While content marketing strategies, “content marketing,” and “brand marketing” are all the buzz today, especially in the b2b market place, content marketing is not new. In an earlier post I wrote how Sears Roebuck successfully ventured into content marketing with a radio station back in the early 1920s. Now, I would like to go ever further back and discuss what is considered the first example of content marketing and one that is still going strong today.
In the late 1800s, John Deere was working with farmers trying to help make their work easier and more profitable. At the time, farming was the biggest or one of the biggest industries in the U.S. However, as big as it was, Deere found there were no publications specifically designed to address this huge market.
So he started one, and in 1895 The Furrow was born.
The Furrow was never designed to be an advertising platform for John Deere & Co, the firm he founded. Instead, its goal was to help farmers by providing quality, credible, and pertinent information they could use to operate their farms more efficiently and profitably. And every article, no matter how technical, discussed the human side of the story.
Well, it was apparently the right publication at the right time because circulation snowballed from a few hundred copies to more than 4 million U.S. subscribers by 1912. Today it has about 2 million worldwide subscribers and interestingly, it is more popular in print than online.
What this publication did is nothing less than make John Deere & Company. While the publication was not designed specifically to market the company’s tractors and other farm tools and equipment, every farmer knew who was publishing the magazine.
So, when a farmer in Illinois or California needed a new tractor or some other piece of equipment, which company do you think they first considered calling? If you answered John Deere, you’re right.
The company does not reveal how much it spends today publishing The Furrow. They simply say it’s “a lot.” However, The Furrow made John Deere and it is still generating interest and sales in the company’s equipment so whatever it costs them, it is more than paying for itself.