The first and most obvious difference between content marketing and traditional marketing is the means of distribution.
Traditional marketing use the following mediums to get their message out:
- TV and radio commercials
- Newspaper and magazine ads
- Banner ads
- Direct mail advertisements, brochures, fliers
- Billboards and signs
Content marketing uses entirely different distribution channels. According to Content Marketing Institute, social media is the most popular way to publish content, with 92 % of marketers using this tactic. Other popular distribution methods include:
- Email newsletters
- Website articles
- Blog posts—either your own blog or guest posts
- Videos, webinars, and podcasts
- White papers and ebooks
Both marketing tactics come with their share of advantages and disadvantages.
For instance, traditional marketing tactics—particularly TV and radio space—give you access to extremely vast audiences. On the other hand, the typical cost of a 30-second TV commercial ranges from $397,898 for a spot on “Monday Night Football” and $158,411 for “Grey’s Anatomy.”
In contrast, content marketing costs 62 % less than traditional venues making it an extremely viable option for small businesses. But it’s also much harder to draw attention to something like a YouTube video than a TV commercial.
Tell Vs. Give
Traditional marketing is about telling the audience about your product or service, why they need it, and how to get it. Businesses who use this method seek out the demographic audience in an attempt to persuade them to make a purchase and provide little or no value in return.
Content marketing takes a completely different approach. Rather than placing your offerings before the consumer, you’re publishing material that your target demographic finds useful or interesting. Maybe it’s a funny video, a how-to guide or an inspiring case study that relates to your particular product. With this approach, you’re creating a situation in which you give the audience something of value—and if you’ve done your job, they will come back to you when they need your product or service.
The Red Bull Stratos Jump is a great example of Red Bull building brand awareness with an exciting event rather than directly marketing their beverage. And they wound up with an impressive ROI: during the lead up to this event, Red Bull’s YouTube channel gained 87,801 subscribers, their Facebook page got over 83,000 shares, and in the following six months sales rose 7 percent (to $1.6 billion).
Dialogue Vs. Monologue
Traditional marketing tends to be one-sided. You send out fliers or run an advertisement on television and people will see it, but there is no way for them to interact with your brand. There is no venue for their questions or comments.
Content marketing is interactive. Thanks to the nature of the Internet, this strategy provides an opportunity to have a dialogue with your customers (or potential customers), rather than merely force them to listen to your monologue. This forum allows the audience research brands and products much more easily before making a purchase.
Generalized Vs. Personalized
Traditional advertisements are meant to be viewed by vast audience. The most-watched TV event in history was the 2015 Super Bowl which drew in an audience of 114.4 million viewers. Because traditional marketing channels feature such large audiences, and because commercials and advertisements are likely to play over a span of several months or even years, they are designed to appeal to as wide an audience as possible.
On the other hand, because content marketing is about earning the reader’s trust, the content needs to be directed towards a smaller, more specific audience so that it speaks to them directly and gives them a reason to engage with it.
For instance, a magazine advertisement for a garden center might feature an image of the large selection of plants, flowers, and seeds that it carries rather than appeal to one specific group of gardeners. It casts as wide a net as possible to make an impression on everyone, from vegetable gardeners to landscapers, from experts to beginners.
A content marketing campaign for the same garden center would look quite different. Perhaps there would be a series of blog posts on the proper care of roses aimed at rose gardeners. For the landscapers, you could publish articles that cover industry news and business tips. Rather than trying to please a broad group with one type of content, a content marketing campaign should provide something of value to several smaller audiences.
Stationary Vs. Shareable
Traditional marketing is meant to establish awareness through self-promotion and because it doesn’t tend to offer anything of value, it’s not easily shareable. You may remark to a friend to keep a look out for a funny TV commercial, but you can’t actually pass it on to her (unless you find it on YouTube, which then crosses the line into content marketing).
WIth content marketing, because you’ve offered the viewer something funny, informative or inspiring, and done so in an interactive forum like social media, it’s a lot easier to share this content. And because people share what makes them look good, the better the content, the more exposure it will get.
So does one marketing tactic automatically preclude you from using the other? Not at all. In fact, many successful companies make use of both traditional and content marketing.
Coca Cola is a prime example of this. This brand has long been known for traditional advertisements that tell a story—everything from jolly St. Nick enjoying a Coke at Christmas to images of smiling families sharing a frosty soda. However, Coca Cola is also aiming to double its sales by 2020 with Content 2020, a content marketing plan that seeks to continue this storytelling tradition in a more interactive way.
Consider the types of marketing channels your company has access to, the budget you have devoted to various marketing campaigns, the audience you need to target, and which type of marketing they are more likely to be receptive to. Then take advantage of the best of both worlds!
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