Content Marketing isn’t new. It’s actually more than 300 years old.
When people think of content marketing examples, blog posts, videos and infographics are typically the first things that come to their mind.
What many don’t realise however, is the fact that content marketing was being practiced long before the internet ever came into being.
There are several examples of pre-internet brands creating and distributing useful content in order to increase their brand and/or product exposure.
In this article, I’m going to challenge the assumption that content marketing is a modern invention and briefly run through some of those content marketing examples.
The Michelin Guide [1900 – Today]
A brand that embraced content marketing is Michelin, who created The Michelin Guide in the early 1900s.
This guide contained over 400 pages of attractions, accommodations and restaurants throughout the UK and was designed to encourage drivers to drive further than they usually would.
Driving further would of course result in wearing out tyres at a faster rate, benefitting the Michelin company on two fronts; increasing the loyalty of their existing customers and increasing the number of tyres the average customer went through, therefore increasing overall sales.
The Jell-O Recipe Book [1904 – Today]
In 1904, Jell-O wasn’t the well loved household brand that it is today. In fact, in the early 1900’s, the CEO of Jell-O was having such a hard time making a profit from his product that he considered selling the brand for as little as $35.
A product that people don’t know how to use will never sell and one of the biggest problems for Jell-O was that consumers simply did not know what to do with the product.
Customers where so baffled by the strange cubes of gelatin that they simply ended up ignoring the product when they came across it in stores.
In order to educate consumers on how to use Jell-O products, the company launched a free recipe book. The book contained recipes in which Jell-O was listed as one of the main ingredients.
This recipe book was certainly a success as by 1906, the Jell-O company reported sales figures of over a million dollars.
The free Jell-O recipe books took this obscure wobbly dessert from an unknown packet of strange animal parts, to a well known staple of the American kitchen that went on to dominate early 20th century home cooking.
Today, Jell-O is still a well-loved brand with consistent earnings during the last 100 years. In modern times, the Jell-O company has taken to social media and boasts over a million followers.
Not bad at all for a company that nearly sold for $35.
Content Pioneer: Benjamin Franklin [1732 – 1758]
If we look as far back as 1732, we can see one of the earliest examples of Content Marketing by the Famous US Inventor and Historical Figure Benjamin Franklin.
Franklin was the owner of a printing press at a time when literacy rates in the US only sat at around 50-60% of the population.
This was a problem for Franklin because fewer literate people also meant fewer book sales.
To solve this problem, Franklin decided that he would create a mass-market publication that focused directly on topical issues of the time.
The goal in Franklin’s eyes was to create something that was ‘both entertaining and useful, in order to cause the Almanac to come into large demand’.
And indeed the Almanac did come into large demand. So much so in fact that Napoleon famously ordered thousands of copies to be distributed across French and Italian colonies.
Over time as the circulation of Franklin’s publication increased, the Almanac’s influence on it’s recurring audience grew substantially.
This opened opportunities for paid advertisements and editorials to be included in the publication, which is a very similar business model to the advertorials and sponsored articles seen regularly in today’s media.
Time Tested Lessons of Content Marketing
If no one knows how to use your product, they won’t buy it.
As seen in the Jell-O example, if no one knows what your product is or how to use it, they simply won’t purchase it.
This underlines the importance of educational content. If you suspect that your target audience aren’t certain of what your product/service is for, do everything you can to educate them.
Successful content marketing is relevant, valuable and entertaining. It works towards solving customer problems.
Good content marketing distributes itself. If somebody reads your article or watches your video and they like it, it’s likely that they’ll share it with somebody else.
All of the examples listed in this article focussed on creating useful and relevant content instead of simply trying to sell to the customer like a typical advertisement would.
Great content can take any form.
Whilst the examples mentioned above were all based on print, don’t be deceived into thinking that this is the only place in which content marketing can exist.
Several companies such as Blendtec utilise video as part of their content marketing strategy and have increased their sales by over 700%.
We, Trendjackers, have done much of our content marketing via blog posts and now generate two thousand organic website visits a month because of that.
The correct utilisation of content marketing, at the right time and in the right place, might just revolutionise your business.
In today’s world, the idea of a food brand publishing a recipe book doesn’t seem to be all that innovative, but in the world of 1904 America, Jell-O was about to execute one of the greatest marketing strategies in the company’s history.
It goes to show that the best marketing moves are rarely the obvious ones.
Rumour has it that if you listen carefully, you can still hear the dissenters from the Jell-O management team howl ‘we’re a food brand, not a book publisher’.
Also published on Medium.