Content Marketing Is Dead

content{UPDATED] By Brian Thompson from ZenThinking.net and Thorny Bleeder; writer, podcaster, and author of the upcoming book, "Sparks to Awaken."

Content marketing is dead. or perhaps I should say, it makes me feel dead. whether you realize or not, it probably makes you feel quite empty and lifeless too. i’ve grown to have a serious disdain for the word ‘content’, when associated with creative and artistic work. when you add the word ‘marketing’ to the end of it to form 'content marketing', the resulting phrase gives me the serious willies now. i cringe.i know this may seem hypocritical considering all of the marketing advice i've formerly advocated, but i’ve changed. and i hope you will too. 

the content marketing catchphrase stinks of trying too hard. it reeks of over-planning, of researching all the possible metrics and demographics on how to penetrate your market to death, of how to obtain maximum optimization, of how to take advantage of people.

this isn’t art. it feels disingenuous. it sounds heartless and cold. it leaves me feeling as if i’ve been grossly manipulated.

i genuinely feel that when you use the term 'content marketing' to describe what you do, it cheapens your work. it taints your intent, it sours what you create. it attempts to commoditize your efforts, it twists the dynamics, it skewers the context of why you’re creating in the first place, and it heaps copious wads of unwarranted expectations onto it.

when you label your creativity as 'content marketing', it devalues your artistic process and all your work in contributing to whatever culture you’re a part of. it makes it all seem so utterly heartless and devoid of honest emotion.

this isn’t art.

Guitar-Music-Art-lwhat began as simply creating, sharing, and connecting with an audience who had similar tastes, somehow became an economic numbers game. it was reduced to a field where there was only winners and losers. the harbingers of the social media wave once paved their golden road on the promises of creating communities, of extending the reach of our cultural identities, over the borders, across the oceans, and into the homes of those who once had nowhere to belong.

the social networks have instead created nothing more than an evolution in advertising, overrun by a cesspool of clickbait farms, with everyone trying to mimic one another.

creativity became competitive, and our attention became a commodity; attracting the most eyeballs was now the most important thing at stake.

it saddens me to see so many artists, entrepreneurs and brands, who once thought for themselves so vigilantly, now hypnotized by the promise and allure of geeky analytics and creating second-rate trash.

i’m not pointing fingers or absolving myself, i’m as much to blame as anyone else. the artistic focus of the creative digital nomad has unfairly been distracted, now placed onto securing website visits and views, onto garnering click-through rates and conversions, and achieving online rankings and increased sales.

so… what’s the alternative to content marketing then?

create stuff that matters.

the process is much the same, but it’s our approach that i suggest we change. we should strive to be more precise with our language. for crying out loud, don’t think of yourself as a content marketer! the words we use to describe things dramatically affect how we feel about them. so if you set out to create noting more than just ‘content’, then what exactly will you end up with? often, it’ll just be disposable junk.

that’s why i’m removing 'content marketing' from my everyday vernacular. i've tossed it into my bin of derogatory phrases, used only to describe crass self-promotion and those empty, meaningless posts that make my eyes roll and that are devoid of any value.

we need to imbue our work with a sense of worthiness before we send it out and into the world.

before we hit publish we should ask ourselves, does it have soul? or is it just made to generate clicks?

in order to remain true to both ourselves and to our community, our goal should be to simply create what matters, share with those who care, and connect; not to just merely create with the sole purpose of marketing, or to gain attention with targeted, predictable content.

when you create from the heart, you’ll touch it in others.

i don’t want my writings to be thought of as merely content, as disposable trash to distract you, but rather as a piece of my creative self, a hint at my point of view, an opinion and a glimpse into my personal, inner world. isn’t that what audiences want too?

if you parade your creations around under the banner of content marketing, you'll limit your possibility for greatness. you won't care for your finished product as much as if you had considered it on par with the rest of your art.

don't belittle your creative efforts by calling them content marketing. don’t reduce the sparks of your artistry into meaningless rubbish.

make all that you do a masterpiece (or at least try to). take no shortcuts.

i urge you to leave the task of content marketing for all the big brands with swooshes in their logos and who have multimillion dollar viral campaigns. leave it for all the soulless companies who only care about robbing you of your dollar.

content marketing is not a term to embrace for the artist, the artisan, the creative, the eco-entrepreneur, the teacher, the healer, the passionate freelancer or the skilled craftsman; regardless of industry.

content marketing is dead. it was beaten to death by all of the meaningless and over-posted drivel that had no worth. it reduced our artists to expect nothing from their audiences beyond anticipating their algorithmic responses, and to assume their fans have no interest in anything beyond fifteen second, over-edited video clips.

content marketing for artists may be dead, but don’t be discouraged. there’s oodles and oodles of open hearts just waiting for you to connect with, waiting to glimpse a piece of your vulnerability, anxious to see your authenticity and to be graced with your honest and genuine creations. let people into your world. give them a deeper insight into your unique perspective, unfiltered by any marketing expectations you might have.

share a piece of your soul.

your intentions will impact your output, so don’t let your art be blinded by ambition.


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  1. First off, I quite enjoys this post (but I promise not to click any of your ads or affiliates). Far be it for me to argue with someone who has successfully rebelled against capital letters, but I see it a different way. Content Marketing is an opportunity for writers to be valued for the quality of their writing.
    No matter how slick the ‘marketing’ side of content marketing gets, ultimately they are trying to mimic the effect of quality writing. The best, and most economic, way to accomplish this is to write well. Authentic writing with meaning and soul will out perform the mind-sucking, information-rich, “7 whatevers to a better something”
    Is it a conflict of interest of happy accident that artistic and economic metrics have aligned? Even Shakespeare did some of his best work with a gun to head.
    In fact, the quality of your content is such that I’m signing up to your email list – the holy grail of content marketers.

  2. I think you make a lot of good points, Brian. As Sam says above, “authentic writing with meaning and soul will out perform…” I think content marketing at it’s best is art – it provides information and/or entertainment, and sells product along the way. Many consumer brands have successfully embraced that tactic, like Oreo and Red Bull. Quality content provides something useful to the content consumer. It is an attention-getter, a companion product or loss leader, if you will, for the “actual” product. Marketing in it’s most effective form has always been about informing the customer and providing value in the purchase process, not marketing just for the sake of marketing. But marketing is as much an art as music – and often just as subjective! In the case of us musicians, the saleable product is often our music. We shouldn’t be afraid to use content marketing to get attention for the things we sell (music, performance, merch). Definitions of quality content vary widely. One man’s (or woman’s) crappy content is another person’s valuable information. One thing I do not think can be argued: publishing good content (blogs, etc.) without making the link to something saleable (recorded music, live performance, merchandise) is as unsustainable as publishing bad content in order to blatantly push a good product. And publishing badly written content to sell badly written music doesn’t work. But people will hang on every piece of bad content that comes from famous musicians, just because they are interested fans. The difficult bridge to cross elegantly, I think for many indie musicians, is just getting compensated as a maker, period. Whether it’s writing, visual art, photography, music or whatever thing you are selling as an artist.

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