Dinner Time With Content Marketing: A Meal Analogy

Alan BelniakMarketing, Social Media14 Comments

Content Marketing Explained As a Meal

I’ve been asked several times recently: “What is content marketing?” And if you’ve seen it, consumed it, and/or created it, you know what it is.  To some, it’s really easy to explain.  To others, it’s more difficult to explain, especially if you use other terms in the definition that are also foreign.  Below is an explanation of content marketing by way of analogy.

Explaining Content Marketing Using a Meal Analogy

First, imagine your content as a meal.  When I say content, I don’t mean an asset, like a white-paper or a webcast.  I mean the message or main idea you want to communicate to your customer or prospect.  That’s the content.

A: Of that content, you will have a core piece.  It might be a whitepaper, it might be a webcast, it might be a slidedeck.  Call this the main dish or entrée.

B: Leading up to that, you might want to whet the appetite.  You might want to tease the core content a bit, create intrigue or desire.  You might want to generate interest for the main dish, so perhaps it is paired well and complements the main dish.  This might be a salad.

C: You might need to signal to the market that you have something worth consuming.  You need to let them know that hey – it’s worth stopping by… it is worth having a seat at the table.  This might be bread, a signal that this is a seat that’s going to be getting a meal soon. In the content space, it’s a tweet or even a short blog post to let your readers know more is on the way.

D: Perhaps your main dish (A) is a video.  But it’s a big video.  It’s too much to consume in one sitting.  So, you cut it up into smaller chunks (little 2-minute clips, one leading to the next, but good enough to stand alone on their own), making it digestible.

E: You’ve can’t wait to eat this meal!  You’ve got this spread in front of you – bread, salad, an appetizer, main dish, soup…  How can you get all of that content into your stomach?  How can you collect all of those meal parts into one place (your mouth) at once?  An RSS aggregator/feed catcher.

F: You really like the way the chef prepared the food… but it could use a bit more flavor.  Maybe a dash of salt and pepper.  Adding some of your own flavor to an existing piece of content is a mash-up.

G: To accompany the main dish (in this case, maybe it’s a slide deck), you want something that pairs well to accentuate it in the right places, and fill the gaps in the light parts.  Much like a fine red wine complements a rare cut of beef.  In the content world, this can be an audio track that walks a reader through a slide deck.

H (not shown): The meal was delicious.  So delicious, in fact, that you ask the waiter to speak with the chef.  You shower the chef with praise, and ask for her secret recipe for the sauce that accompanied the beef.  She tells you and you write it down so you can come back to that later and use it on your own.  This is similar to bookmarking (in this case, it happens that I’m referring to delicious!)

I (not shown): Aside from your main dish, you also have delectable side dishes that accompany the meal, such as a mushroom risotto, or frites.  In the content world, side dishes can be a follow-on interview with a key subject matter expert, or the re-blogging of a similar piece, weaving it into your main dish.  It adds to the main course, but doesn’t stand on its own.

J (not shown): Clearing the dishes from the main meal, soup, salad, appetizers, and the like leads the way for dessert.  In terms of the meal, this is the final cap – the little extra at the end to make you say, “Wow – what a great meal.”  This could be an exclusive interview (similar to above, but a bit different), it could be a re-distribution of your core content, it could be getting one of the assets syndicated into a larger arena.

K (not shown): Eating dinner alone is no fun.  The conversation is what turns it from food to a meal; from a dinner to a dinner party.  Friendly funny banter back and forth, or even a spirited debate enhance the overall experience.  Blog comments, discussion forums, and Facebook walls are where this happens in the content world.

This analogy isn’t perfect.  After all, it’s an analogy.  And if I used a different picture of a meal (e.g., a picture that included a soup bowl, or a gravy boat), I could add two more analogies to the list.  The point is that there are several ways to take a concept of an entire meal and split it into multiple parts to reuse, respin, reshape, and serve up that overall meal.  I’m hopeful that is was clear enough for you to start looking at different pieces of digital content (and many pieces of digital content are made social merely by the platform they are placed upon and how they are distributed and shared) and see how they can fit together.

Fellow content marketers: what analogy would you add?  Or, which of mine would you augment or correct? Please share this around.  I’m confident that if enough people add their thoughts to this, and then point others to it, the term ‘content marketing’ will be much easier to describe and explain in the future.

If this piques your interest, be sure to check out the forthcoming book, Content Rules, by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman. You can read all about it, including where and how to order, and how to stay current (Twitter, Facebook, RSS) on the Content Rules Book website.



Image source: Microsoft clipart, with edits from the author


If you like what you’re reading here, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or signing up via e-mail (upper right corner) to be alerted when more new posts are added.

  • http://virtualvector.com burhop

    I attended a social media conference where we also talked in terms of a meal analogy. In this case we were discussing blogs and how you want your content to be like eating. Sometimes you want a rich meal (rich content). Sometimes you want to put out a spicy meal (that gets debate going). Sometimes you just want a fluffy desert that makes you feel good. Do too much of one type and your blog gets boring.

    Maybe you can add that to your plate above :-)

  • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

    This is actually a great way to look at it and I’ll take the analogy a bit further as well to drive something home to clients that I always try to make.

    If you think back to some of the best meals you have, I’d bet that there is a mix of expensive fine dining and cheap road side burger shacks. The most remembered meals have NOTHING to do with the cost (aka production values and budgets), but have everything to do with the experience.

    Spending more money on a meal or a content strategy does not equal a guaranteed better meal or results. Sure, I love a perfectly cooked Ribeye as much as the next guy, but sometimes I just want a satisfying burger.

  • http://www.subjectivelyspeaking.net Alan Belniak

    I think your comment (our ‘meal conversation’) just *did* add it to the plate above. Thanks for that note, Mark.

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Dinner Time With Content Marketing: A Meal Analogy — Subjectively Speaking -- Topsy.com()

  • Anonymous

    Funny – we write about that exact analogy in Content Rules, as relates to blogs. It’s actually a great model for ensuring a certain variety in your posts — sometimes you need pot roast, sometimes you need a cupcake. A steady diet of one or another is monotonous, boring, and lacks nourishment!

  • Anonymous

    p.s. Hubspot was the source for that, BTW (in the spirit of crediting sources!)

  • http://virtualvector.com burhop

    I wish I could remember who said that for my info. The conference was http://socialsouth.org/ Oh well, I probably didn’t do it justice anyway.

  • http://virtualvector.com burhop

    I wish I could remember who said that for my info. The conference was http://socialsouth.org/ Oh well, I probably didn’t do it justice anyway.

  • http://virtualvector.com burhop

    I wish I could remember who said that for my info. The conference was http://socialsouth.org/ Oh well, I probably didn’t do it justice anyway.

  • Anonymous

    Nice one Alan. The analogy works great. And you can also have an after dinner drink in the bar later and discuss the meal (a physical speech).

  • Carolyn Winter

    I love the meal analogy and this I can take in! To extend it a bit I have to ask whose table is it? Which restaurant? Whose cooking? … I guess that is how the brand, the corporate logos, and personalities show up in the dinner. Table linen must be the blog software! :)

    Thanks so much for this great way to describe content marketing.

  • Anonymous

    I think by adding it here in the comments means its added to the post. After all, the comments are just as important as the post, right?

  • Anonymous

    Carolyn,
    Great extensions to the metaphor. When I started thinking about this, the metaphor concept really resonated. I was thinking faster than I could type. And once that gets unlocked mentally, the analogy continues. Case in point: my wife wrote to me (I didn’t even know she read my content), saying: “Even *I* get what you’re saying here.” As in, the meal metaphor really brings it home. And with extensions like table, restaurant, and chef – that just adds to it.

  • http://twitter.com/KatieMcCaskey Katie McCaskey

    What a creative way to approach this topic! I particularly like the salt/pepper analogy… mashing up content to suit your tastes. Compliments to the chef!