Content Marketing: What Is It? What Is It Good For?

Content Marketing: What Is It? What Is It Good For?

The term ‘content marketing’ is just about as vague and overused as Big Data. The global head of content at direct marketing agency Wunderman Tara Marsh clears up the confusion around what content marketing actually means and why she thinks The Sun Dream Team app is the perfect success story.

Posted by ERIN MARY Doyle

“The easiest definition of content marketing, used by Wunderman, is for brands to stop interrupting what people are interested in and instead become what people are interested in,” Marsh told B&T Within this definition, content marketing involves three different criteria- active choice, relevance and value exchange. 


Tara Marsh

Active choice

Active choice occurs when a brand’s audience makes an active decision to spend time with the content. “Ads that are so good, so entertaining that people will go on YouTube and search for them. They choose to watch them and choose to share them.” Marsh uses the example of Budweiser’s SuperBowl puppy ad:


The issue of audience relevance is the second criteria of content marketing. “Depending on your audience the same piece of content could be a traditional ad to one person and a piece of content marketing to another.” A person (with no soul) might watch the Budweiser puppy ad and be annoyed by it, whereas another person (with a soul) will watch the ad and find it adorable.

Value exchange

“Content marketing has to provide value of some sort, we have a model where we look at value along six different content currency….It could be a that a brand provides value across all six or just one, but trying to think tangible about how you can give something to your audience to get their attention and their business.”

Wunderman’s six categories of value exchange:

1. Information

This is probably the closest to traditional advertising. It’s the most basic level of information about products, price that you need to make a purchase decision.

2. Education

One step further than information is education, it provides more education on a product. The deeper level of the ‘why’, for example American Express having a credit card matching quiz which helps you decided which card would suit you.

3. Inspiration

Providing customers with inspiration, such as recipe ideas, is an example of value exchange. Marsh uses US supermarket Whole Foods as an example of a brand utilising inspiration content marketing: “The chances are if someone sees a recipe and there’s a Whole Foods nearby they will probably go there and buy their ingredients.”

Coles has been following a similar tactic with its #XmasInspiration campaign:

4. Entertainment

Red Bull pretty much owns this content marketing space, providing users with content which entertains:

Brands which traditionally wouldn’t be considered ‘cool’ like Red Bull, brands such as AMEX and GE are also using entertainment to provide value to its consumers.

5. Utility

Utility content marketing is providing a customer with something which is useful; content which helps in some tangible way and in exchange the user becomes a loyal customer. For example, a hotel app could let a customer check-in but it could also open the room door and order room service.

“The lines are blurring between who is marketing and who is product because the roles are becoming the same.”

6. Experience

The final category ‘experiences’ included live events and tangible experiences which give customers positive associations with a brand. For example, alcohol brand Bacardi providing mojitos to people at a music festival which it sponsors.

An example of Wunderman’s content marketing work is the The Sun’s Dream Team campaign. Last year The Sun put its online content behind a paywall, Wunderman and The Sun ran a social media campaign called Dream Team to encourage readers to get behind the paywall.

“The Wunderman team in London started mining all of this data about people using the Dream Team product. They came up with this remarkable insight that although people are die-hard loyal fans to their team in real-life, yet when they looked at the data they found that on their Dream Team people were cheating on their team.”

This data inspired the tagline for The Sun’s campaign: ‘It’s not cheating if it’s your dream team’.

“We would basically track what was happening in the games and track what was happening in the Dream Team and put post out which was immediately relevant to what was happening in real-life. For example, a player did really poorly and people dropped him from their Dream Team within an hour.

“Subscriptions to the Dream team app, which sat behind that paywall, was way beyond any of their targets. So much of that was because of this really great, funny, interesting content that people were engaging with. That campaign combines ‘utility’ because it’s a product and it’s ‘entertainment’ because it’s something people are using because it’s fun.”