Content Marketing - Old Wine Into New Bottles? A Theoretical and Empirically Based Characteristic of the Discipline Content Marketing

Julie Brandenborg Andersen & Anna Yding Berthelsen

Student thesis: Master thesis


The purpose of this thesis is to generate a theoretical understanding of the phenomenon ‘content marketing’ in order to characterize content marketing as a marketing- and communication discipline. This is done in order to be able to discuss whether content marketing is an independent discipline. The subject is relevant to investigate, as content marketing has become more popular in the duration of the last few years, and yet it still seems to lacks a theoretical foundation. The focal point of the thesis’ theoretical basis is the following three perspectives: Consumer theory, Communication and Media theory and Marketing theory. These perspectives are used analytically throughout the thesis in order to explore content marketing and thus place content marketing in a theoretical context. The empirical findings for the study is based on eight interviews with consumers, content marketing experts and content marketing practitioners, the latter including marketing and communication agencies and companies. Together they constitute the empirical basis of the analysis. Consumer theory was used to illuminate the form of content. The findings show that content can be characterized as relevant if it revolves around the consumer’s interests and if they seek the information themselves. The other criteria were related to both relevancy and value: The content should resolve a problem for the consumer, it must not be time-consuming and the company should appear implicit. Moreover, in order for content to be trustworthy, the company should present themselves as an expert, i.e., a ‘thought leader’. A thought leader is defined as “an expert, who shares his knowledge and is considered an authority within his field” Communication theory and Media theory were used to illuminate the construct and distribution of content. The findings show that content marketing shares many of the same criteria as news, but also have some unique criteria: Topic relevance, value creation, engaging or knowledge sharing. Moreover, content should be distributed consistently on owned media whereas content marketing on paid media can be used to reach a new target group with the content. Lastly, the reason why content is disguised as e.g. helpful information, is to break through the clutter of commercials in order obtain the consumers attention. Marketing theory was used to investigate the characterization of the philosophy in content marketing. The findings show that the basic philosophy of content marketing is identical to that of relationship marketing. Moreover, the mindset in content marketing builds on a pull strategy, meaning that content should not have a selling approach and consumers should access the content by themselves. However, content can be pushed as an initial strategy to make the content visible or to target a new group. Last, on a strategic level the company's core story builds upon the principles within storytelling. This core story is used to insure an alignment within the company about which type of content they should create. Based on the findings, we present a more nuanced characterization of content marketing. Thus, we argue that we have presented a more nuanced and comprehensive characterization of content marketing, which contributes to the field of content marketing. Based on the analysis, we present five arguments for why content marketing is not new and thus cannot be characterized as an independent discipline: 1. Content marketing has been practiced before the term came into existence. 2. Content marketing is perceived as marketing by the participants in the focus groups. 3. The recipient's experience of the relevance of a communication product has always been central to the process of communication. 4. Content has previously been disguised in the same way as in content marketing to hide the fact that it is an advertisement. 5. The line of thoughts in content marketing is identical to that of relationship marketing. Our thesis shows that content marketing purely consists of existing disciplines. Therefore, it is argued throughout our thesis that content marketing cannot be seen as an independent discipline that contributes with something new to the marketing- and communication discipline.

EducationsMSc in Business Administration and Organizational Communication, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2017
Number of pages106