The Evolution of “Content Strategy”













I always find it interesting that “content strategy” in its strictest definitions is considered a relatively new function within the advertising space. It’s only in the last decade that you see official business cards or job postings with this moniker (thank you, Internet). But what I think is missing is a basic acknowledgement that we are ultimately doing what we have always been doing: telling stories using the right tools at the right time.

In the context of advertising, you could argue that before the age of the Internet, we were all employing content strategies simply using yesteryear’s golden trifecta of consumer outreach: print ads, radio spots and TV spots. Then the advent of the digital age upped the ante for channel complexity for consumer attention, engagement and interaction. Obviously, it’s fantastic (and preferable) that we now have a more robust toolset to engage customers. It affords us the opportunity to go deeper and broader in our storytelling, the chance to communicate in an instant, to be visible at nearly every touch point along the customer cycle, to actively interact and illicit feedback. But today’s channel complexity also forces an increasing need for developing an overarching messaging vehicle that that can rise above any one campaign or specific channel. I love the example of our Walgreens tagline “At the Corner of Happy and Healthy” because what a customer specifically needs to be happy or healthy fluctuates in the moment. They may need a last-minute Valentine’s Day card or wake up late at night in desperate need of cough medicine—events that are entirely different animals. The tagline can flex to accommodate known holidays/life events and then jump up and be relevant in unexpected moments that can’t be preplanned for as well. In other words, this is an idea that has legs.

Before we get swept away in execution of any sort, we should stop to remember that a thoughtful and relevant content strategy hinges on a brand’s core purpose. When ideas stem from a client’s core purpose, crafting messaging and customer solutions that have deep roots and organically scale across many channels over time becomes not only doable, but also more rewarding than a myriad of individual campaigns with 2-3 month shelf lives. Time continues to prove that companies are hungry for well-planned, complementary content initiatives that are mindful of a long-term payoff vs. a constant sense of reinventing the wheel.

At the end of the day, we don’t need to make content strategy discussions harder than what they need to be. We need to embrace and acknowledge the art of the story –and embrace the chance to tell the story in places we haven’t been able to in the past as technology increases opportunities to engage and help customers, being cognizant of core purpose all the while.


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