In its most basic form, content marketing is really just storytelling.  And the idea of using stories to entice and maintain customers is not new.  In fact, the history of content marketing dates back thousands of years.

Let’s take a look at the powerful connection between storytelling – or content marketing – and branding.

Caveman Communication

It is easy to believe that content marketing is as new as the internet. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

In between stints chasing wild animals, the cavemen were publishing their own content. Is this the same type of content as we see in today’s world? Of course not – but it wasn’t really that far off. 

Archeologists loosely translate one cave painting as “6 Ways a Spear Can Save You From Wild Boar.”  That could be a headline on some of today’s outdoor adventure blogs!

Although the cavemen were sending marketing messages from one cave to the next as early as 4200 B.C., let’s skip ahead to the late 1890’s for a better idea of just how far things have come.

John Deere’s Soft Sell Strategy

Why would John Deere launch a consumer magazine in 1895, well before the US Post Office was able to get mail from one location to the next within a matter of days? Simply put, they realized that this was an untapped strategy for not only educating consumers but also selling to them directly. By combining the two, the company was able to use a “soft sell” approach that has helped the brand move to the forefront of the industry.

Have things really changed that much? Yes and no. The Furrow was small when it launched, but with the John Deere brand behind it, the publication has grown substantially. At this time, there is a circulation of more than 1.5 million – which spans 40 countries in 12 different languages. This speaks to the longevity and overall power of this marketing strategy.

Jell-O Turns Free Content into Big Profits
Of course, everybody knows that it is “all about the money.” Jell-O was one of the first brands to take this thought into the world of content marketing.

In 1904, the company distributed thousands of free copies of its recipe book. Even they had to be surprised that the book directly contributed to more than $1 million in sales in less than two years.

The company realized there was risk involved with pushing out free content, but the gambled paid off in a big way.

Money Comes Marching In With G. I. Joe

By the early 1980’s, it was clear that content marketing was a serious method of driving sales. And driving sales was just the start. In 1982, Hasbro partnered with Marvel to create the famous G.I. Joe comic book. Was this comic book released with the idea of making money? Of course.

That being said, it had a lot to do with building a brand. And as you know, the G.I. Joe brand has held up to the test of time. It has been 30 years since the comic book was released and this character is still going strong.

Hasbro and Marvel took content marketing to the next step. Yes, they started with a comic book but it was also the first one to be advertised on television. In other words, they had more than the content – they had an advertising budget for spreading the word. And that is exactly what they did for many years.

Content Marketing and the Internet: A Match Made in Heaven

By 2001, spending on custom content was closing in on $20 billion. During the first 10 years of the century, companies began to realize the power of the internet. They started to focus time, money and energy on their web presence while still relying heavily on other forms of content marketing.

Penton Custom Media in Cleveland, Ohio was the first company to start using the term content marketing.  The influence of the internet not only helped coin the term, but made it an instant success.

It is hard to remember what life was like before blogs. The first major corporate blog is traced back to Microsoft’s Channel 9.  Since then, life as we know it has never been the same.

Content Goes Viral

If you have a difficult time imaging life without blogs, take a moment to ponder life without YouTube. 

Blendtec uploaded their first video to YouTube in 2007.  It received 6 million views and brought in 385,000 subscribers.  This produced a 700% growth in revenue. 

According to YouTube statistics, there are over 800 million unique visits to YouTube each month with over 72 hours of video uploaded each minute.  This information has taken content marketing to a whole new level. 

Getting to the Heart of the Matter
According to the Content Marketing Institute, approximately 88 percent of all brands worldwide are using some form of content marketing.

No matter what your marketing strategy is storytelling is at the center of it.  Do you use search engine optimization so people can find you?  Do you focus on lead generation and conversion tactics?  Do you lean heavily on social media tools?

None of these strategies will be effective if storytelling – or content marketing – isn’t at the center.  These tactics need to revolve around or be grounded in quality, relevant stories.

Content marketing has been around longer than any of us. Despite the fact that it has gone through a natural evolution, its roots will always be remembered. After all, we are all cavemen deep down inside, right?

Author Bio:

Steve Aedy is a content writer and editor for a custom essay writing services company – He specializes in writing of essays on history, social media and classic literature. Follow Steve on Twitter.


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