The disillusion illusion of content marketing: Robert Rose

August 19, 2015Uncategorized

Content marketing is dead. Wait a minute, you say, I didn’t even get a chance to buy into the hype. And now you’re saying it’s dead?


Robert Rose, Content Marketing Strategist, Author & Speaker

Well – it seems there are ever more articles being written that are proclaiming content marketing is dead or, worse, that it doesn’t even exist to begin with.

As with most new approaches (think social media, or cloud services or even ‘big data’), we have seen clearly thought-out practices being evangelised right alongside the short-sighted strategies of trend-obsessed hangers-on.

Naturally, this is resulting in ample frustration in our business. You can see it in the conversations that are happening. Whether it’s the out-of-breath hype posts or the aforementioned death posts, everywhere the trend is clear: Content marketing is now staring down a ‘Valley of Disillusionment’.

Getting through the hype

If you’re not familiar with Gartner’s Hype Cycle, it’s basically a method of looking at the adoption of innovation.

First, there is a Technology Trigger – a breakthrough that provides early conceptual stories and gets significant coverage. I think we can all agree that we’ve heard enough about Red Bull, the Amex Open Network, Blendtec and Nike’s efforts to recognise this trigger in action.

Then, there is the Peak of Inflated Expectations. Early success from innovative risk-takers is celebrated and failures are disregarded as coming from those who aren’t ‘truly understanding the innovation’. The innovation then becomes ‘the new black’, where everybody’s doing it but nobody is getting any results.

Wow, does this seem familiar. Our latest 2015 research results are like the poster child for this.

We are now past this point and really at the height of the hype, and are now entering the Trough of Disillusionment where the backlash starts, the ‘gold rush’ and diffusion of the solution reaches its peak and practitioners are left to succeed or fail.

But it’s also here that the real progress begins. As more cases start to really succeed, the innovation then ascends into the Slope of Enlightenment, where it becomes more widely understood and second- and third-generation ‘solutions’ start to be deployed. The cycle eventually culminates at the Plateau of Productivity, where mainstream adoption really starts to take off.

So, as those who passionately believe that ‘content’ is truly a worthy innovation, how do we help to move it forward?

Disrupt, or be disrupted

Three weeks ago, I attended the Adobe Symposium in Sydney and Singapore and every single senior-level speaker – from NAB to Deloitte Digital to Starwood Resorts, and even the CMO of Malaysia Airlines – was talking about the need for marketing to be more agile and have the ability to ‘orchestrate’ digital experiences.

It’s not just marketing. Today’s successful business strategy (whether you’re an agency or a brand) is about how quickly and efficiently you can adapt to conditions in your market. This isn’t a secret, and is way past any hype.

Content marketing is an approach; a marketing practice infused into everything else we may do as marketers. This is vitally important to understand, because it is the practice of marketing, on the whole, which is in the process of evolving, and content marketing is but one approach that factors into the entirety of this fundamental change.

I passionately believe that great content is at the heart of this broader shift. So, ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether a given strategy specifically resides in marketing’s domain or not (though I believe it should). Giving content a strategic seat at the business strategy table can be a unifying force internally – and a differentiating force externally.

At CMI, our goal is nothing short of advancing the practice of content marketing. We want to make the Trough of Disillusionment as shallow and short as possible. We want to set every agency, brand and practitioner on the path to ‘enlightenment’, destined to reach the Plateau of Productivity.

Every day, I grow more and more excited about the opportunities that abound in this field. And I’m actually happy we’ve reached the place where we are right now – it’s an exciting position to be in, and it’s where the real work begins and the real progress starts to take shape. It reminds me of a quote by Gandhi: “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.”

Let’s go play.