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Content is the latest buzzword in the marketing industry these days. Any piece of communication created by brands is content be it advertising or engaging digital marketing initiatives but very few are content marketing. As content is becoming a must-have ingredient for any marketing strategy, marketers have randomly started calling everything they make as content and hence defeating the purpose of content marketing.

Samar Singh Sheikhawat

Samar Singh Sheikhawat, Chief Marketing Officer, UB Group, said most of the marketers don’t know they are not doing content marketing. Explaining with an analogy, Sheikhawat said, “When you are dead, you don’t know you are dead. It has become a buzzword these days and 90% of people don’t understand what it is all about. But because clients, agencies, marketing directors demand it, there is a big rush to do it.”

He went on saying, “Every second person I meet today is doing content. There is a lot of herd mentality in India, so anything that is popular, everybody is talking about it.”

Karan Kumar

Karan Kumar, Chief Marketing Officer, Fabindia, thinks that it’s a trend to use the word content marketing in a brand’s content marketing strategy. He said, “It’s fashionable for everyone to claim that they are in the content marketing business. The other reason is that people feel ashamed in their own industry if they don’t claim that they are doing content marketing.”

In the past, marketers used to do advertorials and surrogate advertising when they didn’t want to do direct ads or were not allowed to advertise.

It’s important not to confuse between advertorials and branded content, emphasised Shivaji Dasgupta, Founder of Inexgro Brand Advisory. He said, “Branded content is the 2018 version of the advertorials, which to me should not be confused with the spirit of content marketing. Content marketing is like a neutral medium. It is like an editorial stroke of journalistic kind of medium. The moment you make it into a paid form of communication, I don’t think it merits the term content marketing.”

Madhavi Irani

Madhavi Irani, Chief Content Officer, Nykaa, said, “Every marketer who is in the business to make sales and ad revenue considers himself or herself as a content marketer. What they are really doing is advertorials. Marketers want instant results and that is why they are doing advertorials and pumping a lot of money and calling it content, but it’s not content.”

Even while thinking of doing content marketing, people end up creating pieces that look like long-form ads. A few people would support it and say that in the end, they were telling a story and not selling the brand with slight brand integration.

In a previous interview with BuzzInContent, Jan Livingston, EVP and ECD, Fox Networks Group, said, “A lot of times, branded content ends up being three-minute ads. To not make content look like ads, brands and their content partners need to be more collaborative and ready to take chances.”

Shivaji Dasgupta

Pointing out one important aspect of content marketing that brands should keep in mind in order to not make the content look like long-form ads and maintain the integrity of the word content, Dasgupta explained, “The critical pillar of any content marketing is that the brand has to be a part of it as the response. The stimulus-response relationship has to be intact. The way its craft has been developed, content marketing is actually a deliberate act by a brand, which is cloaked in a different kind of stimulus that is not upfront but through something which is neutral, but the response of that is a brand which is not a part of that stimulus.”

A lot of social media engagements happen online: contests, pictures postings, tagging and much more to create consumer engagement. These are user-generated content, but it remains content marketing only till the brand doesn’t keep itself in the centre of the activity, but the activity on the forefront.

Dasgupta said, “This is closer to content marketing in spirit as this is being done on a neutral forum. As long as your provocation is not the brand upfront, it is okay. It has to be about the content being the conduit to the customer’s engagement, the brand appearing as a response and not the stimulus. If these criteria are fulfilled, I think it falls under content.”

Irani said, “If you are creating content for the sake of consumption through various social media engagements, I would not call it marketing. If you are trying to sell the content by insisting people to tag the brand then, of course, it’s marketing but not content marketing.”

Even in the blogging space these days, bloggers promote and talk good about all the brands they associate with and would do this for everything that is new in the market. Irani said, “Brands get in bloggers for any new announcement of a product or campaign. They would unwind, give freebies and let them go out and blog about the product. Every blogger across the country would say that he loves the product, but they would do that for everything that is being released. That authenticity is no longer there. People are waking up to the fact that so much content out there is not genuine content, but motivated.”

Platforms and the brand objectives also define the kind of content one is creating. Most of the marketers take a wrong decision in terms of the platforms used for their respective brand objectives and end up creating low-quality content.

Kumar said, “Facebook and Instagram require a different form of content than what can be done on Pinterest and Twitter. Therefore, marketers need to very carefully explore what platforms they want to explore. When people don’t get this, they think that the piece of content they have created would work miraculously across all the platforms and will deliver on all the objectives. Most marketers mix their objectives and platform of choices and therefore end up creating a mishmash of content, which is suboptimal at every level.”

The content word is abused not just in terms of its actual meaning, but also in terms of quality. There is a huge lot of bad quality content marketing circulating in the market. If it continues this way then content marketing will lose potential over the time.

In fact, Sheikhawat said that most people don’t know if they are consuming bad quality content.

“In India, everything is all about quantity and not quality. Just making 20 pieces of content, which is not engaging, topical, not related to the brand and not connected to the consumers doesn’t work,” added Sheikhawat.

According to Kumar, lack of knowledge about quality content among brands is another reason for the content word to remain abused. He said, “Today, there is an agency popping up at every corner of a crossroad in every city in this country. The clients don’t know what kind of production quality the agencies are driving. These agencies are mostly new and some of them are run by kids.”

But who decides if a content is good or bad?

Dasgupta said, “The question is not about good or bad taste here. You and I might not like a certain thing for our personal reasons. If a piece of content has a market and works well for the brand, then there is no problem. But if it’s poor production value, quality, taste and socially insensitive then it is definitely bad content.”

As times change, marketers in India will also understand the real potential of the word content marketing and use it to its fullest. Being optimistic, Sheikhawat added, “We have improved on this front a little bit, but there is a long way to go. Five years ago, only 5% marketers understood it. Today, 10% of marketers understand it. It has improved, but not where it should be.”

Dasgupta suggested training and proper education in content marketing in the industry should be must to understand its potential and power.

Having his reservations, Sheikhawat said, “Training will work if the trainer is clear in his head about content marketing. Trainers themselves don’t know it well. Who will train them?