Content marketing – heading for a hype trough?

Every year Gartner brings out a piece of research nicely titled the ‘Hype Cycle’. It marks out various trends in marketing and where they are in terms of marketer opinion.

Last year’s analysis showed content marketing was due to fall into what Gartner described as ‘the trough of disillusionment’. The premise is that every marketing trend has its peak in terms of what companies believe they can achieve, before hitting an inevitable fall when these expectations are unmet.


The depressing thing when looking at this diagram is the feeling that marketers are caught in a continual cycle of looking for the next big fix. Some have been throwing out content and wondering why it’s not sticking to the wall. There have been warnings about this. Eighteen months ago we covered some comments by John Lewis marketing director Craig Inglis.

In it, Inglis warned about getting caught up in what he called “the content marketing Zeitgeist“. Inglis said: “There are so many brands that get caught up in this. It’s become the zeitgeist in our community but really it’s just marketing…We get caught up in this stuff then that leads to unnatural behaviour that’s not the right thing.”

The new black

Moreover, it is worth looking at what is coming up behind content marketing in terms of trends. Much of it seems heavily dependent on analytics, such as programmatic advertising or shopable media. But these are tools, rather than a sectors or disciplines in their own right. Content marketing has been around for around 100 years, going back to the launch of the Michelin guide and the Sears catalogue after that.


On an industry and sector level, content overload is probably the greatest danger for content marketing. If everyone is creating content marketing then there will be a problem with cut-through. Inevitably, those who concentrate on quality will continue to have strong results. But many may quit before they realise this.

The key is what happens after the trough. According to Gartner, all of these methods have come back in some form. Personalisation and mobile advertising are still around. Simply put, more rational expectations are in place. And that can only be a good thing.
Still, let’s see what Gartner says in this year’s survey, which is expected in the next few weeks.