Content Strategy Concepts Through The Years
With all the research out there and trial and error methods that companies are using to reach customers and sell products, concepts and practices of content strategy has changed quite a bit over the past 15 years.
Everyone wants to be an expert and state they have the greatest method to sell products to customers. When you look back at content strategy over the past 100 years, you will notice that strategies and practices changed along with the technologies companies and publications used to reach their customers.
A documentary posted by the Content Marketing Institute on YouTube, titled, “The Story of Content,” gave a thorough breakdown of how content strategy has changed over the years. In the documentary, the guests talk about how content marketing has been around for about 100 years, and how it is handled differentiates a business from its competitors. A big part of content marketing was about persuasion and businesses had to come up with a creative way to describe their product in a clever way. In the early days, companies relied heavily on mass media – magazines, newspapers, general publications – to reach its audience, but when the internet crashed onto the scene, the floodgates were opened and more opportunities to reach audiences became available.
Before the internet, though, companies had to come up with ways to get consumers to buy their products. “A Christmas Story” is one of my favorite movies, especially during the holidays. The movie takes place in 1940, a time when many families did not have televisions in their homes. The main character, Ralphie, listened to “Little Orphan Annie” often, and wanted to be part of the shows secret society. After ordering a decoder widget associated with the secret society, Ralphie listened to the show very carefully and got a code. Once he deciphered the code, he found out it was a commercial for Ovaltine. This is an example of how companies reached out to listeners during radio.
Proctor and Gamble used radio to promote products during soap operas, and when televisions started popping up in homes, the consumer goods company began placing their products in the shows, created story lines surrounding the products, and began relating to stay-at-home mothers, making them want to use the products. Product placement in televisions continued for years, then the internet happened. The internet was the wild wild west and forced companies to find innovative ways to reach customers.
The documentary talked about Blend Tec, a blender company, and how it started blending things like iPhones and marbles in YouTube videos. The videos gained buzz because people all around the world could see how powerful the blenders were. This, in turn, created a trust between the company and the consumer, which translated into sales. Smoothie companies began ordering the blenders and consumers started going directly to Blend Tec. The other thing the YouTube videos did was differentiate Blend Tec from other blender companies.
Content strategists started using YouTube to create buzz and show the world what they can do. Sometimes, the videos would not even have anything to do with the product. For example, Red Bull started sponsoring actions sports athletes and creating videos of the athletes doing stunts. The Red Bull logo would appear in the video, but the videos really had nothing to do with the drink itself. Still, people saw something they could, or wanted to relate to, and buzz was created about the company.
The documentary also went into how a pool company used blogs and a website to create trust between the company and clients – blogs were just another platform to create content. In the case of the pool company, the blogs were primarily based on questions posed by customers.
Rachel Lovinger wrote an article for BoxesandArrows.com titled, “Content Strategy: The Philosophy of Data,” in 2007. In the article, Lovinger said, “The main goal of content strategy is to use words and data to create unambiguous content that supports meaningful, interactive experiences. We have to be experts in all aspects of communication to do this effectively.”
Although the article was from 2007, Lovinger hit on something that is key to most content strategies: using words and data to create content that supports meaningful, interactive experiences. Companies should be focusing on making a connection with their customers if they want to succeed in a digital age.
Fortunately, since 2007, more ways have opened for companies to do this. Social media allows customers to reach clients like never. Everywhere you go, people are looking at their phones, whether surfing the net, scrolling through social media, playing games, or watching videos – just to name a few activities. In each of those scenarios, algorithms can see cookie data from devices to customize what types of advertisements or content appears from companies in the feeds or popup spots. The customization allows these companies a new way to make a connection with the customers.
Have the practices and concepts changed over the past 15 years? It depends. The concepts have begun to curb more toward customer connections – more so than ever—and the practices have changed as new technologies continue to become available.
Content strategists have never really been able to utilize everything available to them, whether it was company owners holding them back or the lack of knowledge of how to break through using new technology. But fortunately, as mentioned before, the internet opened the gates of possibility, and people are out there sharing information and building connections. So, whether you are the first person to come up with a concept or are a little late to the game, the internet has a wealth of content available.
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Content Marketing Institute. (2015) story of content – YouTube. Retrieved January 30, 2021, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnpr3pkFlk
Lovinger R. (2007) Content Strategy: The Philosophy of Data – Boxes and Arrows. Retrieved January 30, 2021, from https://boxesandarrows.com/content-strategy-the-philosophy-of-data/