Which companies don’t need to use content marketing? Apple and…

Last week we noticed a piece on Econsultancy calling Apple the “worst content marketer in the world” and it got us thinking, especially when read in tandem with a follow-up saying “Apple is still marketing in a way which is incomparable to any other brand” (mainly praising Apple’s adverts for iPhones).

You could even say the tech giant is unique. We think it is, in one important way – its lack of content marketing.

We are living and working in an era where almost every big brand is embracing content marketing. A whole new category of agency is springing up to support them (including us). Meanwhile those in creative agencies, PR, media buying and more are increasingly adding content marketing expertise.

Bottom line: 78% of CMOs think custom content is the future of marketing. That’s the marketing head honchos at large companies. But not, seemingly, Apple, the world’s largest company by market capitalisation.

Steve Jobs

Why might this be?

We don’t imagine for a second that Apple doesn’t understand content marketing or that one day it won’t embrace it. But Apple, as in so many other areas, is exceptional. Or as we’ve said already, it is quite possibly unique.

Here are four reasons you might not need content marketing:

1. Someone else does your storytelling for you. Content marketing is about establishing trust. How? In a large part by being useful to your customers (even entertaining, if you’ve got the balls). While that often means talking more broadly than what you sell, it can also mean telling your story in an authentic way.

When you’re Apple, you have no shortage of people telling your story, often through the iconic persona of co-founder Steve Jobs, whether in literature (Walter Isaacson , a thousand tech publications) or film (Jobs,  starring Ashton Kutcher, or the upcoming version from screenwriter Aaron Sorkin ).

Sure, it might not always be the story you would tell. But you can’t buy that kind of exposure. And, if you really want, you can always pitch in with the odd comment or correction.

2. You have the best products. Everyone has the best products and services, right? That’s what marketing implies. Only we all know it’s not true. Hell, even Apple can’t say that with certainty every time. But, in certain categories it has for some time been, by far, a market leader.

Read a review for a new laptop. The reviewers (perhaps because of favouritism in media circles, perhaps because of different technology, mainly the OS) put Macs off to one side. Some would say it’s also because they consistently score so much higher than PCs in the sort of comparisons reviewers make.

How about other categories? In tablets, the iPad remains the clear leader. In other areas – MP3 player, mobile phone – it is less clear cut, even if the iPod and iPhone are great products.

What we would say is that across these mainstay consumer technology categories, it is hard to deny Apple as the leader. No one else plays to such a level in all the areas. And clearly Wall Street agrees, with a company’s market cap factoring in future performance as well as current metrics such as sales, profits and product line up.

3. You have the power to dominate media buying. Much of the rise of content marketing has been about the ineffectiveness or – maybe less severely – the inefficiency of ads. But if your creative is as good as Apple’s (partly because of what it has to play with) and your spend so great, it is possible to win at advertising. Add to that the way Apple can get the best deals (partly because of volume but for other reasons too) and best treatment by media owners (which many media owners would deny), then buying media can still work. For Apple.

4. You have the power to influence media. This is PR. If you are Apple, like a few companies atop different fields, you are more likely to be able to have the media in tow to you than vice versa. As a credible tech journalist you cannot ignore Apple, something which the company knows well. With practices such as loaning out new kit for review – kit which isn’t cheap to buy or unavailable on the open market when a review needs to take place – Apple can play hard to get. It isn’t the only company to do this and we live in a world where democratic governments even choose to brief certain journalists selectively while the rest cry foul. It is simply what those in power do if they can get away with it.

So if you are a company that has the world talking about you at length in often glowing terms (in books and film as well as day-to-day media), if you have the best products or services in your sector, if you can dominate ad buying and if you can call the shots with the media, then yes, you don’t need content marketing.

* photo credit: Brett Jordan via photopin cc

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