What Is Content Marketing? An Example Makes It Clear.
Content Marketing is a topic we at And Update My Website frequently speak about, and it’s easy to think of it as a new kind of marketing, or at least one that’s just a few years old. But we know that it’s actually a tried-and-true method of connecting with customers that’s been around for a very long time. We’re always on the lookout for another content marketing example that still resonates — and today we have a delightful one to share.
A number of sources have pointed to a good example, dating from the turn of the century — The Furrow, a magazine launched in 1895 by John Deere, now a world-wide publication and still going strong. As Joe Pulizzi, an well-known internet marketer and champion of Content Marketing puts it, “Deere leveraged The Furrow, not to sell John Deere equipment directly (like a catalog would do) but, instead, to educate farmers on new technology and how they use it to become more successful business owners and farmers.” This example shows that there are long-standing champions of this non-interruptive way to grab the attention and win the hearts of an audience.
And there’s more. Recently, I listened to an episode of “This Old Marketing,” an audio podcast published by the Content Marketing Institute. The hosts offered an example of Content Marketing from the 1860s!
Shortly after the Civil War, a weary, saddened nation was eager for anything that would bring people together in a positive way. This was the era when baseball first became a professional sport. A New York City sporting goods retailer, Peck and Snyder, sought to capitalize on this emerging trend, by embracing an ongoing marketing activity that would connect their young company (formed in 1866) with the equally youthful business of professional baseball.
In 1869, Peck and Snyder published what is considered by many collectors to be the first baseball card, which featured the Red Stockings of Cincinnati. One side of the card featured a photo of the team, while the reverse contained marketing information about sporting goods.
The Peck and Snyder cards were soon copied by many other manufacturers, including the chewing gum company, Topps, which eventually became synonymous with these cards.
The tactic worked well for Peck and Snyder, which prospered and was eventually sold, some 30 years later, to the Chicago company, A.G. Spaulding, a name that continues to be connected closely to professional sports.
I find this example to be wonderful because it reveals what we now often think of as a complex, technology-entwined concept — Content Marketing — to be a very simple and tangible approach. Here’s a summary of why this “old-fashioned” example is relevant to companies today:
- It was an investment made with no immediate expectation of ROI.
- It was publishing done by a non-publishing company.
- It was created for customers and potential customers, with the idea of educating the audience, and feeding their already-present interest.
- It was valuable to the recipient — it offered both educational and social value.
- It was free — the expense wasn’t borne by the recipient.
- It didn’t heavily spin the topic, since the card fronts were free of branding.
- It created a tangible item that could be shared and, eventually, traded.
- It connected the company’s brand with a larger cause — in this case, professional baseball.
What other direct parallels do you see in this example? What lessons can companies today take from this early pioneer? Do you have another, ageless content marketing example?