Content Marketing History: Almost as Old as the Hills

With all the buzz about content marketing these days, it’s easy to think of the practice as a recent phenomenon. After all, how could you do content marketing without an Internet, right?

Not to burst any bubbles, but content marketing is almost as old as the hills.

Custom publishing was the traditional moniker for content marketing. The idea was the same though: Publish information of an advisory and helpful nature to educate and inform consumers, then watch their awareness for you grow, their trust of you build, and their loyalty to your products or services grow.

Books and magazines – we’d call it print media today – comprised the traditional custom publishing vehicles.

Here are some classic examples:

The Furrow – The John Deer Company began publishing this magazine in 1895 to teach would-be farmers about the trade and guide them to success, which would in turn create markets for the company’s products. The Furrow exists to this day, albeit online now.

Betty Crocker Cookbook – Old Betty has re-made herself a dozen times, and her cookbook has gone through multiple editions as well. But General Mills didn’t publish the tome solely out of the goodness of its heart: Cooking with Betty’s recipes created demand for the products that also bore her picture. Softcover editions began in 1933, with first big book (on baking) appearing 1941. You can still purchase a fresh new edition of Betty’s book – and find her online – today.

The Black & Decker Home Improvement Library was a classic series of books that began back in the 1980s.  Yours truly happened to work on their content, as well as their marketing, way back when. It was a match made in heaven: Black & Decker taught people how to care for, fix and improve their homes, and in turn the company gained loyalty and built demand for Black & Decker products. The books are still published regularly, keeping up with trends, introducing tools, and outlining techniques.

Whether it was 120, 80 or 30 years ago, custom publishing – er, content marketing – is still alive and well. It’s an old idea with a new name, and it’s a more powerful tool than ever in today’s digital world. Content marketing has been around for over a century, and will be here – in some form – in another century.

Isn’t it funny how the best ideas live on and on?

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