Would you pay to consume content created by brands? Most wouldn’t. That’s the content marketing acid test. Read why content marketing should always be useful to its target audience.

Content is still king but community is its kingdom. John Deere’s ‘the Furrow’, and the Michelin guides worked a century ago as content marketing examples because they enhanced their readers’ lives. They didn’t satisfy themselves with just flogging tractors and tyres.

Today too many communicators use content marketing to shift product rather than to answer questions, solve problems, or build relationships with their publics.

And, this approach isn’t working. Some 60% of the content created by the world’s leading 1,500 brands is “just clutter” that has little impact on consumers’ lives or business results. So, says a report by media agency Havas.


The content marketing acid test

Before pressing publish on any content all content marketers should first ask: Who is this for? Will they find it useful. This is the content marketing acid test.

This year 375,000 people across 33 countries were interviewed for the annual Meaningful Brands study. The agency defines ‘meaningful brands’ as those that have an impact on consumers’ personal, collective and functional benefits.

It found that 84% expect brands to produce content. This can range from digital content such as podcasts or a web series to experiential events. Yet 60% said the content brands currently create is “poor, irrelevant or fails to deliver”.


content marketing acid test from selling to helping
Only two letters separate the words ‘selling’ from ‘helping’ but these letters represent the mental shift brands need to make when creating content which passes the acid test for their audiences


Instead, content marketing should be useful. Jay Baer defines Youtility in his book of the same name as marketing so useful people would pay for it. This is content’s acid test.

Today communicators should be building a community around a purpose greater than the product they’re trying to sell. Answering readers’ questions and solving their problems.

That means listening, responding and building a culture of being helpful and useful.  

There are big financial gains to be grabbed by brands who get this right. According to the study, meaningful brands:

  • outperform the stock market by 206%
  • see a 48% increase in share-of-wallet
  • earn 137% greater returns on KPIs

Maria Garrido, Havas Media Group’s global chief insights and analytics officer, says that at successes’ core lies being able to deliver personal benefits. She told Marketing Week:

“The core brands such as Google and Ikea that are perennially in our ranking are doing better. There are certain brands in the global ranking now that weren’t last time so there is a shift from that standpoint but generally, the gap is getting wider. And it comes down to personal benefits delivery. That is what drives business results. This should serve as a wake-up call”.

Marketers shouldn’t be churning out content solely to keep up with their editorial calendars producing words and images destined for the content landfill – adding to what Mark Schaefer calls Content Shock.

The root question marketers should ask themselves before producing anything is: how will this piece of content positively affect the people it’s aimed at? What’s its purpose, is it to help, educate, inform or is it even to inspire?  

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Scott Guthrie is a professional adviser within the influencer marketing industry. He is an event speaker, university guest lecturer, media commentator on influencer marketing and active blogger. He works with brands, agencies and platforms to achieve meaningful results from influencer marketing. That tells you something about him but it's not giving you a lot of detail, is it? So, read more here.

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    1. Morning Dave, thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Yup, be useful, authoritative and help solve prospects and existing customers’ problems. As consumers we can all smell overt marketing B/S a mile away — and we don’t like the whiff!

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