Why Everybody Hates On Content Marketers

Content marketing is perceived as a joke in some parts of the tech world. Is that because it's not worth anything—or are there psychological roots?

A few months ago, I attended one of the biggest tech conferences, where I saw Michael Arrington moderate a panel. Following the panel, I chatted with a prominent tech entrepreneur, a top-notch product guy.

I was surprised to hear this tech founder dismiss Arrington (founder of TechCrunch and CrunchFund), saying, "What are you getting all excited about? What has Arrington ever done in his life? He never created any sort of product, so how can he really understand the tech world?"

This statement by my product-oriented friend got me thinking: How do we define products in the tech world? Are content people seen as a joke in the eyes of the product people? As a content marketer myself, I wanted to investigate the value and perception of content marketing in relation to the products it supports.

The truth is, content marketing people are often despised by product people. Let’s take a look at how this plays out in real-world interactions.

Even the most extremely accomplished content people aren’t usually invited to speak at tech conferences. When they are invited, they at best moderate a panel. At tech conferences, even the Robert Scobles of the world are usually presented only as commenters, new media journalists, or trend forecasters.

I came across this notion in Brad Feld’s blog: "One of the jokes in my little universe is that every time I hear the word ‘marketing’ I throw up a little in my mouth…"

In translation, content creators are usually a little despised, or at least not as valued as entrepreneurs. A double standard currently exists as represented by this commonly shared belief that "all the marketing in the world won’t help you if you don’t have a great product." Yet, time after time, great entrepreneurs turn to great content marketers to promote their product.

So, what is it? Do entrepreneurs really think content marketing is a waste, or do they in fact rely on us to help others fall in love with the product they created?

Being the philosophy geek that I am, I decided to go back to my roots and think about Freud’s narcissism of small differences. Freud’s theory explains that we tend to reserve our most virulent emotions—aggression, hatred, envy—toward those who resemble us the most. We feel threatened not by the "other" with whom we have little in common, but by the "nearly-we," who mirror and reflect us.

So how does Freud’s theory apply to my conclusion about the relationship between entrepreneurs and content creators?

Founders, product people, and entrepreneurs in the tech scene share the same ecosystem with marketing people, content creators, and bloggers. To put it bluntly, each side is the "nearly-we" of the other.

There's something very ironic about "product" people in technology mocking content or marketing people. Because at the end of the day, we both create products that can be intangible.

My epiphany was that as a content creator, I should not worry about the entrepreneurs who dismiss content marketing as a valuable asset to the success of their business. Those who do clearly don’t understand how wrong they are.

The most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who embrace content marketing, not only as a means to market their product, but also to make room for a better user experience. That includes infusing the product with surprises, humor, Easter eggs, and creativity in general. That's been done with Google’s Doodles, Do a Barrel Roll, Askew, and Klingon Search; Facebook’s Konami code; creative and humorous 404 error pages; and Takipi.

These products work well not just because they are better than their competitors, but because they address users’ psychological desire to be entertained and engaged—which is exactly what content marketing aims to do.

The bottom line is that a good product cannot stand alone. It must go hand in hand with good content if you want to take your product to the next level. And the issue lies in the fact that entrepreneurs are not willing to admit or recognize that content people are more similar to them than they think.

We are both working toward the same end goal. It’s about time founders realize the value of content marketing, i.e., the creative, emotional touch that a strategic, business-oriented product needs in order to drive forward. Let’s put the egos aside and embrace our similarities for the sake of our mutual success.

—Sivan Cohen is head of content marketing for Conduit and can be found on Twitter @sivanco.

[Image: Flickr user Caden Crawford]

Add New Comment

4 Comments

  • brianjedwards

    Nicely stated. What's also apparent is that even though we may not exactly like each other, we require the other's engagement if we hope to accomplish anything meaningful. Product people are a necessary evil, I suppose.

  • Ilana Cohen-Panner

    So true  I just heard a lecture about brother Lumiere that there genius and contribution was not that they invented the notion picture camera (they had competitors such as Thomas  Edison ) but that they rented a hall in Paris and screened the first movie and gave us the magic of experince of going to the movie.
    So I'm proud of Sivan my daughter who enlightenes the hardware engineers:(

  • Greg Smith

    Funny topic and one where I've seen mutual distrust between product and marketing teams.  Product people sneer at Marketing because they've never built a product, and Marketing teams sneer at Product because they don't believe they could ever sell anything.

  • Brian Dooley

    Great piece. This is true not only of entire industries, but in microcosm in many corporate entities. With a C-Level attitude of "I know that we need [content] marketing, but I just don't get it," in-house and third-party writers and leaders are left holding the bag, trying to mobilize a body that has an un-wake-uppable head.