What is the Role of Content Marketing in Brand Building vs. Demand Generation?

Updated on
June 12, 2024

Content marketing is fundamentally a brand marketing effort. Many content marketing failures stem from its distortion when integrated into demand generation strategies. While demand generation leaders can manage content programs effectively, the pressures of conversion often reshape content to serve immediate sales goals rather than long-term brand associations.

The Distortion of Content Marketing in Demand Generation

1. Conversion Pressures:

- Content Reshaping: Demand generation efforts prioritize content that drives conversion or persuasion, which diverges from content's true value—creating brand associations.

- Focus Shift: This shift results in content designed for immediate lead generation and nurturing, rather than establishing expertise and reinforcing brand recall.

2. The True Value of Content Marketing:

- Brand Associations: Content should aim to create associations of expertise regarding customer problems, reinforcing the brand as a go-to solution.

- Mental Availability: Effective content marketing makes the brand top-of-mind when customers are ready to purchase, through consistent demonstration of expertise and value.

Misalignment with Demand Generation

1. Building Lead Lists vs. Building Associations:

- Lead Generation Focus: In demand generation, content often aims to build lead lists and nurture leads through the sales funnel.

- Different Content Types: This focus results in content aimed at near-term conversion rather than long-term brand building.

2. Gated Content Debate:

- Gated Content: The controversy around gated content highlights the tension between broad reach and focused conversion. If content aimed to build associations, the emphasis would be on broad reach, not just capturing leads.

- Ungated Content: Even when content is ungated, demand generation still uses it for down-funnel conversion rather than brand association.

Balancing Content Types

1. Activation Content:

- Role in Strategy: Activation content, aimed at near-term conversion, does have a place in marketing programs but should not dominate the content strategy.

- Sequential Use: Once brand association content gains traction, activation content can capitalize on this foundation, such as through newsletters, exclusive content, or webinars.

2. Demonstrating Value First:

- Value Demonstration: Content must demonstrate value and expertise before it can effectively drive conversions. This builds trust and positions the brand as a knowledgeable authority.

Strategic Alignment for Content Marketing

1. Brand Reputation Focus:

- Core Mission: The central mission of content strategy should be developing brand associations through demonstrated expertise.

- Scalable Effort: When focused on brand reputation, content marketing becomes a powerful and scalable effort, enhancing long-term brand equity.

2. Integration with Demand Generation:

- Complementary Strategies: Content marketing and demand generation should be complementary. Content builds the foundation of brand expertise and recall, while demand generation leverages this foundation for conversions.

- Balanced Approach: A balanced approach ensures that content marketing serves its purpose of brand building, while also supporting demand generation efforts through well-timed activation content.

Final Thoughts

Content marketing's primary role is to build and reinforce brand associations, positioning the brand as an expert and reliable solution. When content marketing is misaligned with demand generation, its true value is compromised. By focusing on brand reputation and expertise, content marketing can achieve its full potential, supporting both long-term brand building and short-term conversion efforts.

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