Charles Darwin & The Evolution of Content Marketing

Charles Darwin and the evolution of content marketing Content Marketing Evolution

Charles Darwin was born 205 years ago on February 12, 1809.

At the heart of Darwin’s theory was the idea that each species adapts to its environment. From this process of change, new species arise. This has implications for content marketers seeking to spread their message; let’s call it content marketing evolution.

During his journey aboard HMS Beagle, Darwin noticed that each island of the Galapagos had its own type of finch. While these birds were closely related, they differed in important ways. The same holds true when you distribute your message across different platforms.

Darwin theorized that the organisms, both animals and plants, best suited to their environment had a greater chance of surviving and reproducing. They passed along the characteristics that helped them survive to their offspring.

Similarly, marketers use content marketing to distribute their brand message via different channels. In each channel, it competes to get noticed and acted upon in an attention-scarce environment. Therefore, context and relevance matters. Otherwise, the message disappears hindering the brand’s ability to survive.

Content Marketing Evolution Framework

To work, content marketing, like natural selection, requires a number of things to happen at the same time.

Here are the 5 key theories Darwin outlined in On the Origin of Species, what they mean and how they apply to content marketing evolution.

1. Evolve

While species come and go through time, they change during their existence.

Content marketing isn’t new. Companies and brands have always needed content to survive. Content has evolved over time. It started as stories told around the fire to teach and entertain family and friends.

Ensure your brand can evolve with the times. One way to accomplish this is to use stories about your business. Storytelling is how people remember your brand.

Stories have built-in guideposts to enable memorability. Based on major themes, they have a beginning, middle and an end. Encapsulate your brand’s information concisely to be memorable.

Among the questions for your brand to answer are (BTW—Here’s a full list of brand questions .)

  • What does your brand do for your prospects and customers?
  • What does your brand represent?
  • How does your brand stand out so that it will survive?

2. Common descent

While organisms descend from one or more common ancestors, they diversify from the original stock.

Diversify your content.  Use a variety of different content formats. Your objective is to provide your audience with the information they need in the format that’s easiest for them to consume.

Over time, man’s ability to communicate has changed. We’ve gone from telling stories in real time, to creating drawings, to writing portable texts to other forms of media.

As a marketer, offer multiple types content to extend your reach and increase its chance of yielding results. Use both short and long content formats. Among the key options to use are:

  • Text.
  • Photos.
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • Audio / podcasts.
  • Presentations.

3. Species multiply

Diversification involves the population of one species changing until they become two distinct species.

Enable your company message to multiply. This means continue to create additional content around your core brand and products.

As your messaging expands, it moves from a single core brand message to more tailored messages around each product and aspect of your business. Think of this like search moving from core key words to more refined phrases.

Ensure that your content provides your prospects with the following 5 types of information.

  1. Answer customer questions.
  2. Provide product information.
  3. Educate customers how to use your products.
  4. Show customers how to style your products.
  5. Share customers’ ratings and reviews.

And make your content shareable to broaden your audience. This is another way to extend your message’s reach.

4. Gradualism

New species don’t occur suddenly. Rather evolutionary alterations happen with small incremental changes inside populations.

Distribute your content. Without getting your message out to more people you risk that it won’t achieve its objectives.

Modify your content to work most effectively in the appropriate context. This means that content distribution requires more than just pushing it out. You need to adapt it to be appropriate for each platform. Many marketers overlook the power of this step.

This means that you need a regular schedule to continually create and modify your content for various platforms.

5. Natural selection

Since evolutionary transformation occurs due to differences between individual creatures, some variations provide improved chances for survival.

Just as natural selection talks to competition, each piece of content must struggle for mindshare. It’s not just about getting the most readers but rather to attract those readers for which the information is most relevant.

Create content that breaks through the noise of competing messages existing within a channel. Successful messages survive, get noticed and acted upon.

Package your content to stand out and compete. With content, it’s more than the core of your message. It’s dressing your message to stand out. Among the factors to consider are: (BTW—Here’s the full list of how to dress your content for success.)

  • Craft great headlines.
  • Outline your content.
  • Add images.
  • Use bolding.

As a marketer, think about the content you create in evolutionary terms. Your content must be strong enough to break through and deliver your branded message.

Do you see content marketing as having evolved?

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen


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

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Return on Authenticity:
Making Effective Storytelling and Content Performance Align

Return on Authenticity: Making Effective Storytelling and Content Performance AlignJoin the discussion on Wednesday, October 29, 2014 at 10:00 AM PT/ 1:00 PM ET with Nancy Slavin, SVP of Marketing, Macy's Merchandising Group, and Dan Kimball, CMO, Thismoment.

According to research by Nielsen, 70 percent of global consumers trust online consumer reviews and rate reviews as the second most trusted form of advertising. And according to BazaarVoice, when it comes to trust, marketers may as well eliminate their own brand websites as a fountain of customer trust as only 16 percent of US consumers said they trust the content on a brand's website compared to the 51 percent who trust content generated by other users.

Today's digital currency is arguably authenticity, and what attracts customers - especially the digitally dependent, savvy millennial - is not just content. It is the delivery of authentic, unvarnished content from their peers.

Join the CMO Council on Wednesday, October 29, at 10am PST/ 1pm EST for a one-hour webcast that will invite industry experts in content marketing and user-generated content who are effectively leveraging authentic storytelling as part of their content marketing strategies. We will also feature an interactive Q&A session at the conclusion of the speaker presentations.

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Photo Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:1878_Darwin_photo_by_Leonard_from_Woodall_1884_-_cropped_grayed_partially_cleaned.jpg

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  • http://www.eBizROI.com Rick Noel, eBiz ROI, Inc.

    As always, great post Heidi. There are strong positions in the industry that hashtags for Facebook were dead on arrival. With respect to distribution (#4), I have recently noticed that well-placed, relevant hashtags can increase organic reach in Facebook by as much as a factor of 5x. RSS can still be a powerful distribution mechanism and should not be overlooked. Has your experience been similar?

  • http://sproutsocial.com/features/social-media-engagement Sarah @ Sprout Social

    Love this topic, Heidi! I love relating content marketing to Darwin’s theories! I think the biggest takeaway here is to evolve. In the same way species had to change to be their best selves, brands need to listen to what their customers want and need.

  • Shanna

    Great article, Ms. Cohen. I found your blog while researching an assignment for my Principles of Marketing class. Like everything that tries to survive, marketing strategies must evolve to continuously engage an increasingly savvy populace or risk becoming extinct. Species and marketing content want more than to merely survive but to thrive! Your witty insights provide a map to the evolution of marketing that is both easy to follow and fun to read. Thank you!