Content is a Cheeseburger

Collect the Dots. Connect the Dots. First, the typical dictionary definitions of â€œcontent”:

Kristina Halvorson in Content Strategy for the Web: 

Content strategy guides planning for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content.

The Content Marketing Institute: 

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

I Literally Have No Idea What You Just Said

Ok, imagine content is a cheeseburger. (If you don’t like cheeseburgers, just…work with me here. Imagine your favorite dish.)

Here’s a helpful visual aid if you forgot what a cheeseburger looks like…

A thing of beauty. Thanks, Google Image Search.

If content is a cheeseburger, content strategy guides planning to make cheeseburgers, get cheeseburgers to people who love them, and make sure the kitchen has the right systems, processes, and personnel for quality control and brand consistency.

Content marketing uses the cheeseburgers we make to get people’s attention, build an audience of like-minded burger lovers, and eventually get that audience to do something else — typically buy a product, service, or experience. (The end goal of the marketing plan might be purchasing a bigger, better cheeseburger, or it might be something non-burger-related, depending on the organization’s ultimate goals.)

So how do you know if you need content strategy or content marketing?

Well, that depends — are you in the cheeseburger business or the business that hands out free cheeseburgers to get other business?

Mmm-mmmm. That is a tasty burger.

Great! Got it! Metaphors are helpful! We’re ready to go! Give the people what they want, right?! All aboard the content train!

Pump the brakes, Exclamation Mark — people don’t actually want content. Or, at least, people don’t think about content in those terms. We want very specific things.

We make room in our lives for what we like. Music, movies, magazines, apps, books, tweets, photos, burgers—all the stuff we look at, listen to, experience, and share with each other. We want to find that stuff and have it find us. But no one woke up this morning and thought, “Aw, yeah…I can’t wait to get my mitts on some tasty, tasty content.” They want to find things that align with our values, our wants, and our self-image.

We want cheeseburgers. More specifically, a person wants their favorite cheeseburger. And if you happen to be in the business of making their favorite cheeseburger, you just might have your first potential customer.

If they find you, or you find them, treat them well. They’ve given you the rarest gift any of us have — their attention and their appetite for more.