Advertising or Content Marketing? Which One is Right For You?


Content Marketing Videos and TV Commercials Are Produced the Same Way. But They're Different in Tonality.

Recently, I went to a networking event in Atlanta—a panel discussion about content marketing, with a lot of advertising people in attendance.

And I noticed something. People were using the terms “content marketing” and “advertising” interchangeably.

Do you think advertising and content are the same thing? I don’t.

Well, okay, there can be some overlap, but in general, I think of advertising and content very differently.

With the rise of content marketing, TV commercials have become somewhat old fashioned.So What's the Difference?

Let’s compare the two.

The goal of advertising is to get you to buy stuff, preferably right now. It may even offer incentives, like sales and coupons. As a rule, ads exist for one purpose—to sell.

The goal of content marketing, on the other hand, is to entertain or inform, ultimately so you learn more about a brand, and build trust—and then buy stuff.

The end result may be the same: buying stuff. But advertising tends to be a quick sell, while content marketing is more long-term.

A friend of mine compared it to dating. Content marketing is a lot like building a relationship, while advertising is a one-night stand.

The tonality can be pretty different as well. Advertising is an announcement, while content marketing, when done correctly, is more of a conversation.

Paid Media or Unpaid Media?

Here’s another difference: advertising is usually paid media, like a TV or radio commercial, while content is usually unpaid media, like blog posts, YouTube videos, etc.

Seth Godin described advertising as “interruptive marketing,” meaning it invades our homes uninvited, and interrupts the TV shows or sports events we want to watch.

He described content as “permission marketing,” meaning it asks for permission up front. We sign up for the blogs, news alerts and video feeds that we want to read and watch. 

So in other words, content is stuff we actually enjoy, while advertising is stuff we prefer to fast forward through.

Which One is Right For You?

While the tonality of advertising and content marketing may be quite different, they BOTH work. They can both increase sales for your brand or business.

They just do it differently.

Let’s say you’re marketing a grocery store. Advertising for that store could focus on the quality of the food, or the wide selection, or the customer service. And of course, you could have coupons and mailers and other incentives, to boost short-term sales.

Content marketing could be stories about your customers. Or about the farmers that grow the food. Or even seasonal recipes. Or a cooking demonstration.

When content marketing is done correctly, customers start signing up for future recipes or blog posts. They click on emails. They actually look forward to hearing from you.

Can advertising do that? Not very often.

The Biggest Difference: Cost

Big brands spend large amounts of money on commercial production, and then many times more on media costs.

One 30-second commercial on the Super Bowl for example:  $5.2 million just for the media.

But with content marketing, there are no media costs. You just post your latest blogs and videos on your website, social media and YouTube.

Now Every Size Business Can Compete

With content marketing, even small businesses can afford to post videos and tell stories.

This has leveled the playing field, enabling brands and businesses of all size to market themselves more cost effectively. Have you jumped on the content marketing bandwagon? If not, what's stopping you?


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