rsz_kingShortly after Obama’s first inauguration, he must have signed the “Content is King” Act of 2009 which required the use of this phrase at every marketing conference and on every agency blog. I have not been able to find a record of this bill, but given the ubiquity of the ridiculous term, the law is clearly enforced assertively. #ThanksObama!

Content is important. Our era of always-on media and fractured channels makes it vital for brands to develop, manage, coordinate, and disseminate content in smart ways. But is it the king?

I’d like to drive a stake through the heart of this phrase and do my part to ensure no one ever utters it with a straight face. Let’s explore why content is not king and why it is vital we identify what is our brands’ king.

If Organic Content Is King For Brands…

Why is organic reach on Facebook still falling?

Why have the number of posts per brand skyrocketed 800% while the number of shares per blog post has plummeted 89%?

Why has the number of Fortune 500 brands with a blog declined?

Why is the number of B2B marketers who say their organizations are effective at content marketing falling?

Why has the number of consumers who say they have little or no trust in the brand information they see on social networks increased 50% to 150% in two years?

While organic and paid content are subject to different consumer attitudes and actions, the problems brands face with paid media help further illustrate why content is not king. Consumers trust friends, families, and online reviews more than advertisinga quarter will block ads this year; and email clickthrough rates have been dropping for years.

If Content Is Not King, What Is?

The data on organic and paid content suggest that, for the most part, consumers do not trust or welcome marketing communications. What consumers want from brands isn’t great content but great experiences. Content can be part of a great experience, to be sure, but it still starts with the experience.

Consider, for example, that Uber, one of the most visible brand success stories of the past decade, spends “virtually zero dollars on marketing,”  How did you hear about Uber—from brand content or are you one of the 95% of riders who learned of the service from other riders?

Or consider that Apple has no content on its Facebook page and yet enjoys ten times more people “talking about this” (825,066) than popular brands that publish lots of content on Facebook such as Coca-Cola (13,763 people talking about it) and McDonald’s (73,347)? Apple demonstrates a brand with one of the highest NPS scores in the US can deliver social media word of mouth with little content.

Of course, Apple and Uber produce great content, but what came first? The customer experience chicken or the content egg? (Chicken. The answer is the chicken!)

The king isn’t your content but your customer.

Your army is your legion of loyal customers who advocate on your behalf and lift awareness, trust, and interest in your brand.

Your troop recruitment strategy to collect more draftees is customer experience management strategy.

And you arm your brand and its soldiers with a variety of weapons—one of those weapons is content, alongside advertising, PR, sales promotions, event marketing, social media marketing and email marketing.  As in all armies, your strategies do not stand alone but work together—content feeds email and social strategies while, in return, your email and social analytics drive evaluation and adjustments to your content strategy.

Why It Matters What Is King

If content is vital—if marketers must invest in tools to collect, maintain, manage and deploy content in smarter ways—then why does it matter whether we call it king or not? The reason is that pledging allegiance to the wrong master drives the wrong strategies. Marketers need to make an oath of fealty to the real king—the customer.

Knowing your customer better than your competitors, serving their needs entirely and creating more loyal advocates is the road to brand success.  If you achieve that, your content (and every other part of your marketing mix) will only create more success; but if you do not understand your customer, deliver mediocre products or services that fail to excite and earn little loyalty and advocacy, no amount of content will create long-term brand success.

In the era of the empowered and enabled consumer, the throne belongs to brands that deploy compelling content in the service of a strong customer experience that earns interest, loyalty, and WOM. Long live the real and rightful king: The customer. Know and service his or her needs with the right customer experience management strategies, and the keys to the kingdom are yours.

2 Comments
  1. December 5, 2016 at 3:49 pm
    Jim Farina says:

    Yes, customer experience is always #1 for success. But I think you’re confusing a few things. Content is King in terms of Digital and Social Marketing (one of the 3, including Data and Transaction) but too much is used incorrectly such as to entertain vs. sell. Using digital and social to improve the customer experience (app/biz UI, customer service, data insights, etc.) should always be at the forefront, and sometimes is undervalued in the chase for new customers with traditional advertising methods. If you’re not using Content throughout the entire customer experience then you’re not maximizing the potential for your content marketing.

    • December 5, 2016 at 5:33 pm
      Augie Ray says:

      Thanks for the comment, Jim. You and I agree more than we disagree–content is important throughout the journey. Where we probably disagree is that I don’t believe “content marketing” is a thing. Marketing has always been about content–ads were content; press releases were content; and direct-mail offers are content. Nothing that has occurred in the last twenty years (the Internet, social media, messaging, etc.) has changed that content is still a tool, not a strategy, platform or medium. Brands that succeed are the ones that stop trying to think of content marketing as something different and unique in the digital era and instead start thinking about how to gather, manage and disseminate the right content at the right time that meets customer needs. As noted, content is vital–it just isn’t king.

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