lot of sound and fury signifying…nothing meaningful or memorable.
Some bands are capable of extended jams that seem to defy gravity — their musicianship and near telepathic interplay enable them to sustain brilliantly structured improvisations that, in lesser hands, collapse under the weight of leaden drum solos and aimless guitar hero pyrotechnics. While it might seem odd to liken a content marketing campaign to the musical stylings of Phish, the Grateful Dead or Miles Davis — legendary improvisers — structured improvisation is a fundamental characteristic common to both.
Content marketing is about developing a dominant theme and improvising variations off the main theme. For instance — let’s say you’re a developer of mHealth (mobile health) applications and your dominant marketing message is “we lower barriers to mental health.” Every piece of content you produce states and restates this theme…but it can also veer off into sub-topics, such as: gaps in care, the importance of CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), the need to fuse technology with human expertise in providing care, how it disrupts service delivery, etc. No matter how far afield you range, as these are all important topics to your company, it all needs to refer back to your dominant theme in order for a distracted marketplace to easily and clearly grasp what you do and what makes you different.
Without disciplined recourse to your main theme, content marketing campaigns tend to haphazardly unfold, sending out a steady stream of mixed messages — all sound and fury, signifying nothing memorable or particularly meaningful.
A white paper, case study, bylined column, or infographic are all potentially very effective marketing assets. But it’s when they are used in a coordinated, systematic and strategic fashion that they become components in a content marketing program where all creative efforts are organized along common themes and routed to an overarching goal. Think of the John Coltrane’s My Favorite Things — a spirited three minute ditty stretched over thirteen inspired minutes of improvised brilliance that takes the beloved main theme into outer space, then back, then into space again before landing softly and melodically back on planet earth.