We have been looking at the use of ‘thought leadership” marketing outside of professional services (specifically management consulting, IT services, accounting and law). Although that’s where it started, arguably with the founding of McKinsey Quarterly in 1964, we think we’re increasingly seeing companies outside of professional services use quality content to attract customers, instead of, or as well as, traditional advertising.
A few examples; MetLife just issued a big research report on the state of the American dream. FedEx has a whole thought leadership section online about what it calls Access – the interconnectedness of people and places. Herman Miller, the office furniture company, has lots of research and opinion online around ergonomics and the work environment. Even Pitney Bowes, the mailing equipment company, has some original and unbiased material available for its direct mailing customers to help them understand, for example, how to be greener in mailing.
Herman Miller is no newcomer to the game – its published thought leadership has apparently been integral to its product development research for years. But others, such as FedEx apparently are. We don’t have the data to see if there is an increase in quality content or thought leadership marketing in sectors outside of professional services, but it might make sense if there were. We all know that interruption marketing is declining in effectiveness, and is especially problematic with the sophisticated buyers of B2B.
Perhaps that’s the driver.