5 Reasons Why Content is NOT King

  • Content is one of the most important aspects of marketing businesses, but it's NOT the key element like so many will claim it is.
  • There are several reasons why content is not king: most content does not engage the audience it's targeted towards, it lacks feeling, and can sometimes be completely irrelevant to a business.
  • Context is the real king; content is the kingdom. Context engages with people and provides a user experience that brings real success to a business.

Provocative headline, yes? But let me assure you, it's not click bait. I have an argument I will put forward to substantiate this claim. 

So, are you ready for me to blow your mind? 

The content marketing industry is expected to be valued at $300 billion by 2019. It’s a seemingly large figure, but one which without reference is potentially meaningless. So, let me put that into context for you: Pakistan only just earned the status of having an economy valued at $300 billion.

It's phenomenal isn’t it, and it shows we're talking big dollars here.

And when you look at the fact some brands are producing stunning, compelling, and engaging content, it may be easy to understand why the industry is worth so much. But I would like to put forth the argument that despite this growth and the popularity of the term “Content Marketing,” content is not king.

It's heresy to say that, right? No, I do not think it is, and let me put forward my case on why content marketing is not the key to marketing, or more importantly, business success.

People engage with a brand for the value it gives them, not to help that brand create more value for itself.

Some thoughts on the fallacy of content

I have a few grievances with the notion that "Content is King." Let me list them for you:

  • If good content was truly king, big brands would use only the “best content” on their sites. But they don't. They do more than provide content, they provide interactions which extend their brand experience. It's this point that has led to the rise of “user experience.” Poor user experience as we know leads to lost business.
  • People create content to tick boxes: "I need fresh content to boost my SEO, I need to write about this hot topic, I need to maintain a voice if I am to be heard, etc." And this gives rise to the prolificacy of bad content. Sure, many ascribe their point of view to the content they produce, but it is often done to suit their agenda, rather than produce with a perspective of what it means to their audience.
  • Content often gets people thinking, but not often does it get us feeling. Content that gets us feeling, gets us acting. Tick-box content does not generally achieve this.
  • The need for immediacy fuels an ongoing reliance on often meaningless vanity metrics. In other words, people are prematurely determining the success of their content to justify its means: “4000 views/256 likes/111 shares/100 views to completion/98 downloads."
  • The best written/video/etc content is not necessarily the best content for your audience. I could write the most compelling paper on Genghis Khan for my blog, but what value is it on a site about strategic marketing? If the answer is "nada," then you are on track to understanding that content is nothing without context!

The X Factor: Context

I ask you this: if you’re producing content that is not achieving your business goals (as opposed to a short-term marketing metric), how then can content be king? Surely you want your king to be doing good things for you.

If you are finding that your content is good, but not great, perhaps this test will help. Go back to your cache of content and look at what has generated a buzz for your brand and in turn created opportunities for you. What is it that has worked for you? I would hazard a guess that you produced content that was contextual and in doing so created a connection with your audience that they felt compelled to respond to.

Content is not King. Rather, content is the Kingdom.

So, the question is, how can you routinely and consistently create contextual content? I believe there are a few steps that can make it easier:

  • As you create content, ask yourself what it is that your audience DOES KNOW about your topic and what they DON'T KNOW about it. What is the gap in their knowledge, where can you add value and how can you present that value in a way that means something to them?
  • Connect with people. People engage with a brand for the value it gives them, not to help that brand create more value for itself. So, ensure you create content with the end in mind – creating value for the audience, not deriving value for yourself. People will see through you otherwise.
  • Create content that can be understood by all with minimal fuss. People like Neil deGrasse Tyson, Sir David Attenborough, and Heston Blumenthal have created worldwide tribes, because they never speak down to their audience, can deconstruct the complex in a meaningful way, and create stories which people can relate to. Ultimately, great content needs to develop an ongoing relationship between the company writing it and the audience it seeks to engage.
  • Remember that you should create content that resonates with a larger audience than just the existing market. If you want to grow your market share or even the market, then consider creating content which can be understood by those with less working knowledge or which helps them see the back story.
  • Write or build a story in a way which draws them in. It needs to be useful, it needs to tell stories. Otherwise, it will fail to evoke an emotion and thus fail to produce a result.
  • Have you ever noted that if you don’t understand a situation, you ask for background information? From that, you can piece together a story!
  • Bear in mind that just because you want to grow your presence, you cannot connect with everyone. As Seth Godin would say, find your tribe and then help this tribe to achieve their goals.
  • And remember, be true to yourself/your brand voice. If people are inherently averse to change, then the opposite is true; people like consistency. Make sure your tone of voice is consistent.
  • Care about what you speak about. Your passion will be contagious; harvest this passion.

To be honest with you, I see content as the playing field within which we all operate. And ultimately, content needs to remain a huge part of any business' (not just the marketing department) arsenal. However, key to success is to realise that content is not King. Rather, content is the Kingdom – the playing field within which people operate – and it is context which is truly King. Take away the context and all you are left with is a wide open expanse, waiting for someone to give meaning to it.


Hamish Anderson

Hamish Anderson

Founder and Director at Mesh Consulting

Passionate about pushing the envelope, I am driven by the understanding that there is always more than one answer to any problem or question. I am a results focussed senior marketer with a history of improving ROI by successfully aligning offline marketing with online customer acquisition, through innovative strategy supported by mobile, web, SEM, social and content development.


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John Eustace

John Eustace , Principal / Communications and Media Strategist at Bells and Whistles Marketing Pty Ltd

Hamish, I thought just for a moment that I had discovered another "Content Marketing" (I despise the term) evangelist who was about to rely in Click Bait to espouse the same old, same old content is king propaganda. How disappointed am I that I have been deprived of the opportunity to take you on, as what you have stated on context is so plainly refreshing to read and right on point! The so called "Content Marketing" fraternity have forever corrupted a key component of marketing communications by promoting the proliferation of meaningless and repetitive drivel under their banner. What a great read, I will repost this anywhere where “they” might be listening!

Deborah Vella

Deborah Vella , Owner at Support Legal

Great article. Authenticity and connections are very important. Thanks

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