Why I don’t like or use the term ‘content marketing’ (except when a potential client wants some)

container-shipIt’s true, I’m not a fan of the term “content marketing” and would never* apply that term to the work I do. That said, I really like some people who are evangelizing the use of the term “content marketing” who have honored this blog with a high ranking on a new list of bloggers who write about what they believe the term describes (more on that in a minute).

So since I’m an accidental (but appreciative) “content marketing” blogger, I’d like to use this new authority to explain fully why I don’t like or use the term “content marketing” except when a potential client is using it to describe something they’d like to hire my firm to do. (The same is true for “Web 2.0” or any other term I may accidentally be associated with.)

See, I have a problem with the word content when used to describe what I create. I believe using the word “content” voluntarily to describe what I do insults the talent, skill, creativity and craft that goes into the media my colleagues and I create and manage in collaboration with our clients. I believe the term “content marketing” makes it sound like I’m marketing a service to shovel out some commodity created primarily to fill up space or time. Creating “content” is not what we do. Helping tell brand stories. Adding value to products. Encouraging loyalty or involvement. Educating. Activating. Those are the things the talented individuals at our company do with and for the talented individuals who are our clients. “Generating content” is absolutely the least valuable of all the services we provide. And I say that knowing the “content” we create is consistently judged to be among the best “content” created by people at companies like ours.

Longtime readers of this blog know my go-to muse on the topic of the term “content” is the philosopher Doc Searls who summarizes everything I believe when he says (and I’m leaving it precisely in his vernacular), “Stop calling everything ‘content.’ It’s a bullshit word that the dot-commers started using back in the ’90s as a wrapper for everything that could be digitized and put online. It’s handy, but it masks and insults the true nature of writing, journalism, photography, and the rest of what we still, blessedly (if adjectivally) call ‘editorial.’ Your job is journalism, not container cargo.”

End of rant.

I need to be very clear: I have nothing personal against my friends and industry colleagues who want to use the term “content marketing” to describe a business category. I don’t use the term — but I’m not leading any faction that’s “anti-” anything. I’m for whatever anyone can do to let marketers know there are companies out there who can help them create and manage media used in building brands and creating communities. And I’m honored that my weblog is ranked #13 on the new Junta 42 Top Content Marketing Blogs. And I’m (big surprise here) enough of a self-promoter to encourage people to go there and “vote” (hitch) this blog up the list. And I’m also enough of a search-engine geek to know that if the marketplace wants to call the business I’m in “content marketing,” then I’m not going to try to hide from the term when potential clients are searching for it. So, “content marketing” searchers, head right over to Hammock.com if you’re looking for a company that can help you solve any editorial or graphic design or video or online content marketing needs you may have. Anything not involving container cargo ship content, in other words.

Oh, and another thing: if you haven’t fallen asleep yet, you must actually be interested in “content marketing” (or custom media, customer media, custom publishing, customer media, conversational media, conversation marketing, etc.) so let me also point you to a new weblog on Hammock.com called Custom Media Craft. It’s tightly focused on the “crafts” used in our development and management of brand story telling. Oh, wait. Another term for another post.

*(Updated on 12.04.2009) After a couple of years, I’ve given up on this battle. Hammock is a content marketing company for all of the reasons I’ve explained here. I don’t care what you call us, just call us.

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