Treat Content Marketing Like an Ad Campaign

Reimagine the power of content marketing through the lens of a creative brief.

Content Marketing as Advertising

Content marketing has been associated with many buzzwords throughout the years—too many to list here. Content marketing taps into consumer behavior and provides answers via search at a “just-in-time” consumption point for the consumer. Sounds like the perfect formula to increase sales on your site, right?

Take a step back, and strategize content marketing as you would an advertising campaign for your company. If you look at content marketing through the lens of a creative brief, this will help you re-imagine the power of content marketing and spark renewed excitement about its potential as a marketing tactic.

Let’s explore four elements of treating content marketing like an advertising campaign:

  1. Understanding your consumers’ buying decision behavior.
  2. Structuring your campaign around what is useful and shareable to your consumer.
  3. Putting a strategy in place that includes a content calendar.
  4. Measuring and improving on your content marketing.

The Intrinsic Value of Content Marketing

Content marketing grants an opportunity to build trust and simultaneously engage in targeted digital PR. If done mindfully, it can be valuable to the consumer, the brand and the bottom line. To do content marketing effectively—meaning to gain traction with your online consumer base—you have to understand how consumers think and what motivates them, even if they do not realize it themselves. At its core, content marketing boils down to understanding human behavior and seamlessly blending that understanding with your company’s goals.

Before any campaign, you need to confirm your target group because every aspect is dependent on your target group’s demographics and psychographics. Content marketing depends equally on knowing your brand and understanding your customers. In a Nielsen global survey, 59 percent of U.S. respondents said they were much more or somewhat more likely to purchase a new product after learning about it through active Internet research. Nearly 40 percent said the same about an article on a frequently visited website. Meaning, through your company’s search strategy, you have the opportunity to persuade six out of 10 consumers to choose your brand over your competitor’s.

Conceptualize Your Strategy Around Your Target Audience

Just like any advertising campaign, coming up with a strategy to resonate with your target audience is vital to success. To run a successful content marketing campaign, put yourself in your consumers’ shoes. Think about how they make their buying decisions within your industry and what matters to them.

Here are some questions to ask before developing your final content strategy:

  1. How much research does a consumer usually do before purchasing a product in your industry?
  2. Where do they research—what sites, blogs or people do they consult before selecting a product?
  3. What do they need to know before they make a purchase?
  4. What influences their buying behavior—reviews, price, what their friends think, influencers, brand awareness, social media. If it is all of these, which are most important?
  5. What are the differences between you and your competitors in your consumers’ minds?
  6. What other forms of media might contribute to the awareness and impression your consumers have of your industry?

Buying Decision Matrix

Determine which Buying Decision quadrant your brand occupies so you can structure your content toward that specific mindset. Knowing the mindset of your consumer is vital. A consumer doing research on spring fashion trends wants an article with less technical jargon and more images. Conversely, someone planning an online laptop purchase will engage in more research. The content the consumer wants to read could take on a more technical tone depending on the individual consumer’s knowledge and persona. Understanding the behavior behind your consumers’ buying decisions will help you design content that is useful to them.

Your team must stay cognizant that consumers can make a purchase at any point. Consumers adhere to no precise buying path.


Therefore, it’s advantageous to create your content marketing strategy with a footprint throughout the entire consumer decision process. This footprint builds trust from the beginning by framing your brand as a trusted advisor; this trust ultimately results in sales.

Using a Creative Brief for Content Creation

Now that you’ve identified your target audience, you can create your “advertising campaign.” While the concept of content marketing is relatively new, creative briefs certainly are not. Whether at an agency or firm, each member of your team should understand what a creative brief is and how to execute it. Make the content marketing process easier by using the format of a creative brief to build out your strategy. Here’s the approach:

Concept: What is the underlying theme of the article?

Outline: Four to six bullet points on what the article is about

Who: Who is the target audience of this piece of content?

  • Primary: the target group this article is most directed at
  • Secondary: who does the target group have in mind for this brand or product
  • Tertiary: who could also benefit from this article

Mindset: What is the mindset of your audience?

  • What does the primary target group currently think about the industry/brand/product?
  • What is this consumer looking to learn throughout their research?

Purpose: What do you want to achieve?

  • What would your consumer find useful?
  • What do you want this article to achieve?
  • What are the obstacles to achieving this purpose?

Keywords: What keywords/topics do you need this piece of content to rank for to achieve your marketing goals. *Note this must be determined strategically while knowing what it will take to rank for those keywords.

Tone: What tone is best for this target audience and purpose?

Placement: Once the article is written, where is the best place for your consumers to consume this?

Promotion: What is your promotion strategy?

  • Where is this content going to be promoted?
  • Who is going to promote it?
  • When is it going to be promoted?

Metric Goals: How do you measure success?

  • What are your KPIs?
  • Which metrics do you want to track?
    • Tweets, Retweets
    • LinkedIn shares
    • Facebook shares
    • Links

Develop a content calendar, and use a creative brief like this to ensure that each piece of your content is worthwhile to both your consumers and your company.

Get Excited About Content Marketing

One piece of content will not dramatically increase your authority for any given topic. This will occur over time with a well-executed content strategy that keeps your consumers at the forefront.

Start first with an understanding of your target consumers’ buying behaviors. Then structure your “ad campaign” around what they find useful and shareable. Using a creative brief strategy, you can then create an editorial calendar for your marketing efforts and measure and improve on your content marketing performance. Are you excited yet?

responses to “Treat Content Marketing Like an Ad Campaign”

  1. Daniel Taibleson says:

    Great article Rachel!

  2. Rachel Mervis says:

    I definitely agree, therefore you always have to step into the shoes of your consumer and how how they want to be spoken to. With all the content out there it’s important to merge entertainment and utility. Obviously, this is going to mean different things to different target audiences.

  3. Rachel Mervis says:


    I’m glad the article was beneficial to you. I agree with all four of those points. The only thing I’d add is to make sure to use the data you have to understand what is useful to your customer.

    Thanks for reading,

  4. Hi Rachel,

    thank you for this nice and insightful article. I completely agree with all the points stated here.
    That said, I hate to disagree heavily with the title.
    Yes, you need to clarify what target audience you are going for and you need a good brief for content creators.
    Still, for us – as an agency – the biggest obstacle in content marketing is getting the mentality across to our clients. That is, content marketing is NOT a campaign, it is an ongoing effort that should receive the priority it deserves.