There’s a reason the first three letters of ‘content marketing’ are ‘con’…

Marketers are a weird lot. We love to over-complicate things. We also have a strange penchant for renaming existing tactics and marketing techniques that have worked sometimes for more than 100 years, just because a new media channel has been invented.

Take social media. Please, take it. I mean, is there any media channel that isn’t social? By their very nature, media and the messages published/broadcast in them are social. After all, we don’t have anti-social media channels do we?

As you know dear reader, since the introduction of digital channels, the resurgence of the emperor’s new clothes is complete. Cyber-hustlers everywhere have claimed new things exist where they don’t. Fake thought leaders try to convince gullible marketers that human DNA has changed forever, particularly when it comes to consumption of marketing messages and buying stuff.

the resurgence of the emperor’s new clothes is complete

And of course there’s the great content con. Apparently until the internet, there was no such thing as content for marketing purposes. I ask you, what do the content zealots believe has been filling every advertisement, brochure, video, billboard, sales presentation, media release, article, etc since year dot, but content?

To clarify the content situation I have created two lists:

“Content marketing” before the internet

“Content marketing” after the internet

As you can see, apart from a handful of new channels, marketers are still creating exactly the same content they always have – they’re just distributing it in these new channels as well as the traditional ones.

So why rename what has always been done just because we have digital distribution of traditional analogue content?

The illiterates are creating the content

But there is a bigger problem at play. Prior to the internet, content was in the most part written by professional copywriters and journalists. Art directors designed how the words were displayed.

In todays content-filled world, every unqualified executive who can type creates content. They operate under the mantra of “I type therefore I am…a content marketer“. In fact, many marketers avoid using trained and experienced writers and do their best to get Josephine Junior, or a mate’s son to write their content, manage their social posts, create their online ads…

If you weren’t aware, the OECD Adult Literacy Study revealed at least 82.5% of the population struggles to read and write competently. Yet it’s these illiterates who are creating the marketing content.

The mind boggles as to how marketers justify their folly. It’s one reason why I created a couple of years ago – it’s an anti-content marketing, content marketing website.

So if you’re looking to create content…..


Here’s some more content about content marketing:

Why there’s really no reason to ever use the term “content marketing”…

The 3 essential questions for content marketing success

How the content paradox and your A.S.S. Time ruin content marketing performance

Shell’s content marketing turns 40 and still sells

Good manners will always trump marketing content

Why most shared content has almost no impact on your brand


  1. Damn straight, Malcolm! And yet I get made by my superior to sit in an “insightful” LinkedIn Learning session touting this exact subject while some overpaid consultant waxes lyrical about the virtues of this new and amazing vehicle to boost sales. (insert eye roll here)

    • Thanks Gareth, I attended a webinar a few years ago by a con-artist who called himself a Linkfluencer to see what he had to say. His 3 secrets were to connect to lots of people, connect to journalists and publish stuff so the journalists to see. He’s making a killing flogging this pathetic ‘wisdom’ to unsuspecting punters…

    • A few years ago I had the embarrassing job of representing a firm of international consultants trying to break into the UK market.

      The ‘consultants’ ( a word derived from a combination of ‘conmen’ and ‘insult’) appointed to cover this country, were referred to in my office as Slick and Oily Boy.They would visit selected blue chip companies that we had spent weeks cultivating and persuading that the benefits of a fresh look at their processes from an international perspective would result in a complete rejuvenation of their businesses.

      After a long and tedious initial meeting they managed to produce a glossy package describing everything that they had been told about the prospective client without a single word regarding the solutions, but they still managed to close the presentation with an eye watering estimate of their costs.

      My suggestion that they should put the cost in the first sentence to save the client time in telling them to fuck off was probably not what they wanted to hear.

      • Thank you Rupert, I will borrow (with credit) “a word derived from a combination of ‘conmen’ and ‘insult’”. I’ve worked with a few Slicks and oily Boys in the marketing industry too over the years. They keep reinventing themselves every time a new marketing fashion emerges and keep getting away with it…

  2. Malcolm,

    Good article! I enjoy the way you blend humor in with your message, with a proper dash of tongue-in-cheek sarcasm.

    To your point about renaming existing tactics and marketing techniques, I’ve noticed email evangelists trumpeting the word “relevant” a lot. Basically a fancy way of saying you shouldn’t email Eskimos and offer them ice makers. Funny, it hasn’t been that long ago since I had a client literally tell me they don’t bother segmenting their email audience, “because the channel is so cheap anyway, so why bother?”

    Now that this spray and pray attitude has killed response rates (which – being old school and liking money – I prefer measuring in SALES rather than fancy-schmancy terms like “inbox placement”), the email – or dare I say “digital” – world is slowly coming to the realization that there’s value in delivering appropriate offers to the right people at the right time. And nearly as much value in NOT making offers when evidence suggest otherwise.


    – Jeff

    • Thanks Jeff, it’s a lot more difficult to segment email lists than claimed, but if you can segment on appropriate data then it pays off in sales. Though there is also the argument that you never know when people are going to buy, so talk to everyone, as if you were doing brand advertising and hope you get as many in the market on the day you email. As you know, testing is the key…

  3. I had a small business owner who’d been referred to me say he was getting his “mate’s son” to do their social media marketing. I said “good luck with that” and he hung up on me! It must have been my tone (hahah).

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