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Content MKT
Hasse Jansen, 11 Nov '16

15 Content Marketing Definitions and How They Differ

What is content marketing? Our research shows there are easily 5000 different answers possible. Pick your favorite to align your team for success.

Just 30% of companies say their content marketing is effective. But that doesn’t seem to stop many from doing it. In fact, 76% of companies say they’ll be producing more content than last year. Content marketing is hugely popular, and Seth Godin even said it’s all marketing that’s left. So how come only one third say they are actually good at it?

We believe one of the causes for content marketing’s lack of effectiveness is because everyone means something different when talking about it. There are so many different definitions going around people are bound to miscommunicate. If you don’t agree on what “content marketing” means for your organization, it is impossible to agree on whether it was effective or not.

To back up that suspicion, we’ve taken 15 of the highest ranking definitions of content marketing and investigated the breadth of available definitions.

15 Individual content marketing definitions

ContentMarketingInstitute - A strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

TechTarget - The publication of material designed to promote a brand, usually through a more oblique and subtle approach than that of traditional push advertising.

I-Scoop - An umbrella term covering a set of strategies, techniques and tactics to fulfill business and customer goals by using content across the customer life cycle and the business functions in a consistent, integrated and continuous way.

HubSpot - A marketing program that centers on creating, publishing, and distributing content for your target audience -- usually online -- the goal of which is to attract new customers.

TopRankBlog - A strategic marketing technique that aligns business and consumer information needs with relevant content.

Outbrain - The creation and distribution of high-quality content that attracts and engages audiences online.

Adage - Content marketing is a pull, rather than a push, strategy. Content doesn't interrupt, it attracts.

HubSpot - Content marketing is a marketing program that centers on creating, publishing, and distributing content for your target audience — usually online — the goal of which is to attract new customers.

HeidiCohen - Content Marketing provides consumers with useful information to aid purchase decisions, improve product usage and entertain them while achieving organizational goals without being overtly promotional.

Percolate - Content marketing is advertising that delivers value to its recipient, not just an impression.

TopRank - Content marketing is the alignment of customer needs with business goals through purposeful content.

Freshspot Marketing - Instead of one-way interruption, [content marketing] is about delivering useful content at just the precise moment that a buyer needs it.

Comezzo - An approach where brands leverage the power of relevant, useful and customer-ceontric content coupled with extensive distribution to the right audience for growth of their brand and business. - Content marketing is the process of creating relevant material to reach new customers and retain existing customers.

MichaelBrenner - Content marketing is about delivering the content your audience is seeking in all the places they are searching for it. It is the effective combination of created, curated and syndicated content.

These are the 15 individual definition of content marketing we used to base our analysis on. It turns out descriptions of what content marketing fundamentally is vary wildly.

Is it…

A strategy to publish content that is customer centric in order to grow the brand


A process for syndicating content that is consistent in order to engage an audience

Well, it can be both…

Categorizing the definitions

To find a way through the maze of definitions, we sliced, diced and categorized the different elements mentioned across the 15 different definitions.

Our research shows complete content marketing definitions specify the following:

  • Action type
  • Content handling method
  • Content characteristics
  • Content goal

We found 6 action types, 5 content handling methods, 14 content characteristics, and 12 content goals.

content-marketing-definitionClick image to enlarge

That means there are more than 5000 different definitions possible from just the info provided through 15 of the most popular content marketing definitions. No wonder content marketing meetings tend to take longer than expected. Question is, what does content marketing mean in your book? Pick from the lists and create your own.


Click image to enlarge

Or choose multiple keywords from the four different categories…


Click image to enlarge

Naming the problem, finding the solution

Now that we’ve named the problem and sized up the scale of the confusion, we can start to look for solutions. Considering all popular definitions in one place and categorizing their elements has brought about a useful checklist.

Before you and your team start discussing content marketing, ask yourself: how many of the content characteristics mentioned by the different definitions do your content pieces satisfy? Do you really know which goal every content piece serves? Do you value consistency over, say, customer centricity, or do you want both?

Define what content marketing effectiveness means for your organization and instantly become more effective from the next letter or pixel onwards.