Joel Kelly's Blog

Joel Kelly's updates about his latest writing, his process, and his life as a Halifax-based author and marketer.

The Secret to Perfect Content Marketing

The best piece of content marketing ever created was released before the Internet even existed.

I’m serious. Do you want to see what it is?

The best piece of content marketing every made.

The best piece of content marketing every made.

That’s right. The best piece of content marketing is this Rolls-Royce ad from 1959.

What even is content marketing?

Content marketing is creating content — useful, interesting content — that produces an interest in your product or offering.

It’s that simple. You might think it’s providing value, and in exchange, trading off of basic psychological principles like the reciprocity effect, so that the person will be more likely to consider your brand because you’ve done something for them.

That’s partially true. It’s almost true. But it’s not really true. That’s an easy thing to say to your boss or client, though: "Look, we’re producing great content, so people will like us more. And maybe buy?"

But that’s lazy. No, great content doesn’t just sell the idea of a product or service, it sells the product or service. It is an ad.

The great ads from yesteryear weren’t great because they were interesting content, they were great because they moved the damn product.

How to do great content marketing

So, how do you do great content marketing? Become a better advertiser. Understand that the most important part of marketing is positioning. From there, understand how to position your product in the minds of your consumers as it compares to your competitors and the overall industry.

Don’t say, “Try our product because we made you this great piece of content.” Say, “This content proves our product is better than their product. Try it and see for yourself."

David Ogilvy was the king of “content marketing.” Of course, he just called it great advertising. One of his first campaigns were these amazing ads for Guinness. Look at this “content." It provides value and effectively positions Guinness as a beer that's part of a meal. Part of an occasion. Like oysters? You'll love having them with Guinness. Other beers just won't do.

David Ogilvy's ad for Guinness. Look at all the "content."

David Ogilvy's ad for Guinness. Look at all the "content."

The fundamentals

So what can you learn about how to make great “content marketing?” Here are the fundamentals:

This chart is from a great talk by Dave Trott. This is what every advertisement must do:

First, make an impact. Get noticed. Why is that important? Because, according to the studies he cites, 90% of advertising is ignored. That goes for your blog post or “content”, too. So make an impact, get noticed.

Then, communicate a single, powerful point.

(Ogilvy spent three weeks working at the factory to come up with what would become the most famous advertising tagline of all time. You know what the chief engineer said when he saw the ad? "We've got to do something about that damn clock.")

Finally, persuade them to try your product.  Give facts. People make purchases based on emotion, but they justify it to themselves and to others through facts and rationale. Give them plenty to work with. Look at the Rolls-Royce ad again. All the body copy? It's facts about the product.

That’s what great content marketing does. It gets attention, it provides useful facts, and it makes a sale (or generates a lead).

Anything other than that, or less than that, is a waste of time.

Your image makes an impact. Your headline communicates a single point. Your copy (or the rest of your website) persuades people to take action. Every piece must be in place for success.

Which means you might not have a content problem. You might have a website problem. Or a lead capture problem. Or a salesperson problem.

So how do you become a better content marketer? Become a better marketer. Become a better advertiser.

It's just that simple.


Like what you've read here? Make sure you check out my brand new novella, "Scolding the Winds," about a young woman trying to make it in advertising as her life falls apart.