Nearly every marketer in every industry has heard the cry “Content is King.” Even the cover of Ad Age was emblazoned with Content is King last month, complete with a crown. Once a call for change and recognition of a new marketplace reality, Content is King has become conventional marketing wisdom.

The problem is, conventional wisdom is average. Following conventional marketing wisdom will not differentiate you.

Why is content king today:

  • Being customer-centric required moving away from creative executions as the primary way to deliver a message. Focusing on the customer requires providing something that meets their need, and content perfectly fits the bill.
  • Content marketing was not the norm. Companies embracing content marketing were able to provide unique value to clients and prospects.

Today, the situation has changed. In B2B and many consumer markets, content is now the norm and potential customers assume you will provide it. Soon, not offering content that supports the research and buying process may be the equivalent of not having a website, phone number or email contact for your business.

The most interesting question is “after content, what is the next major differentiator?” What will differentiate you when everyone embraces content marketing? Here are a few candidates, please add your own in the comments:


Will relationships, built on content, service or communications, be the new standard? A focus on relationships would improve almost all marketing activity, as it would focus on meeting each individual’s needs and on the quality of the interaction that builds each relationship.

Marketing Automation

Without increasingly sophisticated automation, marketing will not be able to establish and build relationships at scale. Successful marketing automation may be the next big differentiator. Although it may be a key way to develop relationships, educate or nurture, marketing automation will not be labeled “King”.

Customer Evangelists

Although creating evangelists is not realistic for many markets (ball bearing customer evangelist anyone?), a focus on developing loyalty and relationships may be labeled “developing evangelists”. Evangelists bring independence and passion, making their evangelism powerful for businesses.

Social Media

I am a proponent of social media, and I’m including it here because its absence would be notable. However, social media by itself will not be the next differentiator. If relationships are the next primary focus, social media will be a key way to create and maintain those relationships.

Alternatively, will content continue to reign? Content has managed to morph its definition of the last few years, now TV ads are considered content and tchotchkes are even referred to as content. (Really folks? Shirts and pens are not content!)

As content marketing becomes the norm, it will lose its differentiating power. New challengers representing greater potential differentiation and marketing opportunity will rise to prominence. I believe Relationship is a candidate to replace Content. A focus on developing relationships builds on the strides marketers have made with content marketing while expanding the horizon and focusing more clearly on the ultimate benefit. Applying all of the tools and resources to develop better relationships, not merely content, will differentiate you in the future.

Your Turn

Content is King has survived 15 years, will it survive another decade? Or will a new challenger replace it? Share your view on what will replace content as king or why content will continue to reign in the comments below or with me on Twitter (@wittlake).