The phrase content marketing may be a neologism, but one of the pillars of the practice has been around since the late 1800s. I’m talking about corporate magazines. Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, credits John Deere as one of the first purveyors of content marketing with the publication of its corporate magazine, The Furrow, which is still distributed to 1.5 million people.
In the 1940s even a cigarette brand published a magazine to promote its tobacco quality and the transcendent lifestyle of smokers. Chesterfield’s Tobaccoland magazine was introduced to the American public and featured in print ads with Hollywood stars of the day. Think Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth!
Through the years corporate magazines were popularized by technology companies as an ideal vehicle for showcasing complex products and systems. Companies like IBM and its venerable Think magazine, and the now-defunct Control Data Corporation, were on the vanguard of corporate publishing. An entire industry of custom publishers sprouted up to quench the thirst of companies eager to meet the appetites of corporate publishing magnates.
When I worked for Unisys Defense Systems in the 90s I had the opportunity to create and publish a corporate magazine from scratch, a publication that proved to be too expensive to sustain. Each issue of our magazine, Performance, cost about $50,000 to produce. That’s because stories were written by freelance journalists replete with commissioned photography and illustration; all beautifully designed and printed on fine, glossy paper.
Today, some industry-leading companies like Cargill, Northrop Gruman and Deluxe still publish these luxury-grade magazines, but like numerous commercial magazines, many print magazines have been converted to digital-only publications.
The renaissance of digital magazines, however, has opened up this effective tactic to much smaller companies with marketing budgets to match. Although far from a small company, McKinsey & Company’s newsletter McKinsey Quarterly is a best-practice example of digital publications: [see below]
- Clean, uncluttered design
- Compelling illustrations and photography
- Shorter articles that can be consumed quickly by readers on the go
- Eclectic topics that appeal to wide audiences
- Easy-to-find forms for requesting more information
- Comment fields for reader feedback
Again, corporate magazines or newsletters are especially suited for B2B companies that market complex products and services.
Here are 10 benefits
- Good tactic for starting “conversations” with customers and prospects; less direct than other marketing tactics
- Well-written corporate publications are highly credible
- Articles can celebrate customers and experiences with the company’s products and services; customers love reading success stories
- Helps position your firm as an industry thought leader
- Positions your star employees as thought leaders and experts in their disciplines
- Articles can easily be shared with colleagues or friends through emailing or social sharing
- Customers and prospects can choose whether to receive the publication
- Offers readers a chance to respond to articles and offer their insights (difficult to do through a print ad)
- Convenient for your readers: digital publications can be consumed on multiple platforms: computers, smartphones and tablet devices
- Option to turn the publication into its own magazine/newsletter app, which will help increase readership
These benefits might just make the corporate magazine the ultimate content marketing tactic. What do you think?
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