Content marketing is dead – killed by content

Content killed content marketingHave you read the posts lately about the death of social media marketing? I could link to them but I’ll save you the pain. Search. They all have a different angle. Indeed, while some are still proclaiming email marketing is dead, others already say social media marketing is dead. Well, content marketing is dead too.

Do you know what killed social media? Experts who’ve put it in silos, fanatics of the shiny new object syndrome and businesses having used social media the wrong way and now saying it doesn’t work. For the latter the cause often lies in the consequence: they have no clue why and how they wanted it to work to begin with.

SEO is dead as well. And email. Gone, over. But there’s always something new. Content marketing is the new search. It’s also the new PR. In fact, all marketing is content marketing. Seth Godin said so. You know. What really killed social media is all the talk about it. And about the channels. Just like all the talk about content marketing and – again – channels.

Of course social isn’t dead in reality. It just became part of what smart brands do. While for others it’s still brand new. Amazing, isn’t it? That’s what you get with umbrella terms such as content marketing.

Today I declare content marketing dead as well. I had it. I’m fed up with seeing the term content marketing appear in virtually all news aggregators I use. Content about content. And most of all I’m fed up with the fact that it’s being used in so many contexts that it becomes so unbelievably confusing and boring. Content marketing has become a hollow term, it’s gone viral and where it – maybe – belongs: in the hands of everyone feeling the urge to use it. It’s a free world.

Content marketing has become meaningless

Everyone is doing content marketing. In PR. In marketing. In branding. In search. Blogging. Publishing. Putting white papers online. Video production. Translation. Copywriting. Making presentations. Putting charts online. Translating. Or 5-second videos. Uploading pictures of the plants in the office. Putting up an infographic and adding 3 words to it. In anything, really. And from all possible perspectives. Even in advertising and email. Oh, no, email was dead, sorry. The term content marketing is so popular that it lost all meaning, despite efforts to put it back in a more “integrated” – or better: connected – marketing perspective, revolving around the customer experience. And a customer-centric one.

Forget content marketing, it’s a hollow term. It’s really gone viral and the further it goes, the more meaningless it becomes. In a few years it will be declared dead anyway and just be called something else. Marketing, for instance. Content, marketing and customer experiences. That’s very alive. Hence the name of this site by the way.

I – and all of us – keep making the mistake of using jargon and broad terms to describe evolutions instead of focusing on what matters and the language real people speak. Your customer couldn’t care about the term content marketing, except if he got a coupon for using it.

Know what? Become a content marketing expert. For less than a dollar per day, really. And go to content marketing conferences or buy books. I guess you still have a few years until the content marketing cash cow is fully milked. And then it will really be dead. Killed by “content on content marketing” and never-ending debates.

Back to marketing. Fun, effective, jargon-free, using content, focusing on the connected and integrated customer experience, social and non-political. I’ll do my best. The jargon-free part will be the hardest. And avoiding the term content marketing when I’m talking about using content for marketing. And you know what? Marketing alone doesn’t even cut it anymore. Nor does social business. More than ever you will need to have an overal digital business perspective to thrive and survive.

Don’t blame anyone if your ‘content marketing’ fails because you ignored to define “what works”. Like those businesses saying social media marketing doesn’t work because they listened to all the talk and boring noise.

So, now that content marketing is dead, can we start doing content marketing as in using content in a continuous, consistent, smart, strategic and valuable way where and why it matters and leave the debates about content marketing to…content marketers (because no one else really cares about those ‘umbrella’-related different views anyway)?

Join us on June 10th in Antwerp, Belgium, for the Content Marketing Conference Europe. With confirmed speakers such as Jay Baer, Lee Odden, Mike Corak, Kelly Hungerford, Dado Van Peteghem, Tristan Lavender, Guido Everaert, Tom De Baere and Xaviera Ringeling (more to be announced), we'll take you across a learning experience leading to tangible insights and actionable inspiration, moderated by media expert Jo Caudron!

Content Marketing Conference


  1. says

    On the one hand, I am amazed that I still need to explain content marketing to some seasoned marketers; on the other, one long-time client had to back me up a bit in a meeting yesterday – as I was suggesting she insert the term “content marketing” into a management presentation as a forecast of what was to come – to remind me “Chuck, that’s what we’ve been doing for YEARS.”

    I think a more fundamental shift is still available to marketers… while successful social and content marketing depend on having something useful to share, most marketers, I believe, still see helpfulness as an add-on tactic rather than a central mindset, preferring a quick sale to longer-term relationship building. That shift represents is a bigger, more promising field of opportunity,.. and one that jargon is more likely to hinder than help.

  2. says

    Nice rant, J-P. Oops; I’m commenting. There I go again doing ‘content marketing’ :). Really: a helpful rant indeed! And pretty gutsy of you, since you (like me) have “content marketing” as the name of your site! I wonder which term we’ll over-do next??? Outbound? Native?

    Keep it up, J-P!

    • says

      I don’t even know if it’s a rant, Ron. It’s the dissapointed voice of someone who really believes that the difference can be made today by empowering people to focus on more social forms of marketing and doing business (with social having nothing to do with social media).

  3. says

    I’m amused by how we’re re-inventing advertising.

    One day it is Content.

    Then short-form Content. “It should be really short”

    Then Visual Content.

    Then Video.

    It evolves into a ten or 30 second distillation of what makes you special.

    Isn’t that basically an advert?

    All that has changed is where it goes.

    • says

      As I write in my post ‘Content and media evolutions that scare me’: What you get to read or see is not defined by the ‘objective’ value of it but by the inability of brands, communicators and marketers to let go of the mass mentality, now packaged as content marketing and social media across most tactics. There’s nothing wrong with advertising but we repackage it indeed as we keep resisting change and protecting the status quo or equilibrium we pretend to have abandoned for a more value-driven and people-centric approach. It makes me sad. I fear businesses are not ready to go beyond the funnel either, Peter. That’s why I keep using it, as a model that is. The socially aware organization may be further away than we imagine it to be. I guess that, as people seek more themselves and get the tools to inform themselves better, the need to just add more noise is only getting bigger and many marketing views, techniques and approaches that are more valuable to build collaborative organizational ecosystems, involving more stakeholders, will continue to evolve from their original intent to advertising 2.0 with as a main difference at least at some point in time people recognized advertising when they saw it.

      • says

        You’re 100% right about the inability to let go of the mass mentality.
        Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker) said the end of the 20th century would be seen as the broadcast era – the odd gap when broadcasters could talk to you and you couldn’t talk back.
        But as any tired toddler will show you, talking is easier than listening.

  4. says

    My, my, you are an angry fellow. So, it’s just a term. Content marketing has been around for years, think of the John Deere ‘Furrow’ magazine. It’s just that the modern advertiser has finally cottoned on to the fact that consumers want to be informed, not sold to. For your sake, I’ll try to use the term a little less frequently, but I’ll still be a big fan. ;-)


  1. […] Le premier article critique qui a été adressé il y a quelques mois à notre rédaction était signé par le consultant en marketing bien connu, J-P De Clerck. J-P critiquait le battage médiatique autour du marketing de contenu et déclarait que celui-ci était désuet, à l’instar du marketing par e-mail, du SEO et de nombreuses autres techniques qui avaient été à la mode ces dernières années avant de mourir de leur belle mort. « J’en ai eu assez de voir apparaître le terme de marketing de contenu dans presque tous les agrégateurs d’actualités que j’utilise », dit J-P. « Du contenu au sujet du contenu. Et ce qui m’a le plus exaspéré, c’est le fait qu’il était utilisé dans tant de contextes différents qu’il en devenait confus et ennuyeux. Le marketing de contenu, c’est devenu un terme creux ». […]

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