Marketers talk about ‘content marketing’ as if it is something new and shiny. In fact if you go and sit with a prospective or current client and talk about your agency’s experience in using content marketing to increase brand equity and drive sales, they always listen with great interest and almost always say they need to do more content marketing. Increasing brand equity and currently driving sales are often mutually exclusive as the two don’t always work together but can and often do when it comes to content marketing. But as is the case with many marketing strategies and tactics content marketing has been around for a very long time.
I don’t know what made me remember a story I read when I was a kid by the great sports writer Furman Bisher in ‘Strange But True Baseball Stories’ from Random House written in 1966. For whatever reason I must have read this book twenty times and have good recall of many of those stories which I have not read in, well a long time. The story about Ty Cobb was entitled ‘Young Man in a Hurry’. It was my first exposure to an example of content marketing – I just did not realize it at the time.
As I remember the story, Ty Cobb was an up and coming teenager playing baseball in Georgia. Apparently Cobb was not moving up through the organization minor leagues as fast as he believed should have been the case. So young Ty Cobb decided to write postcards to famous sportswriter Grantland Rice who wrote about many sports, particularly baseball, for the Atlanta Journal Constitution while travelling around the south.
Cobb had been playing for the Augusta Tourists but was released. While he hooked on with the team from Anniston, Cobb wrote promotional postcards describing his talents under different aliases and mailed them from all the different cities he played in all over Georgia. Finally Rice himself wrote a small note in the Journal that a “young fellow named Cobb seems to be showing an unusual lot of talent.” Sure enough he was recalled by Augusta and then after the season had his contract purchased by the Detroit Tigers. The rest as they say is history. This is not to suggest that Cobb would not have made it to the big leagues but it surely shortened the path which was the aim of his ‘campaign’ in the first place. If that’s not a great use of content to market something – in this case oneself, I don’t think I understand content marketing. It made me think a lot about what makes a content marketing campaign successful.
If you are interested, Tommy Lee Jones portrayed Cobb in the 1994 movie Cobb which I recall being worth watching.
Do you have any good content marketing examples to share?