While there are multiple examples of early content marketing throughout history, here are five of our favorites.
- 4200 B.C. Yes, you read that right. Cave paintings dating back to that time period have been loosely translated by archaeologists as “6 Ways a Spear Can Save You From Wild Boar.” If that headline was as captivating back then as it is now, spear trade must have been thriving.
- 1895 For the caveman non-believers, John Deere is the more commonly accepted original producer of content marketing material. The agricultural machinery manufacturer published a consumer magazine, called The Furrow, to sell more products. Today, it is still distributed in more than 40 countries and translated in 12 languages, with a circulation of about 1.5 million readers.
- 1900 Michelin used content to increase the demand of cars at the turn of the century when very few consumers owned automobiles. They gave away free copies of a 400-page guide, featuring auto maintenance tips as well as travel advice for those driving around France. It expanded into a series of yearly guides, which were free until 1920.
- 1904 The owner of Jell-O was once so desperate from low sales of the gelatin treat that he almost sold the rights to his plant superintendent. But luckily, in a last-ditch effort, he sent out salesmen to go door-to-door delivering free copies of a Jell-O recipe book. The creative recipe ideas for using Jell-O in cooking caught consumers’ attention, and sales reached $1 million within two years.
- 1930s Admit it; everyone has seen at least one episode of “The Young and the Restless” or “General Hospital”. But did you know that soap operas originated as branded content? When radio executives were in need of advertisers to sponsor and produce shows, they turned to household goods — most notably Procter & Gamble Co. But to target the buyers of their products — predominantly stay-at-home wives and mothers — they needed to produce content that would appeal to them. Thus, the world of drama, romance, and dark secrets became a staple daytime program; sales of P & G products soared; and the term “soap opera” was coined.
Here’s the kicker: All of the companies in these examples are all still around and thriving today! Ok, maybe not the cavemen. But all are examples of companies that flourished when they produced content to appeal to the masses. By appealing to consumers and offering them something of value through content marketing, you can take your business to the next level as well.