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What Century of Content Marketing Can Teach Us


Now everyone is talking, bidding financially (fun gossip GE sold their finance wing and does extremely well on content production) and winning with a content marketing. Few things contributed to the trend, but by my opinion, only handful of major events were responsible for the proper spin off of the marketing model previously more known as “Custom Publishing”.


  • With a Google panda update in 2011 all SEO experts saw their entire black hat bubble burst. Google started to penalize duplicate articles and back-link strategy that worked so well by tricking previous algorithms in believing that the site has more credibility.
  • Post 2008 Rise of shoestring startups that relied solely on content marketing to build their brands. As the main point of content marketing is to share knowledge many startups were created to serve the need of corporate clients, at the same time educating armies of small scale content marketeers as done by Hubspot and Mailchimp.
  • Genesis of new ways to produce, deliver and promote user generated content with YouTube, Facebook, Vine, Instagram and many more. There it is important to mention the importance of Microsoft WordPress platform and what it did for online publishing, but without the social networks it is as good as car with missing wheel.

Before the term of Content Marketing was first used by John F. Oppedahl in 1996 in was more commonly known as “custom publishing” and in that shape dates back as far as the 18th century. The entire point was that business would become a publishing house for themselves captivating their audience by providing value first in exchange for the loyalty of their customers as was brilliantly made by John Deere “The Furrow”.


So how did brands and companies utilized this now popular marketing tool? Is it possible to track main events that let to the current form? I will share my favorite examples that not only created and solidified the genre of custom publishing, but also sprung new art forms and went way past even most wettest marketer’s dream

“I will never put my name on a product that does not have in it the best that is in me.”

John Deere

1897 John Deere and The Furrow

John Deere created their furrow in 1897 for the purpose of informing Farmers on how to become more effective and lucrative business owners. By Many this is considered to be the birth of Custom Publishing. The Magazine is still running strong and still maintains the spirit of less advertising – more helpful information.


1900 Michelin Guides

In 1900 Michelin released their first guide covering France (at a time there were only 3000 cars in France) covering petrol stations, hotels and repair places sorted and ready to be used by motorist in need. In later years they added restaurant reviews with a still used 3 star rating system.

1904 Jello Recipe Book

After recipe was purchased by Woodward from original manufacturers extensive marketing campaign led to a success in sales, freeing up the cash for the publishing of Free Recipe Book showing how to properly prepare it, At that time unheard marketing effort resulted in 1 million in sales between 1904 to 1906, 25 billion in today’s money.

1913 Benchmark by Burns and McDonnell

In 1913 engineering firm launched a quarterly magazine (still produced today) to target their potential customers by providing industry information. Industry expertise was something company was extremely proud of and used it as a differentiator when compared to the similar companies.

1922 Sears WLS Radio Station

In the time Sears (Shopping Catalog) was a vivid spender on radio and some believe it could have been the main contributor to their success. Eventually they formed their own Worlds Largest Store radio station where they informed farmers (market, they knew very well) thru deflation crisis.

1930 Who Put soap in Soap Opera

New Duzz soap, a product of Proctor and Gamble was a first sponsor of radio drama, predecessor of the modern soap opera, The Guiding Light. In this way brand was able to captivate audience with interesting storylines and were responsible for the birth of a new genre. Quickly, the Oxydol soap brand was added and the name stuck.

1943 US custom publishing Boom

In this time number of brands started their own magazines either it was done in the spirit of the nation or companies just jumped on proven track to consumer hearts but few brands went to entertain and educate their consumers. Dupont , General motors and Harley Davidson were part of 500 publications uniting the country under Flag print on their cover page.

1982 GI Joe Comic Book

Hasbro were well ahead of their time when decided to partner in creation of the GI Joe comic book with Marvel. Not only it became franchise on itself, but also sets an example for other toy manufacturers with similar examples seen thru years. The more recent example is Lego reinventing themselves with movies and stop motion animation.

1987 Lego Brick Kicks Magazine

Lego launched their own magazine for the sole purpose of selling more Lego Bricks and even it had changed the name to Lego Club, firm foundation was set for the future of companies marketing efforts. With a new addition of customer generated content efforts, most of Lego marketing (LegoLand, movies, animated series) are more inbound than outbound.

2003 Creation of WordPress

Now so embedded into the fabric of modern marketing that it is often forgotten how it all started. Michael Valdrighi developed the platform from 2001 to 2003 but after the sudden stop in progress it took to frustrated Mike Little proposed team up of B2 and eventual launch in May 2003. The world has never been the same.

2004 Microsoft’s Channel 9

When it comes to content marketing Microsoft actually contributed the most to the adoption of a corporate blog trend and everything that followed afterwards. Highly successful marketing tool for majority of businesses today.

2005 LiveVaults Viral video

Produced for automated disk backup solutions client LiveVault and targeted at IT professionals, video has generated more than 280,000 web downloads, over 200 linking sites, and a tenfold increase in website visits for LiveVault. And this is B.Y. (Before YouTube).

2006 Will it Blend

I can bet that nobody expected 6 million views and 700% sales growth from series of home brew videos featuring a blender. Considered by many one of the first proper viral marketing campaigns A.Y. (After YouTube) series established BlendTec as go to brand for durability and Function.

2007 Red Bull Bulletin

Many of us witnessed some of their brand related marketing activities either reading an article on Extreme sports on Red Bull BUlletin or watched live Red Bull Stratos jump. Red bull is basically a publishing house and does indeed plan to spin their content production business into separate company pretty soon.

2008 P&G Being a Girl Blog

Tired with traditional ways of reaching to their customers P&G launched this teen dedicated website to build close up relationship with their customers. Four times more effective than traditional advertising blog soon had clones attached to the other products (Vanish blog with cleaning tips etc.).

2011 Coca Cola 2020 release

When it was released it changed the perception of how marketing will work from now on. Traditionally spending insane amounts of money on Advertising Coca Cola made a statement that they are not only going content, but also admitted that they learn from others. Branded storytelling is indeed a center of most communications coming lately from the company.


ContentMarketingWorld.com part joking, part serious used cave drawings as a first example of content marketing “Five Ways a pear can save you from a wild boar”. Other examples can be traced more than 100 years back. As you may see some of very popular brands are seen on the list above, so it is important to note that very likely their efforts have contributed to their success.

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