The expression is relatively new. But I submit that how some have defined content marketing brings nothing new to the table.
Here's Wikipedia's Content Marketing definition.
Content marketing is an umbrella term encompassing all marketing formats that involve the creation and sharing of content in order to attract, acquire and engage clearly defined and understood current and potential consumer bases with the objective of driving profitable customer action.
Perhaps The Content Marketing Institute can shed more light on the subject. In fact, the above quote was restated in the Institute's website. The Institute probably came up with the Wikipedia definition.
Let's look a little further into why this term might still contain a shred of something new. Or at least something that prompted the creation of yet another new term of the month.
The Content Marketing Institute further defines content marketing as: "Basically... the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling".
Here is the premise of content marketing as quoted from the Content Marketing Institute:
The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.
This is beginning to sound a lot like the social media credo of don't sell, just provide relevant information and prospects will eventually come running to buy your product or service. If only this were true.
There is some value, however, in this line of thinking. CRM practitioners have long made this approach a key part of their customer loyalty programs.
So build your brand, get people excited about it. But don't forget to build the infrastructure for easy purchase and ask for orders along the way.
Most of all, make social media accountable like any other marketing strategy.
Combine social media budgets with your advertising budgets to demonstrate the synergies. Without quantified results, social media becomes yet another expense rather than an investment.
The Institute loses credibility by making this often repeated statement:
Consumers have simply shut off the traditional world of marketing.
This simply is not true and will likely never come to pass. This is not an either or, but how can we combine relationship building, pertinent information, branding and traditional media for the most effective approach possible. And effectiveness always comes down to sales and profits.
The bottom line: looking at this term from where I sit, I see nothing new here except perhaps today's unprecedented ability to tap into word-of-mouth marketing by skillfully using social media. In other words, content marketing offers social strategy mavens another way to express what they do.