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Content Marketing is the New Junk Mail

June 13th , 2012

This may be unpopular.

Everyone seems to be talking about Content Marketing and Inbound Marketing, the central ideas of which seem to be littering the world's servers with potentially useful information (like blog posts) in the hope that the trail of digital breadcrumbs leads people back to the author's widget business.

The rationale of this approach seems to be strongly aligned with a particular view of social media as an opportunity to demonstrate how brilliant we all are without bluntly stating that we're all brilliant. I suppose it's more "media" than "social".

Content Marketing is seen as a move away from the mythical days of advertising which was apparently designed to ram nothing but "buy my stuff" down people's throats (a view of advertising I happen to disagree with). Now we've made it to "I'm clever. Buy my stuff", which may or may not be viewed as progress.

The problem with Content Marketing is exactly the same as the problem with Junk Mail. It has the potential to litter the world with lots and lots of stuff that has no relevance to most people. The easier it gets to produce content the easier it gets to clog up the internet with it.

So, which of the million articles about the basics of using Pinterest should I read? The more there are, the more I'm likely to decide none of them. Which is a shame, because I rather like Pinterest. The daunting task of trawling through everything that's been written is far more time-consuming than working it out for myself.

I always understood good marketing to be about problem-solving. Content Marketing doesn't seem to be about that. Content Marketing seems to be about cracking a nut with a sledgehammer. And now we're all tripping over sledgehammers. Content Marketing seems to go against the person-to-person foundations of the social web. It's another broadcast platform, when we have the tools for something much better.

So, for me the most dangerous thing about Content Marketing is the name, Content Marketing. It makes the whole purpose a constant drive to produce content, when the real purpose of marketing should be to reach out to people, help them, give them things of value, create experiences and, yes, encourage them to buy your stuff. We all need good content but identifying and serving individual needs should be paramount. I think we should invest our efforts in that. What do you think?