Why Content Marketing FailsBy Eleanor Pierce

Before I talk about why content marketing fails, I want to talk about Barbie.

Did anyone else get Barbie Magazine as a kid?

I did. And it was amazing.

It was an explosion of 80s-errific pinks and purples.

Not only were there fashion tips from the likes of Punky Brewster, there were loads of Barbie fashion spreads, dramatic storylines, and ads just as enticing as the content itself.

Of course, I looked forward to the magazine, and of course all I wanted to do after devouring one was buy more Barbies, more Barbie clothes, more Barbie cars, and more Barbie shoes.

(I didn’t get most of these things, but oh how I wanted them.)

All that said, I’m not here to hold up Barbie Magazine as an example of a content marketing win.

I’d argue if you’re thinking about doing your content marketing in the style of Barbie Magazine, you’re looking at exhibit A of why content marketing fails.

It boils down to this: Barbie Magazine was basically a bigole ad.

Maybe it didn’t tell me where to buy Barbie dolls (or did it? I don’t still have any copies laying around), but come on.

It served its purpose on me as a six-year-old, but that’s not content marketing.

Why Barbie Magazine Fails at Content Marketing

Barbie Magazine is a great example of one of the biggest reasons why content marketing fails: We (marketers) tend to forget it’s not advertising.

Compare Barbie Magazine to what is perhaps the most well-known, longest running pieces of content marketing out there: The Michelin Guides.

The Michelin Guides do not sell tires.

They help you decide where to eat when you’re traveling. They help you enjoy being on the road.

The Michelin Guides step away from the product being sold and offer something clearly, tangibly valuable that’s only related to the product Michelin sells.

Oh, maybe sometime down the road you’ll buy some tires.

Maybe when that day comes, you’ll think nice things about Michelin because you’re familiar with the guide.

Maybe not. But you’re probably a little more familiar with the brand.

This is how content marketing wins.

Why Content Marketing Fails (It’s not Punky Brewster’s Fault)

Beyond Barbie, here are a few more reasons why content marketing fails:

  • No one wants it. Too often, people create content just to create content. Content created so you can rank for a search term, rather than to help someone with a problem, is a waste of time.
  • There’s no plan for distributing it. Content is king? Maybe a prom king. Because he’d better show some hustle when it comes to getting attention. 
  • A shoddy job on SEO. It needs to be discoverable by the right people at the right time.
  • Short attention span syndrome. By that I mean this: Too often, content marketers and those who control the budgets of content marketers lose interest before programs have a chance to pay off. That won’t work. You have to take a marathon approach to content marketing, it’s not a sprint. We’ve said this before. We’ll say it again (and again and again).
  • Insincerity. This goes back to my point above about why content marketing fails: It’s advertising hiding behind a content marketing mask. If you are insincere, if you don’t actually produce something with the intent to help people, but really want to make it look like you want to help people so you can sell them something, your audience will figure it out. You will fail.

That’s just a short list.

Tell me what you think: What are some of the most common reasons content marketing fails?

Image via Katherine of Chicago

Eleanor Pierce

Eleanor Pierce is a recovering journalist who can't decide which part of the country to call home. She's happiest when she's reading, though she also really likes writing, baking, dogs, and sarcasm. No, seriously.

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