A brief history of content marketing [infographic]

From a Philadelphian founding father to modern day energy drinks, the history of content marketing is long and twisted. Born out of advertising and marketing, content marketing started growing its own branch on the Marketing Tree about 300 years ago, when Benjamin Franklin was marketing his printing business. Andre and Edouard Michelin proved that brands could increase sales and awareness by creating great content. Jell-O: Educational content shows the audience a brand’s value Four years after Michelin published their first guide book, another household name was jiggling its way onto the content marketing scene. Mid-century marketing meets the middle class The middle of the 20th century saw the mainstream development of native advertising in the form of unique content offerings: soap operas and cereal boxes. Cereal boxes: Targeted content keeps your customers buying Ever been captivated by the back of your cereal box so long that your breakfast turned to mush? A New York Times feature on the history of cereal marks the 1950s as the decade when brands began targeting cereal to kids. The internet’s reach very quickly made content marketing more competitive. Oreo: Timeliness and tech for the win As the social web became a more powerful avenue for content marketing, brands began getting creative with social marketing. Take a look at RedBull’s website navigation: The core products are energy drinks, but as you can see there’s almost no mention of the beverages on their website at all, even on their online store.

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From a Philadelphian founding father to modern day energy
drinks, the history of content marketing is long and twisted. Born
out of advertising and marketing, content marketing started growing
its own branch on the Marketing Tree about 300 years ago, when
Benjamin Franklin was marketing his printing business.

To track content marketing’s early history, we’ll have to go
back to when there was just one medium: paper.

Content marketing: an approach as old as America

Ben Franklin was more than a founding father, diplomat,
scientist, inventor, author, printer, political philosopher and
theorist, musician, postmaster, civil servant, meteorologist and
kite enthusiast – he was also one of the very first content
marketers. When he published the first edition of Poor Richard’s
Almanack
in 1732, Franklin leveraged content that people
actually wanted to read to market his printing business.


Ben Franklin may have been the first content marketer. Publishing quality content is Poor Richard's Almanack drove sales and promoted his printing press better than traditional ads.

The content resonated with an increasing number of readers, and
Franklin found a way to influence people and public opinion while
also enjoying the benefits of his roaring printing business. He
continued to publish the Almanack annually for 25 years.
Franklin’s collection of poems, reviews, observations, weather,
prose and sayings was extremely popular,
selling

10,000 copies a year
, according to History.com. Franklin’s
content helped cement him as one of the all-time thought leaders in
history, and proved an early lesson in content marketing: If you
give your audience a reason to engage, your brand will be
top-of-mind.

The making of a modern market

Fast forward a century and a half to 1900. Printing presses have
become more efficient, distribution of content is wider reaching
and the population has grown larger and more literate. There’s an
increasing opportunity for delivering content to a receptive
audience.

Michelin: Driving brand awareness through content

The Michelin
Guide
was first published in 1900 when there were just
3,000 cars in France. Andre and Edouard Michelin proved that brands
could increase sales and awareness by creating great content. They
began publishing guides to local attractions to give more people a
reason to purchase cars – more car sales meant more Michelin tire
sales.


Whether you're looking for dinner or for snow tires, there's on name that all of us know. Michelin's guide books have boosted recognition and awareness of their brand for over 100 years.

Michelin also was able to use the guide to position itself as
more than a tire brand. The restaurant- and hotel-oriented guide
books established the brand as a cultural presence around major
world cities. Today, when you Google “Best food in Manhattan,”
Michelin is still likely to show up in your results, and you’ll be
just one more click away from viewing tires and comparing
prices.

Jell-O: Educational content shows the audience a brand’s
value

Four years after Michelin published their first guide book,
another household name was jiggling its way onto the content
marketing scene. Jell-O was dealing with stagnant sales of their
powdered mix as well as low
brand awareness
, as Lumos Marketing reported. The company began
sending representatives door-to-door to spread the word about all
the recipes you could make with a box of their mix. The recipe
pamphlets were free, helpful and easily actionable.

Unlike Michelin and Franklin’s nuanced content marketing
strategies, which involved discussing indirectly related topics,
Jell-O’s approach was less subtle. Their product was much more
straightforward, so their content could afford to be more direct,
product-oriented and digestible. The content approach worked, and
according to Lumos’s report, Jell-O’s sales quickly bumped up by
over $1 million.

Mid-century marketing meets the middle class

The middle of the 20th century saw the mainstream development of
native advertising in the form of unique content offerings: soap
operas and cereal boxes. The American middle class was emerging as
a strong target for content marketing, and one of the best ways for
brands to reach them was in living rooms and kitchens.

Soap operas: Bringing native ads into homes with
content

Underneath the sudsy layers of poorly acted,…

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