Content Marketing Definition

50 Marketers Define Content Marketing

Content Marketing DefinitionWhat’s your content marketing definition? 

Grounded in the Mad Men’s principles, content marketing doesn’t shout or push promotional messages.

Content marketing takes it’s cue from David Ogilvy; it looks like editorial.

Content marketing provides prospects, customers and the public with useful information. before, during or after purchase. As a result, it isn’t blocked and breaks through the clutter.

Content marketing follows the teachings of Leo Burnett; content marketing integrates brand attributes.

Content marketing builds trust with your customers. By contrast advertising trust is eroding according to Nielsen.

Global Trust In Advertising is Eroding - Nielsen Chart

Global Trust In Advertising is Eroding – Nielsen Chart

Content marketing is older than you think. Johnson & Johnson created guides for doctors on how to use their bandages during the American Civil War.

Content marketing offers customers the information they’ve sought for years. This includes guides like Michelin or ratings and reviews like Consumer Reports.

The term “content marketing” started growing in 2011. This growth coincides with the first Content Marketing World conference. (Hat tip: Joe Pulizzi, the Godfather of Content Marketing.)

Content Marketing

Content marketing has become a key element of marketers’ plans.


50 Content Marketing Definitions

We asked 50 marketing experts to define content marketing. Here are their content marketing definitions. (Editor’s note: We originally asked 21 marketing experts back in September 2011 as the term was first taking off.)

Content Marketing Definition

1. Using various types of content (such as blogs, case studies, videos, podcasts or webinars) that will enable folks to become more intelligent and smart about overcoming some vexing challenge impacting their business, or demonstrating how they can get better outcomes, etc.

The key is to do this without trying to “sell” them on something. The taste test is that the individual will feel they got value out of taking their time to invest in reviewing the content and learned something or validated a notion to help them on their journey to making a more informed decision. Mike Agron – Web Attract

2. Content marketing is a device used by companies to educate, inform or entertain customers or prospects by creating attention or causing behavior that results in leads, sales or advocacy.  Jay Baer – Convince and Convert, author of Youtility and Hug Your Haters.

3. The intentional process to curate a personal conversation by sharing new insight with the purpose of driving defined actions for mutual benefit.  Diana Ballard

4. These 4 characteristics have been my definition of content marketing.

  1. Content marketing is marketing with content that a target audience finds relevant and valuable.
  2. Content marketing is content published on owned platform, and distributed in owned, paid and earned media.
  3. Content marketing is a systematic approach to continuously publish and distribute content.
  4. Content marketing is building trust capital that can be used to change or enhance behavior of a target audience.

Together these principles constitute necessary and sufficient criteria to qualify content marketing. Thomas Barregren

5. Maybe more of a description than an actual definition, but I love how Michael Brenner describes content marketing (paraphrasing): Instead of interrupting the things people are interested in, create the things people are interested in.  Jeremy Bednarski

6. Content marketing is a way of engaging and attracting existing and potential customers through content creation. Content marketing is catering your slogans, campaigns, tweets, Facebook posts and blogs to your target audience and existing customers simultaneously.

Content marketing is personal, engaging and tells stories. When a brand uses specific words or stories that resonate with a consumer, they can dig deeper into who they are as a consumer. By utilizing content marketing, brands can cater campaigns and stories around buying patterns and personalities.

Rather than broadcasting information to the masses, content marketing should focus more on emotions and messages that are relevant and captivating to the target audience.

If so many brands seem to be regularly utilizing content marketing, how can you tell what content marketing is?

Content marketing is NOT price tags on tangible items. Content marketing is much more subjective in nature.

Marketing messages and stories that stir beliefs, feelings, opinions or emotions can all be classified as content marketing.  The most important takeaway from content marketing is to focus less on the cost and product details and focus more on the customer experience. Dan Bergeron – Likeable Media

7. Content marketing is the opposite of advertising. It’s about engaging consumers with the stuff they really want, in a way that serves your brand’s purposes and ideals, rather than just trying to jam your logo into their periphery.

It’s reaching the exact consumers you want, instead of a vaguely defined demo. It’s helpfully providing an experience they want, instead of trying to distract them from the one they came for.

In short, it is the very evolution of advertising itself into something more effective, more efficient, and much less odious. Keith Blanchard – Story Worldwide

8. Content marketing is engaging with your community around an idea instead of a product. What it is is to try to serve the community first, and sharing information, ideas and experiences that benefit others without directly asking for anything in return. What it isn’t is just a veil in front of a sales pitch. Dan Blank – We Grow Media

9. The difference between “marketing with content” and content marketing is a digital publishing platform that your brand owns. Creating an article for a publisher. Or an ebook. An ad. Or sales collateral. These are not content marketing. Content marketing means committing to publishing content people actually want. On a platform you own.  Michael Brenner – Marketing Insider Group, author of  The Content Formula

10. Communication. Content is ideas and messages.

Content marketing is not fundamentally different than marketing itself, because you can’t communicate or persuade without content. But content marketing tends to focus on free and gated formats to attract attention and website traffic, generate leads and to aid in the sales process. It can get super sophisticated with marketing automation and may require advertising to get traffic, as SEO has become more and more difficult with every passing year. Brian Carter, Author of The Like Economy

11. Content marketing is an invitation to connect with the reader or viewer or listener on a journey. That journey, guided by the author, will lead to a destination. Hopefully that destination will be one step closer to a relationship – be it a subscriber, a lead or a customer. Jacquie Chakirelis – Advance Ohio

12. Content Marketing is anything a company creates and shares to tell their story. It is conversational, human and doesn’t try to constantly sell to you.

It also isn’t a tactic that you can just turn on and off and hope that will be successful. It has to be a mindset that is embraced and encouraged.

You’ve got to start thinking like a publisher and use that to plan and execute your entire marketing plan which content of any variety should be a part of.  C.C. Chapman,  co-author with Ann Handley of Content Rules

13. Creating content that helps market your business. When you are creating/sharing a piece of content you should be thinking if this piece of content can help build a connection with my target audience, build my brand or build my sales pipeline. Ian Cleary – RazorSocial 

14. 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.

The 5 main attributes of content marketing are:

  • Embodies an organization’s core brand elements.
  • Uses a variety of media formats such as text, video, photographs, audio, presentations, ebooks and infographics to tell your brand or company’s story.
  • Can be consumed on a variety of devices including computers, tablets, smartphones and others.
  • Is distributed via owned, third party and social media platforms.
  • Provides measurable results through the use of calls-to-action and promotional codes.

Heidi Cohen – Riverside Marketing Strategies

15. Content marketing (also known as inbound marketing) is the art and science of attracting an audience toward a brand and it’s website, then inspiring that audience to take action. 

This is done through the publishing, promoting and measuring of content. The form of the content is often written text, but may also be video, audio, diagrams. The function is often educational or useful, but may also be entertaining. 

Content marketing contrasts with advertising, which seeks to interrupt or distract an audience with a brand’s message. Andy Crestodina – Orbit Media, author of Content Chemistry

16. Content Marketing is creating or curating non-product content — be it informational, educational, entertaining, etc — and publishing it to contact points with customers to get their attention, to focus on the topic around your solution, and pull them closer to learning more about you. Sam Decker 

17. At its best, content marketing is a more genuine and respectful way of interacting with customers than traditional marketing and advertising.

Great content marketing offers something valuable to an audience with no obligation to repay that offering: entertaining, insightful, relevant, useful, well-produced and well-written writing, graphics, video and audio.

It seeks to first find the right audience, and then establish a relationship with them in order to build trust, so that when it gets to business time, they choose you over a competitor. Pawan Deshpande – Curata 

18. Content marketing is what we like to call owned media. It’s anything you produce—blog posts, white papers, podcasts, videos, eBooks—that lives on something you own, such as a website or blog.

The advantage, of course, is you get to tell your story and have direct access to your customers and prospects.  Gini Dietrich – Armant Dietrich, author of Spin SucksEarned Media Defined In Context

19. Content marketing is using any type of content (newsletters, blog posts, white papers, videos, Tweets, podcasts, wall posts) to attract an audience you wish to market to. Capturing their attention through great content gives you the opportunity to present calls-to-action to them to purchase or try your product or service. Jason FallsSocial Media Explorer

20. Content marketing is the practice of consistently creating, promoting, and distributing multimedia assets designed to help solve the problems a small segment of your potential customers. While connected to larger business goals, content marketing’s primary focus is the audience, not the company producing it. Andrea Fryrear

21. Content Marketing is to share information + service + stories to an audience that needs this kind of content on that moment. Luiza Gaidzinski

22. Blogging, micro-blogging, and social networking sites have leveled the playing field in the publishing world, giving every average Joe the ability to build a platform and thus, an audience.

With content marketing, you can take advantage of these tools to create articles, blog posts, microblogs, videos, podcasts, webinars, and more to establish thought leadership and build a relationship with your prospects and customers.

The content, optimized and distributed across the web, makes it easier to be found online. It generates traffic without selling.

By delivering useful and relevant information answering questions, solving problems and improving lives in some fashion, prospects can make an informed decision to buy. The idea is they will buy from you, because you have earned their trust. Lisa Gerber 

23. Content marketing is an approach by which companies seek to author and/or share contextually relevant content to create or reinforce their brand messaging. When done effectively, content marketing is not done in direct support of a sales process, but rather by positioning a company or individual within a space. Barry Graubart 

24. Content marketing is the process of indirectly and directly promoting a business or brand through value-added text, video, or audio content both online and offline.

It can come in long-form (such as blogs, articles, ebooks, and so on), short-form (such as Twitter updates, Facebook updates, images, and so on), or conversational-form (for example, sharing great content via Twitter or participating in an active discussion via blog comments or through an online forum). Susan Gunelius – KeySplash Creative, Inc., author of Content Marketing for Dummies

25. What it is: Content marketing is anything an individual or an organization creates and/or shares to tell their story.

What it isn’t: A warmed-over press release served as a blog post. Ann Handley – MarketingProfs, author of Everyone Writes and co-author with C.C. Chapman of Content Rules

26. Content marketing is using content to build a relationship with your audience over time so you are top-of-mind when your product or service can solve their problem. Erika Heald

27.  What in sales & marketing isn’t content marketing? Sales voicemails, your trade show booth… I like Ann Handley’s definition – “everything the light touches is content!”  Matt Heinz – Heinz Marketing

28. Content marketing is the practice of using content (webinars, white papers, planted articles, blogs, Tweets, videos, etc) with some intrinsic value beyond pure advertising content, as a way of establishing thought leadership, branding, and growing and influencing reader list of prospects for your goods or services.

Content marketing has always existed. In the publishing world, content used for marketing purposes used to be referred to (until very recently) as “advertorial”.

The problem now for both professional publishers and the public, is to discern between content published for marketing and content published as an end product in and of itself without marketing messaging ties.

Advertorial has taken over to the extent that many consumers believe all editorial is advertorial. Anne Holland – Which Test Won

29. Content marketing is the opportunity for brands to think beyond their own original content and messaging to include a mix of original and curated content to reinforce their position with consumers as the “go to” brand.

From the smallest “brand me” to industry giants, organizations of all sizes can benefit from content marketing. Marketing through curated content reduces time and costs, increases visibility and reach, and quickly and effectively establishes thought leadership. It is not enough though to set the workflow to auto pilot and populate the pages of a site with aggregated feeds.

A winning strategy succeeds when technology and people work together. Automation and semantics can help to filter, facilitate and uncover hidden treasures, but it is the human touch – thoughtful selection and consideration of content – that will create a truly new and engaging brand experience for audiences to discover, enjoy and share. Kelly Hungerford

30. Content marketing provides valuable and actionable advice to an audience. Nadya Khoja – Venngage

31. Content marketing is about providing value for your audience on whatever channel they are on. The key is value. Brian Kolb – Wright’s Media

32. Have you ever picked up a company’s brochure or flyer?

Watched an infomercial or a shopping channel on television?

Ordered a product DVD explaining the benefits of a new mattress or a vacation destination?

Leafed through a company newsletter?

Read the little comic strip in a packet of Bazooka bubble gum?

All these are a few (but by no means an exhaustive list) of the ways companies use content to market their products and services to customers and to prospective buyers.

Content marketing, in other words, is nothing new.

Companies having been creating and distributing content for many years, both to attract new business and to retain existing customers.

However, here’s the point of differentiation from more traditional forms of marketing and advertising:

Using content to sell isn’t selling, or sales-ey.

It isn’t advertising.

It isn’t push marketing, in which messages are sprayed out at groups of consumers.

Rather, it’s a pull strategy—it’s the marketing of attraction.

It’s being there when consumers need you and seek you out with relevant, educational, helpful, compelling, engaging, and sometimes entertaining information. Rebecca Lieb, Author of Content Marketing: Think Like a Publisher – How to Use Content to Market Online and in Social Media

33. Attracting users and building long-term relationships with them through useful, interesting, relevant content. Brian Lindamood – Manta

34. Content marketing is the process by which you provide truly relevant and useful content to your prospects and customers to help them solve their issues. In turn, you build loyalty and trust for your brand — and ultimately build an audience and increase profits.  Michele Linn – Content Marketing Institute

35. Content marketing is a discipline of marketing that creates, promotes, and optimizes content that informs, inspires, and entertains a defined audience of prospects and customers. If it’s done well it drives conversation, leads to pipeline and ultimately closed revenue. Jason Miller – LinkedIn, author of Welcome To The Funnel

36. Content marketing is a cycle of creating content that engages your audience, offering them something of value, as you help them to understand your product or service, so that they can make an informed buying decision. Susan Moeller – BuzzSumo

37. Simple definition:

  • Content Marketing is the alignment of customer needs with business goals through purposeful content.


  • Content Marketing is an intentional approach to attracting, engaging and inspiring customers to a logical conclusion to buy and share through content that empathizes with the varied interests and behaviors during the buying cycle. 

Lee Odden – Top Rank Marketing, author of Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media, and Content Marketing

38. Content marketing is sharing real solutions to real problems for real people … and doing it for free.

Every piece of content must answer two questions:

  1. What hell does this save people from.
  2. What heaven does it deliver them unto?

Aaron Orendorff – Iconicontent

39. Content marketing is about making a switch: from producing content for content’s sake to being strategic about the content we produce and for whom.

It’s about creating excellent content that helps us reach new audiences and nurture relationships with existing audiences – while supporting and helping to achieve very specific business goals. Marlene Oliveira

40. Content marketing is the art and science of consistently creating, sharing, and promoting thoughtful, relevant, and helpful information to help to help clients, donors, or supporters make informed buying decisions while supporting your firm or organization’s objectives. Roger Parker – Published and Profitable 

41. Providing audiences with high-quality, editorial-driven content which offers value across media types. Whether that be educational, informational, or even entertaining. Shana Pilewski

42. For me, a keep it simple stupid kind of guy, content marketing is simply full-funnel marketing using some form of content. The key is full-funnel. Without top-funnel content a brand cannot attract an audience, let alone, retain one. Without mid to bottom-funnel content a brand cannot efficiently harvest it’s audience for new business. Chad Pollitt – Relevance

43. Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.  Joe Pulizzi  (aka The Godfather of Content Marketing) – Content Marketing Institute, author of  Epic Content and Content Inc.

44. Traditional marketing and advertising is telling the world you’re a rock star.  Content Marketing is showing the world that you are one. Robert Rose – Content Marketing Institute, author of Experiences, the Seventh Era of Marketing

45. You can buy attention (advertising)
You can beg for attention from the media (PR)
You can bug people one at a time to get attention (sales)

Or you can own attention by creating something interesting and valuable and then publishing it online for free: a YouTube video, a blog, a research report, photos, an infographic, a Twitter stream, an ebook, a Facebook page. David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR

46. Content marketing is:

  • Creative knowledge sharing–using content across multiple platforms to reach various audiences–with the objective to influence thought and/or drive behavior.
  • Sharing content that is relevant and value to our diverse constituents to help generate dialogue and grow our base of support.
  • Asks us to divine (sic) professional interests, immediate need and future skill sets and then fulfill with content.

Jim Siegel – HealthCare Chaplaincy

47. Content Marketing is like an information water cooler for your customer community. When your audience is thirsting for knowledge, they come to your content. If it’s really great content, there are other people there with whom they can engage, ask questions and get more confirmation on why YOU are their best hope for help.  Ivana Taylor – DIY Marketers 

48. Content marketing is sharing relevant and useful content to help reach our goals – for the audience and us. Christoph Trappe – Authentic Storytelling

49. Content marketing encompasses a wide assortment of marketing approaches that have been around for years. It’s just that content marketer is getting far more interactive and is emerging on new platforms and channels.

Traditional approaches include custom publishing supplements and advertorials in newspapers and magazines. Online in the B2B sector, white papers have been successfully used for lead generation for more than a decade. Brands have more options than ever before.

With the ascent of social networks and mobile devices, brands can bypass newspapers, magazines, and TV to connect directly with customers and prospects on Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and other networks.

What’s more, brands can elect to continue working with “traditional” media companies to tap their audiences online and other venues.

Media organizations have responded, too, by acquiring or building out their content marketing teams.So who is a publisher today? Who is a marketer?

Content marketing marries publishing/TV/radio/events – and marketing – to build audiences, deliver relevant and educational “content” and information such as a white paper, webcast, video, or article, potentially turning fans, followers, readers, and viewers, into customers. Anna Maria Virzi – Gartner Group

50. Content Marketing is the strategic creation and sharing of ideas, information, and resources. Content Marketing is not clicks, Retweets, Likes, +K’s, and +1’s. These are only measures to see if the Content Marketing is “on strategy.” Dr. William J. Ward aka DR4WARD


Additional content marketing resources

Content marketing has matured to the point where there are a number of valuable resources. Here are a few free resources that are particularly useful:

The Content Marketing Definition bottom line:

No matter how you define it, content marketing is here to stay.

Content marketing provides useful information for your key target audiences when, where, and how they need it. It’s a pull strategy that enables you to get and hold your audience’s attention long enough to start to build a relationship.

To succeed, your content must be free of anything that hints of a sales or marketing message.

As Content Marketing Institute’s Joe Pulizzi said, “You have to be all in with content marketing.” If you’re only willing to do part way measures, don’t do anything at all.

Commit to content marketing. Then create the best content you can.

Your customers and business will be better for it.

Please note: This article was originally published on September Any errors or misrepresentations are ours.

Our goal is to keep this article up-to-date and relevant. Click here to add your content marketing definition to this list.

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies.
You can find Heidi on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.


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