By Joe Pulizzi published May 17, 2014

Why Content Marketing Fails Without Strategy

pnr logoPNR: This Old Marketing with Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose can be found on both iTunes and Stitcher.

In this episode, Robert and I discuss the Omnicom/Publicis breakup. We also touch on how PR plays into Google’s Panda algorithm. In addition, we discuss the future of marketing apps, elaborate on why content marketing fails, and go in-depth on finding your Moneyball number for content marketing. This week’s #ThisOldMarketing example: Poetry Magazine.

This week’s show

(Recorded live on May 12, 2014; Length: 51:21)

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Show overview

1. Content Marketing in the News

  • Omnicom and Publicis Stop Merger (2:44): More than nine months after announcing a plan to team up in a $35 billion merger, ad agency giants Publicis Groupe and Omnicom Group have called off the deal, according to this article in AdWeek. Robert shares what he believes Publicis’ next move will be. I question the wisdom of focusing on size in a time where agility and innovation matter more.
  • Google Validates That PR Is SEO (5:43): In a recent patent application, Google shared some of the “secret sauce” that goes into its Panda algorithm for ranking websites, reports Christopher Penn on the Shift Communications blog. In this patent filing, the search engine giant says it not only measures the quality of actual links to your website, but also “implied links,” which are mentions of your products, services and brands in online media that don’t contain links. Robert believes brands need to be cautious about reading too much into it. I believe marketers should continue to focus on producing and optimizing excellent content.
  • Scott Brinker Is Betting His Whole Company on Marketing Apps (13:54): Scott Brinker, co-founder and CTO at Ion Interactive, recently announced in a manifesto on his ChiefMarTec Blog that his agency will pivot to focus exclusively on developing apps to help marketers to break through the glut of online content and create meaningful experiences for customers. Robert and I applaud his gutsy move of focusing on this opportunity but believe he may be overstating the potential growth of marketing apps.
  • Why Content Marketing Fails (21:44): In this Forbes article, author Greg Satell says content marketers need to think more like publishers, and he makes some excellent points that Robert and I agree with. But we vehemently disagree with his claim that marketers need to stop focusing so much on strategy and devote more attention to producing quality content.
  • Applying Moneyball to Publishing (32:02): In this excellent article from the BookBusinessMag website, Joe Wikert encourages marketers to use “Moneyball” strategies to better understand their customers. This popular book and movie tells the story of a baseball team that used data in innovative ways to be more successful. Robert loves how Wikert challenges marketers to explore beyond the usual sources of data to uncover deeper customer insights, while I share  the Moneyball number that has had the greatest influence on the behavior and engagement of CMI readers.

2. Key Email Stats From Our Sponsor (36:33)

This Old Marketing has a new sponsor, Emma, which offers email marketing for the modern brand, featuring mobile-responsive templates, social integration tools, and concierge services. Emma is promoting a fascinating new infographic it has created entitled 18 Email Stats Every Marketer Needs to Know. You can check it out at

email stats-sponsor-emma

3. Rants and Raves (38:41)

  • Robert’s Rave: This article from FastCompany describes how Caterpillar has quickly and aggressively embraced content marketing. Recent videos that have generated buzz include Cat machines playing a giant game of Jenga and a 3-ton loader running over Cat’s hardened smartphones for the construction market. Robert says this goes to show that even a huge old-line company like Caterpillar can succeed at creating awesome content.
  • Robert’s Rant: Search Engine Journal recently featured an interview with an SEO expert who is teaching content marketing at the university level. He shares tips for successful content marketing. The problem is that his advice is so far off-base that it’s ridiculous. A case in point: “If you hit the publish button often enough, it will work.” This bugs Robert — a lot. It’s a sign that much more evangelization needs to be done about the right way to do content marketing.
  • Joe’s Rant: At a speech in Boston last week, I asked the audience to tell me, by a show of hands, how many of them had defined an editorial mission statement for their content marketing initiative. Not a single hand was raised. It’s not surprising that many content marketers are struggling with their programs. If you don’t have one, get one!

4. This Old Marketing Example of the Week (46:45)

  • Poetry Magazine: The Poetry Foundation has published Poetry Magazine since 1912, making it one of the oldest publications in the U.S. Its mission is to gather and share the best poetry in the world in one place. The About Poetry web page outlines the magazine’s rich history, and highlights many of the famous poets who have been published there. It’s still doing a great job at meeting the needs of its target audience, as shown by its amazing traffic statistics: 3.5 million to 4 million unique visits per month. Poetry Magazine is a great example of consistency over more than a century of content publishing.

poetry website example

For a full list of the PNR archives, go to the main This Old Marketing page.

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Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi is the Founder of Content Marketing Institute, a UBM company, the leading education and training organization for content marketing, which includes the largest in-person content marketing event in the world, Content Marketing World. Joe is the winner of the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council. Joe’s the author of five books, including his latest, Killing Marketing. His third book, Epic Content Marketing was named one of “Five Must Read Business Books of 2013” by Fortune Magazine. If you ever see Joe in person, he’ll be wearing orange. Follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

Other posts by Joe Pulizzi

  • Scott Brinker

    Hi, Joe and Rob — thanks for taking some time to chat about our “marketings apps” pivot on your show! Really appreciate the encouragement and support.

    Just two quick clarifications I’d like to make:

    1. ion interactive has actually been a software company, not an agency, for the past 7 years. We’ve had a SaaS platform that lets marketers build advanced landing pages, microsites, and multi-step conversion paths, which has been adopted by many great brands, such as Dell, DHL, General Mills, Iron Mountain, etc. Our pivot to marketing apps is, in many ways, a natural evolution of that foundation — although we’ve certainly amped up the interactive capabilities in these experiences and are taking a very different tact in how we’re positioning this.

    I completely agree: the shift from agency to software company is a very difficult one to make. But we successfully made that transition back in 2007. So while I’d certainly agree that we have a lot of work ahead of us in this new direction, at least we don’t have to wrestle with that transformation.

    2. Just to emphasize one of the points you discussed: our platform is designed to deliver responsive web apps instead of native iOS or Android apps. We think that’s the bigger opportunity for many of the reasons that you raised in this show: they don’t have an installation barrier and they can seamlessly be plugged into any web page. They are as universal as any other kind of cross-brower, cross-device designed web content.

    These responsive web marketing apps, especially when they’re applied in content marketing, can be very subtle. You mentioned Papershare as an example of interactive content — Ceros is another example that comes to mind. The possibilities for turning purely passive white papers and ebooks into just slightly more interactive and engaging experiences seems like it has tremendous potential. That’s why we’re seeing so many companies start to innovate products in that direction.

    Of course, I humbly believe that our product vision has some great advantages. We’ve built a web-based studio that lets non-technical marketers create a very wide range of marketing apps — everything from interactive ebooks and white papers to more data-collection devices such as quizzes, calculators, configurators, contests, games, etc. To me, the real potential is letting marketers remix elements of these different kinds of content and interactive mechanisms into their own unique experiences.

    Thanks again for the shout out!

    And don’t worry, I’ll keep writing about the intersection of marketing and technology beyond just marketing apps. But marketing apps are a great example of how that intersection is continuing to evolve in fascinating ways.

    • Sophie Jasson-Holt


      Thanks for clarifying what you do and how marketing apps can lead to more interactive eBooks and white papers and much more. Do you have examples of clients repurposing let’s a white paper into a marketing app with minimal editorial rework?

    • Robert Rose

      Scott… yup… Sorry about the agency vs. software company thing…. Don’t know why I had that in my head… And glad to hear that you’ll continue to blog on the topic… It’s a new adventure for you – and one I’m sure in which you’ll thrive!!

  • Ryan Biddulph

    Hi Joe,

    The strategy/content mix is key. Combine the 2 to optimize your experience. Example; I’ve over 3300 posts on my blog but recently started promoting them aggressively, going back in my archives. The mountain of traffic I’m seeing is immense. Tossing in a smart strategy, commenting on relevant blogs, augmented the quality content aspect of my campaign.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Marc Resnick

    I had to respond to your rant about the misguided prof at San Jose who is trying to teach Content Marketing as a SEO course. From your description, it doesn’t sound like he knows how to teach, how to manage at the college level, or much about effective Content. But I wanted to let you know that we are not all like that in academe. I teach Bentley University’s Content course, combining content strategy, content marketing, and content development. We start every project with a mission statement and a strategy before going to the next step. We even use MoneyBall techniques in our analytics.

    I evaluate the students not just on creating content, but also how to communicate it to people (clients, upper mgmt) who may be somewhat clueless on the finer points and might make the same mistakes as your San Jose prof does. One of the major assignments this fall will be for each student to listen to two of your podcast episodes, refer as needed to the source articles/pages/cases in the show notes, and then distill the content to the class in a way that explains the meaning and shows how it can be used practically.

    So thanks for all of your great stuff. And please don’t generalize this one ignorant prof to all of us.

    • Robert Rose

      Marc….. Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment… And, indeed, if I made it sound like I was ranting against all educators, that’s my bad. And I’ll apologize for that (it is a rant after all ) I do understand that the vast majority of educators like yourself are doing amazing work… And thank you for that…Thanks for listening…. We truly appreciate it…

  • Andy Detweiler

    Hey guys,

    Good stuff and good takes.

    I wanted to get your opinion on the “strategy” tangent we’ve heard so much about lately. I guess at least we’ve graduated to the point where everyone realizes you need one.

    Is the problem that brands are creating content without a strategy? Or is it that they are creating content with a GOOD strategy? In your opinion, how often do you see no strategy vs. crappy strategy, but sill a strategy, vs. good strategy?

    Quite frankly, we’ve always operated with a strategy. But for the most part, our strategy has been lackluster. At least in hindsight.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks Andy…it’s a great point. I actually think it’s both…or they believe they have some kind of direction they are calling a strategy, but it really isn’t one. I’ve seen both first hand…all that said, I believe we are making some strides.

      Thanks for the great comment!

      • Andy Detweiler

        Yes, it’s certainly not easy in a such a rapidly changing landscape. Thanks for the thoughts, Joe.

  • Dadie Host

    Comment 1

    I worked at DHL , I was left to fend for myself
    as a new manager and new hires are paid the same as people who have
    been there for years.

  • Warren Whitlock

    We have to start with a business goal, then a strategy to hit that goal. Otherwise content becomes a commodity and we loose focus on quality.