The 3 Biggest Content Marketing Mistakes CMOs Make

Gilad de Vries

Recently, I had the privilege of joining Jeffrey Hayzlett’s panel on digital media innovation at the CMO Summit in Dallas. One of the questions Jeff asked was, “What are the three biggest mistakes that CMOs make in relation to digital media in general and content marketing in particular?” This post covers some of the topics we discussed and to which I think marketers should devote more thought: believing that true branding can only be achieved offline, failing to think about content holistically and only considering bottom-line results.

Big mistake #1: Believing that true branding can only be achieved offline

It’s no secret that the majority of brand marketers’ dollars still go offline. The largest brand marketers spend less than 10 percent of their marketing budgets online, and the rest goes to TV, radio, print publications, and offline content marketing (e.g., product placement in movies and sponsored soap operas). It sounds strange, as we know people spend much more time reading content online, listening to radio on Pandora, and watching their favorite shows on Hulu. So why don’t the brand dollars follow?

The main reason is that traditional online advertising like banner displays or search ads  doesn’t create the same emotional experience we get when we engage with brands offline. If I asked if you can remember any banner ad you saw lately, there’s a good chance you’ll struggle. Ever find yourself talking about a “cool” banner ad with your buddies at a summer BBQ? You get my drift.

The same goes for search advertising — it’s important to have it because you want to be the one customers choose when they are specifically looking to buy something. But brand advertising is trying to entice awareness, consideration, affinity, and remembrance —not necessarily an immediate purchase. A Gillette ad on TV doesn’t expect you to jump off the couch,  run to the closest drugstore,  and buy something NOW.

True branding benefits, the positive image or feeling we associate with a product’s name or logo, can be achieved in the online space when you let your brand participate in or contribute to the consumer’s online experience. Here are some tips:

Use smart online video ads (video advertising), which do not simply take your TV ads and deliver them online, but rather considers the size of screen, interactivity, and social opportunities.

Consider social media campaigns that interact directly with consumers and influencers to humanize your brand in ways that were never possible before.

Develop content in several different formats to provide a true value-add for consumers of your category, services or products. I’m not talking about ads here; I’m talking about informative, educational or entertaining content  in text, video or a combination of formats.

Release content on a regular basis to develop a cohesive brand story.

Portraying a brand message that will resonate with an online audience and drive them to develop an affinity for the brand in a meaningful way must be fueled by content. This is a marketer’s opportunity to connect with consumers who are  looking for a particular brand online, as well as those who aren’t even necessarily aware that they have a need for your product or service yet.

This is why General Mills developed, a site filled with great recipes and cooking ideas, and why put a full-time editorial staff in charge of offering customers personal finance tips, industry trends and more.

Big mistake #2: Failing to think about content holistically

Another content marketing mistake many marketers make is to view their content through blinders (you know, those black things put on the sides of a horse’s eyes so they only look straight ahead). You need to think about your content in terms of how it relates to and impacts all other aspects of your business and marketing efforts. You may have developed some content specifically to exist on your website. Ah — you tweeted about it. Oh — and you posted it on your Facebook wall too. Great. Now what?

What about your PR efforts? Didn’t they yield some great articles in leading publications? When these were published, did they move the needle for you?

What about the videos you placed on YouTube or videos created by your consumers to demonstrate their use of your product?

What about those bloggers who wrote something about your business?

It has been proven that nothing works better on us as consumers than a friend’s recommendation. And second to that is a recommendation from a stranger. Your TV ad is far behind.

Bottom line: Think about earned media amplification. Earned media includes all content assets that are not owned by you and can live outside your own online presence — on blogs, YouTube, or anywhere else. It doesn’t need to replace driving traffic to your owned content assets, but it can surely augment it.

Big mistake #3: Only considering bottom-line results

This is a big one. Some CMOs heard that everything is measurable in digital. Therefore, the only key performance indicator (KPI) that the VP of Digital is now tasked with is bottom line, tangible results.

But what results should CMOs measure? Tying the true impact of online advertising to offline purchase patterns is a daunting task that is more often qualitative (based on feedback) than quantitative (based on data). This means that (surprise, surprise) the digital team will focus on short-term gains that are directly tied to measurable results, such as online sales.

When you’re Amazon, this makes perfect sense. But what if you’re a consumer packaged goods (CPG) brand, and the majority of your sales are offline in retails stores like Wal-Mart? Do you want your digital team to ONLY use direct response tactics that will drive sales on your eCommerce site, or do you also want to reach as many people as possible and influence the choice they’ll make next time they’re walking down the grocery aisle?

Digital marketing teams with a results-only mindset will disregard the value of branding and will not consider other benefits of a content marketing strategy.

Content engagement doesn’t necessarily translate directly to sales conversions online or offline. The ROI or sales will likely not be immediate. If the audience consuming content is further up the purchase funnel, the goal of your content may be to make consumers aware of your existence. You need to be patient before they’ll be ready to move to consideration or purchase. Content marketing is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. The benefits of high quality content marketing are great but come over time and therefore should be evaluated over time.


The world of marketing is always evolving. There’s a way to do branding online, and it’s all about content. Provide people with quality content, embrace recommendations and favorable content created by third parties, be patient and you shall win the marathon with long-term consumers.

[Disclaimer – Some brands mentioned above are clients of Outbrain, putting scale behind their content marketing efforts by getting their content recommended across the Outbrain publisher network.]

To find out more about our company, please click here.

Gilad de Vries is VP, Brands and Agencies at Outbrain. Follow him on Twitter. This post was first published on Content Marketing Institute.

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Gilad de Vries

Senior Vice President of Strategy, who previously led the brands and agencies team at Outbrain. Gilad brings more than 19 years of experience in the digital media and technology fields. Before joining Outbrain, Gilad was VP of Digital Media and Principal at Carmel Ventures, one of Israel's top-tier venture capital firms, where he was highly engaged in Carmel's investments in digital media, Internet and mobile startups. Before Carmel, Gilad was a Senior Director of Marketing and Product Management at Comverse Technology, a leading provider of value-added services for Telco Providers. Gilad holds a B.A. in economics and business management from Bar-Ilan University and a Global MBA cum laude from the IDC Herzelia. Gilad is also a first lieutenant (reserve) in the Israeli Army’s technology unit (Mamram).

Content Marketing

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  • Avatar
    Grapevine Vinyl Windows| August 23, 2011 at 7:19PM

    There’s a way to do branding online, and it’s all about content.

  • Avatar
    Asit| October 4, 2011 at 6:18PM

    This is typical agency thinking- push content at consumers. The CONTENT led model is broken. Consumers have enough non-branded content in their life and in the digital world. Brands should go back to basics and address the CONTEXT issue- how do you better solve the problem for which the consumer bought the product. The measurement bit is a total cop-out. If one cannot prove offline sales/ROI, what is the whole point?

  • Avatar
    Guest| February 1, 2012 at 5:05AM

    Where is the proof? From the title one was to believe you would entitle examples. 🙁

  • Avatar
    Gilbert Midonnet| February 4, 2012 at 1:13PM

    Guest hit it right on the head – where is the proof?

    Show me the difference btwn advertising on line and “branding” off line. When it comes right down to it “branding” and adversting are two aspects of PR. Both are necessary and both can be done online and off-line.

  • Avatar
    francoismayor| April 14, 2012 at 4:16PM

    Good Article! Again,everything in digital is not instantly measurable!

  • Avatar
    Michael Lever| June 12, 2012 at 3:03AM

    (Stupid comment posting instructions: doesn’t say in which order to “post as!”) 

    Anyway, as I was saying, regardless of the content, etc or method of delivery, both/all of which must be tailored to the needs/interests/aspirations of the individual, (as distinct from just being of general interest – the latter is a left-over from the world of mass-marketing – what matters above all to most customers, whether consciously or not, is the conduct/calibre/ and attitudes of the person(s) in charge of the business/organisation. 

    Figureheads whose personal opinions, social habits, not to mention physical appearance – is your CEO an overweight slob? – don’t match up to the hype or meet with the (ethical) approval of customers, act as a deterrent. In other words, the question customers ask is “do I like the people that own/run the company?” because if the the answer is no then why should the reader trust the content?