What Is Content Marketing?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Discover how to use content marketing to your advantage and market your brand effectively and efficiently.

[Featured Image] Two hands type on a keyboard.

When you encounter content marketing in the form of a podcast, blog, or print magazine, sometimes you might not even realise that you’re looking at branded content. That can be a hallmark of effective content marketing. 

Providing useful and relevant content often excites consumers and inspires them to support your brand and share it with others. For example, Airbnb’s user-generated neighbourhood guides are full of great suggestions from locals.

Content marketing is a marketing strategy that includes creating articles, podcasts, videos, infographics, and other types of media to engage and retain potential customers. This article will define content marketing and outline strategies to elevate your brand. 

Some leading examples of helpful content include:

  • Zendesk’s blog, featuring guides and advice on customer service, sales, and culture

  • Dell Technologies’ “Trailblazers,” a podcast that tells unexpected stories of digital disruption and is hosted by Walter Isaacson, a history professor at Tulane University and advisory partner at a financial services firm

  • John Deere’s The Furrow magazine started in 1895 and is still in print today. As one of the oldest examples of content marketing, its goal remains the same: to tell enjoyable stories and provide operational knowledge. At its peak in 1912, the magazine reached over four million consumers. The Furrow demonstrates that content marketing that is both interesting and useful can be effective for long-term engagement and brand reputation with consumers.

The importance of content marketing

Content marketing is one of the original forms of traditional marketing. It’s been a powerful tool in marketers’ toolboxes for more than a century because of its power to convince and convert. Content marketing is important because it:

  • Creates genuine engagement: Consumers who resonate with the content of a brand-sponsored article, newsletter, or blog often gain a positive view of that brand and continue supporting it. 

  • Delivers value: Whether it’s a video about how a product can solve a specific problem or a podcast episode about productivity published by a content management software company, content with value to consumers helps build the brand’s reputation. In turn, it also builds customer loyalty and leads to more sales.

  • Offers versatility: You have more ways to target prospective customers today than ever before thanks to the various digital tools available. From free crocheting templates to recipes to blogs on UX, you won’t find a shortage of approaches brands can use in their content marketing efforts. Even more, brands can use various media to reach current and new audiences. 

Content marketing is considered a core business strategy for 81 per cent of marketers [1]. In 2022, 90 per cent of marketers actively invested in content marketing, whilst only 10 per cent did not use it at all, according to Hubspot’s State of Marketing report [2]. Semrush reports that 89 percent of companies surveyed rely on organic search as the most effective distribution channel [3]. This is important because if Google searches are how a potential customer discovers a brand, the content they’re clicking on needs must be high-quality and useful.

How content marketing works

To become familiar with a brand, product, or service, customers undergo the stages of awareness, consideration, and commitment. Each phase requires different types of content that can attract and retain customers.

Awareness: Increasing brand awareness is a key function of content marketing, particularly because potential customers may not know what the brand has to offer—or that it even exists. Providing content that illuminates and potentially alleviates their challenges, or elicits desire by forming an identity connection, can draw attention to your brand because it is useful and relevant.

  • Social media posts, emails, blog posts, and videos

  • Examples:

Consideration: At this stage of brand awareness, the consumer has heard of the brand and is comparing it against other brands. It is a crucial time for brands to sway opinions one way or another, so it should incorporate an element of marketing. Not only is the content useful, but it also nudges you to choose their brand over others.

Commitment: The consumer has committed to buying your product or service, so this is the time to seal the deal. They may already subscribe to your newsletter or emails or follow you on social media, so it’s time to convince them you are the best choice out of all the competitors. After the purchase, customers might share these types of content (by tagging a friend in an Instagram post, for example) if they feel it aligns with their identity.

  • Newsletters, FAQ guides, research or impact reports, social media posts

  • Example: 

    • AIGA Eye on Design’s email newsletter, which synthesises their new stories into one place

Creating high-quality content that directly targets your intended audience is essential because search engine algorithms are getting smarter. In the game of reaching your audience, only the highest quality, most valuable content wins.

Key elements of a content marketing strategy

When creating a content marketing strategy for your brand, start by identifying your target audience. Consider their needs and pain points to determine the touchpoints that will help you engage with them. The four main elements of a content marketing strategy include brand positioning, value proposition, measuring ROI, and developing a plan.

1. Position your brand.

First, define your brand, values, and positioning. If you are selling chocolate, are you an artisanal chocolate bar that sources its beans from South America, or are you marketing Cadbury candies? Whilst a chocolate lover may purchase both, the two types of brands tend to appeal to different consumers. You might consider demographics and location when positioning your brand, thinking about your competitors to strategise delivering a unique brand experience. 

2. Identify your value.

Once you have defined your brand and positioning, you can start to identify what value to deliver with specific types of content. You can sustain relationships with customers through channels such as emails or social media presence when they follow your brand for recipe tips, aspirational lifestyle photos, links to life hack blogs, and more. Your content offering should make sense for your brand and convert into sales.

3. Consider your return on investment (ROI).

With your positioning and value in mind, create a compelling case for the content to drive your business forward. It wouldn’t be productive if you waste time and resources to produce content that does not help your organisation achieve its business goals. Develop a business case that assesses your content strategy’s benefits, risks, and budget. Your organisation must be convinced that implementing this strategy has a high ROI.

4. Define your plan.

After estimating the potential ROI, you can create a plan that addresses how, when, and where (consider channels and mediums, as well as regions) your strategy will be implemented. Your plan should align with your business goals and integrate any other marketing and sales programmes. With these four parts in mind, you can create a solid content marketing strategy to propel your business forwards.

Elevate your brand

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Article sources


Content Marketing Institute. “2021 Content Management & Strategy Survey, https://contentmarketinginstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/2021-content-management-strategy-final.pdf.” Accessed August 28, 2023.

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