The Content Marketing Encyclopedia

Everything you ever wanted to know about content marketing, in one place.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing has become such a popular trend that even Kevin Spacey now gives speeches about it. But before diving into the marketing industry’s favorite new buzzword, let’s start with a definition:

Content marketing (n.): The use of storytelling to build relationships with consumers by providing them with something entertaining or useful.

That’s it. It’s simple, and it’s not new.

In fact, companies have always sought to build relationships with consumers in hopes that they’ll buy something, and content marketing has long been one of the most effective ways of doing so.

Check out some early examples:


Pictured above (left to right): Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection & Insurance Company’s (1867), John Deere (1897), Betty Crocker (1945), GE (1950s)

Fast-forward to today, a time when Marriott is creating Emmy-winning short films, GE has the most popular podcast in the world, Red Bull runs a 135-person media company, and Purina reaches hundreds of millions of people with a series of videos about a talking cat.

Technology has made it easier to reach people with stories than ever before. As a result, brands are investing heavily in content marketing.

That means articles, e-books, videos, infographics, comics, GIFs, and white papers to reach people across social media, email, and dozens of other channels—even virtual reality.

But ultimately, it all comes down to a simple goal: using stories to build relationships and trust.


Why use content marketing?

Companies have realized that telling stories that people actively want to watch, read, and listen to is way more efficient and effective than traditional advertising—in the moment, but especially in the long term.

Consider these statistics about alternatives to content marketing:

  • Standard banner ads on the Internet have a .12 percent click-through rate (CTR). (eMarketer)
  • Adblocking is growing 41 percent year over year. (PageFair)
  • 56 percent of display ads are never seen by humans—only by robots. (AdAge)
  • 8.2 percent of people cut cable in 2014. (TechCrunch)
  • 86 percent of consumers exhibit banner blindness, unable to recall the last banner ad they saw. (Adotas)
  • You’re more likely to survive a plane crash or join the Navy SEALs than click on a banner ad. (HubSpot)

Now consider these statistics about content marketing:

  • 75 percent of marketers generated positive returns from content marketing. (AdAge)
  • Marketers who publish a blog are 13 times more likely to have a positive ROI. (HubSpot)
  • 78 percent of CMOs think custom content is the future of marketing. (Demand Metric)
  • 74 percent of readers trust educational content from brands—as long as it doesn’t push a sale. (Kentico)
  • Kraft generates the equivalent of 1.1 billion ad impressions a year and a four-times-better ROI through content marketing than through targeted advertising. (AdAge)
  • 77 percent of B2C marketers and 76 percent of B2B marketers say they’ll create more content in 2016. (Content Marketing Institute)

The proof is in the data: Content marketing simply works.

Getting Started With Content Marketing

Getting excited to create content is easy, but figuring out where to begin can feel insurmountable. That's why, this year, we created The Ultimate Content Strategist Playbook, a five-part guide to getting the rest of your company on board with a content marketing program, creating a roadmap to success, and executing and optimizing your content strategy over the long haul.

Content Marketing Case Studies

What does a healthy, ambitious content marketing program look like, and how do you get that program to actually boost your company's bottom line? With our digital magazine, The Content Strategist, we're constantly on the hunt to find out the answer to these questions and more. As you consider the role that content can play in your organization, check out these case studies to see how leading companies are using content marketing in strategic, effective ways.

Content Marketing Technology

For brands big and small, content marketing technology plays a crucial role in streamlining the process in which you create content, engage audiences, and optimize your entire operation. While it's perfectly possible to rely on Google Docs and Google Analytics to organize your content operation, it's likely to result in a lot of wasted energy, missed opportunities, and workflow inefficiencies. The guides below will help you think about content marketing technology in the right way.

Content Marketing Staffing

High-quality content marketing requires the right technology, but it's even more reliant on building the right team of talented, ambitious people. Here are some guides that'll help you staff your content marketing team effectively.

Content Marketing ROI

There's a dirty lie circulating in marketing circles that you can't really measure the return on investment, or ROI, of content. That's simply not true. At Contently, we've been able to measure the ROI of our own content marketing, as well as that of our hundreds of brand and media clients. Dive into the solutions we've found.

The State of Content Marketing by Industry

Content marketing is not industry-specific. It is not only for B2C companies, nor is it only for B2B. In the insurance industry, for example, content marketing is helping multinational companies shed the "boring" stereotype; in the retail industry, content marketing is helping retailers connect with consumers through original, multimedia stories.

Every year, we examine the state of content marketing across key industries to help you leverage knowledge about what your competitors are doing—or not doing—and maximize your own ability to succeed.

The Future of Content Marketing

What's next for the rapidly growing content marketing industry? Below are some of our biggest predictions for what lies ahead, from the rise of "global audience strategists" and putting resources towards focusing on Gen Z to the failures of audacious brands that attempt to publish hard news.

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