Advertising is dead. Viva content marketing!

By: Alex Clifford

Date: 14 February 2013

Advertising is dead. Viva content marketing!{{}}Do you spend money on ads and not know the return on investment (ROI) they are giving you?

If the answer is yes, then your small business is behind the curve. Advertising is dead and content marketing is stepping into its place as the number one marketing tool.

What’s wrong with traditional advertising?

The whole premise of traditional advertising is that you are trying to interrupt consumers and get their attention. Your ads are based on hijacking techniques. You need to have something weird, funny or astonishing to get them.

That’s fine, provided it works. But it’s a back-handed kind of manipulation. It’s forcing your sales message onto someone and it coaxes them into a purchase rather than actively helping them.

Why isn’t traditional advertising working as well as it did?

The problem is the public are ignoring ads. According to veteran adman Dave Trott, 89% of people don't remember or even notice adverts.

That's a complete waste of time, money and resources isn't it?

Since the internet has come along, there has been information overload. We no longer passively gawp at the telly during the ad break. We check Facebook on our smartphones. We watch something on YouTube. Or we just put the kettle on.

There’s such complete information overload that we tune out of adverts. There are so many more exciting to do that we just ignore ads. Subliminally.

Things have changed since the Mad Men era

The whole success of the Mad Men era in the 60s was based on cheap mass-media advertising. Marketing departments were encouraged to pour as much money as they could into advertising spending. It was considered a safe bet. Marketers would almost certainly see a general rise in sales and correlate it to a new ad campaign.

But as time has gone on, costs have risen, and the effectiveness of ads has dropped. So advertising is no longer a safe bet. It is a lot more risky.

The importance of measurement

Today, you need to track the impact of your marketing budget and measure the ROI of every piece of content.

You need to justify every pound you spend on your marketing. If you don’t measure the results of what you do, you’re not marketing your business, you’re gambling with it.

As the famous merchant John Wanamaker said in the 19th century: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.”

I’m not saying you should give up on traditional advertising. It certainly does have some value. If you can tell me your newspaper ad has brought in 20 times its cost in profit, then I’d be foolish to say “stop!”. But in many cases, businesses just place ads and hope for the best.

So what is working nowadays? Content marketing

If you look at how the internet has evolved, people are mainly looking for information and entertainment. And your customers have so much stuff to choose from, they want to devour the best stuff out there.

Google’s job is to sort all that information out. If you create brilliant content, Google will put you at the top.

Content marketing is about giving something valuable to people for free. Whether that’s a guide, a book, a video, an article ... it has become an essential part of modern marketing.

With content marketing, your company is connecting with clients. It’s not about dragging them kicking and screaming into your sales pipeline. It’s about giving them information. Winning trust. Making your leads warm and happy. Letting them climb through your sales process at a pace that suits them. Attracting and nurturing them, rather than screaming at them.

And that’s why you need to be doing content marketing — because the power of your ads is waning all the time.

Alex Clifford is marketing executive at Virally.

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