Content. The word stems from the Latin ‘contentum' (plural contenta) meaning ‘things contained.’ As in, “here’s a box, fill it with some stuff.” Or, more to the point: “Here’s a website, fill it with some words, pictures and video.”
When the IT world began integrating with the marketing communications world some years ago, both sides rushed to create new terminology for new tools and new thinking. Technology folks, unaccustomed to the craft of marketing, simply saw the need to ‘fill’ technology tools with words, pictures and video. You know, content.
Now, a business generation (or two) later, the term has stuck.
Unfortunately, use of the term ‘content’ necessarily positions the thing being filled as more primary than the stuff with which it’s being filled. Worse, it drives thinking that starts with the ‘holes that need to be filled’ and works backward to figure out what said holes need to contain.
Convoluted at best, this tool-first mentality has helped degrade strategic thinking on just about every marketing and communications front.
I don’t blame the IT world. To their process-driven way of thinking, ‘content’ is the perfect term.
But I do blame the marketing world. That marketers would allow their organizations to treat directional purpose, position and message as mere ‘content’ is to say, at the very least, disturbing. That they would begin the effort to build a tool, or platform without the foundation of solid positioning and messaging, is unprofessional.
Content advocates, you’ve won the battle of creating a term that marketers use. But at our firm, we'll fight to the end to leverage the value of what true positioning and messaging can achieve. That it must be the very first link in the marketing value chain. That it is more primary and critical than mere content.
Because for our clients, it’s a war worth fighting. And winning.
Brian Creath is the president and founder of Cohesion, a strategic brand consultancy that helps organizations position, package and articulate the essence and direction of businesses, brands, solutions and issues. Since 1999, our work has created new value and revenue for more than 150 organizations, including Fortune 500 corporations, mid-market companies and innovative small businesses.