How old would you guess that content marketing is?
When someone first asked me that question a few years ago, I thought it had been around for maybe 50, 70, or perhaps even 90 years.
But I was wrong. I was very wrong.
The year is 1732, and a man by the name of Benjamin Franklin just published the first version of his annual Poor Richard’s Almanack.
Why did he do it?
Did he do it for fun because he liked writing and expressing his ideas?
Nope, that wasn’t it at all.
He did it because he wanted to advertise the new printing business that he had created. He figured the best way to do this was to print his own Almanack and potentially encourage others to print there too.
According to Content Marketing Institute’s timeline, this is the very first occurrence of true content marketing.
That was almost 300 years ago.
I’m willing to bet you didn’t think that content marketing started with Benjamin Franklin in the 1700s. It’s possible that you’re more insightful than I was a few years back and you guessed it from the gate.
Most of you, though, probably didn’t.
And that’s because content marketing feels like a modern development.
But, while the term is fairly new, the practice isn’t.
For years, businesses and individuals alike have tried to attract attention by creating free or cheap content.
John Deere, the tractor company, did something similar to Franklin in 1895 when they produced a lifestyle magazine for farmers that they called “The Furrow.”
As you can see in the bottom left-hand corner, the magazine was complimentary.
Now, you might be able to argue that John Deere did this out of the kindness of their heart. Perhaps they simply wanted to help people and didn’t realize the effect that this publication would have on the business’s revenue.
More than likely, though, that wasn’t the case.
John Deere did this because they understood the heart of content marketing: what goes around comes around.
Or basically, if you produce free and helpful content for your target market, they will engage with you, spread your message, and probably even buy from you.
Jello-O was another company that recognized this early on in their marketing journey.
And here’s one from Safari Cards that ran for almost 10 years starting in 1978.
Content marketing efforts have been around here and there over the last few hundred years.
Even though the methods for content marketing have changed over the years, the formula for great content has stayed largely the same.
It’s the same formula for getting people to buy your products.
- Push on the person’s paint point.
- Agitate that pain.
- Solve their problem.
Here’s a more modern content marketing ad that implements that same strategy.
Now, of course, this happens in videos and pictures and blog posts and infographics.
As you can see, content marketing has come a long way in the last few centuries.