The Trojan Horse metaphor is regularly used to describe content marketing. I’ve used it frequently myself. I like the idea of marketers sharing content so good that an audience would welcome it for its own sake. By sponsoring the content, the marketer’s brand comes along for the ride.
But the Trojan Horse can also be a metaphor of trickery. Historically it was a gift that, when accepted, turned into a trap.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of content marketing that feels like a trap. No sooner have you clicked on a compelling link than you’re hit with a heavy-handed sales pitch. Or a newsletter sign-up pop-up (sometimes mandatory) that feels like being taken hostage by a sales funnel. Or the content itself is hollow.
I stumbled across an article from Karl Pearson-Cater on the dark side of thinking of content marketing as a Trojan Horse:
“So, the ‘Trojan Horse’ metaphor works great for storytelling with one important caveat: Brands need to decide if their content strategy will be used ‘for good or ill.’
“If brands choose ‘ill’, then they plan to use their content to trap their new readers, and burn everything to the ground. If brands choose ‘good’ then they plan to use their content to develop good relationships with their new readers who will actually accept the hidden (or, ‘stowed’) brand messaging because it is genuine and useful. One big problem with this is your readers have no idea if your content is ‘good or ill’ until you jump out of the Trojan Horse.”
At the end of the day, the long-term objective of any marketing program is sales. Content marketing is a balancing act of storytelling and salesmanship. But marketers sometimes forget that the content itself has to be worth it. It is by truly delivering useful content over time that content marketing works as marketing. It’s not by deceit. It’s not by scoring a bait-and-switch.
The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.