How To

New Vocabulary: Content Marketing

Share this post:

Content Marketing: A Definitionibm_newvocab_CM_sideThe strategic marketing approach of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience, with the objective of driving profitable customer action1.

What it means

Content marketing creates customer value through tailored insights. Those insights are presented in easy-to-access, often interactive and personalized formats that allow brands to move the customer relationship focus beyond the point of sale to that of trusted advisor along each stage of the customer decision journey. By sponsoring thrilling events, such as Felix Baumgartner’s space jump, producing a highly regarded racing magazine, Red Bulletin, and pumping its YouTube channel with heart-pounding sports videos, for example, Red Bull has become the worldwide leader in the energy drink market, earned over four million subscribers on YouTube and a readership of over two million for its magazine2.

Great content can be created, curated or socially driven, experienced through paid, owned and earned channels of distribution, and take a variety of forms. By facilitating knowledge acquisition, for instance, LinkedIn, has become a content marketing powerhouse. Not only does it provide members with a major content marketing platform to air and share their own thought leadership, its original content, such as LinkedIn Today, and major content acquisitions, such as SlideShare and Pulse, have made LinkedIn one of the most valuable brands on the Internet3.

Why it’s important

Content marketing has become far more effective than traditional advertising in engaging audiences and shaping opinion. Survey data from Roper Public Affairs, for instance, found 80 percent of business decision-makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus an advertisement; 70 percent say content marketing makes them feel closer to the sponsoring company, and 60 percent say that company content helps them make better product decisions4.

Influencing customer opinion earlier in the consumer decision-making process has become increasingly important as digital tools and channels intensify the battle for customer mind- and wallet-share. Data shows the early stages of awareness and research often determine whether a brand makes it into a customer’s final shortlist. According to McKinsey, brands in the initial-consideration set can be up to three times more likely to be purchased eventually than brands that aren’t in it5. Or, as the Content Marketing Institute puts it: “If we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty6.”

What will change

Marketers are projected to spend $5.7 billion on native advertising — a form of content marketing that consists of sponsored articles or videos on a web site that feel like editorial content — over the next 12 months. That number is expected to reach $8.8 billion by 20187. A survey by Contently shows heavyweight global brands are leading the pack. In an interview with AdAge, Sam Slaughter, VP of content at Contently, said the average Fortune 500 brand is spending between 26 percent and 50 percent of its marketing budget on content. And IDC reports that CMOs of the world’s largest technology companies say that “Building out content marketing as an organizational competency” is their second most important initiative, only behind measuring return on investment8.

As a result, marketing departments are reshaping their structure and management techniques accordingly. Over half the respondents to the Contently survey (57 percent) have dedicated at least two full time staff to content marketing. And 74 percent of marketers believe they can drive 2.5x more ROI, brand lift, or lifetime customer value by installing an expert content team9.


Content marketing allows organizations to present innovative thinking in a way that adds value to the customer experience. Executed across the business and backed with a clearly defined content strategy, buyer personas and metrics, content marketing has the potential to improve customer retention and loyalty, shape brand perception and buying behavior.


1The Content Marketing Institute

2Brands as publishers: Success follows successful content marketing. Entrepreneur. April 27, 2015.

3The Top 100 Global Brands. Millward Brown. 2014.

4Roper Public Affairs (part of GFK America) 2012.

5The consumer decision journey. McKinsey & Company. June 2009.

6What is Content Marketing? Content Marketing Institute.

7Markets Expect Healthy Native Ad Growth. eMarketer. November 2014.

8What is Content Marketing. IDC. November 2014.

9The State of Content Marketing Heading into 2015. Contently. December, 2014.

Senior Writer

More stories

Prediction Machines: To Fight Misconceptions about Artificial Intelligence, Clarity is Key

Cheap, ubiquitous, and incredibly valuable—that’s how the economists behind a new book about AI see the future of prediction, thanks to the technology that helps fill in the blanks. However, misperceptions about what AI is and how it works continue to prevail, even among tech-savvy marketers. In order for AI technology to achieve its full […]

Continue reading

Changing the World, One Website at a Time

Corporate social responsibility is important. Very important. With the ability for widespread internal communications and the advantage of robust organizational structures, corporations are poised to help in a big way. And it seems the timing is right to double down on CSR for two reasons: Consumers want to support brands with charitable missions (see: Toms […]

Continue reading

Thomas Marckx, Co-founder & Solutions Architect, TheLedger

Fireside chat at THINK 2018 with Thomas Marckx, Co-founder & Solutions Architect, TheLedger — moderated by Robert Schwartz, Global Leader of Agency Services, IBM iX. Subscribe to IBM thinkLeaders! Learn more about IBM iX

Continue reading