Content Marketing vs. Events

Content marketing is evolving fast. It's a means to promote your events as well as events are a part of content marketing. Koen Denolf explains the importance of content.

Kevin Van der Straeten
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Hi Koen, welcome in the studio.

Hi Kevin.

You are one of the authors of the book: This is content marketing.

It's actually not your first book.

It's the second book about content marketing, that's a fact. The first one was four years ago. In 2016.

Well, it was written in 2016. We, the authors...

So, the four of us. We felt the need to make a new book.

And why is that?

Because a lot of things have changed.

I've been urging for this new book for about two years now. Because everything is going so fast. And I remember a conversation we had with the publisher. The publisher Lannoo. And so, I really urged them to go ahead with this new book. And I remember the guy saying: well, okay, just make me a sheet. An A4-sheet. Of all the updates you want to make in the book. I say: what? You don't understand.

It's a new one.

It's just a new book we have to write. So there's no talk about making updates.

What you see now, in 2021, is that the sector really has grown up. Four years ago, it was the shiny new thing. And you saw that companies were trying out stuff with content marketing. Some of them were already on a very professional scale. But most of them, like 90-95%, were just starting or just trying stuff. I remember, in 2016, that at the moment...

Because you're writing a book. You're in this subject. And you're overwhelmed with it. That I thought that it would go much faster and that the market was already much more progressed.

Well, it wasn't. So it took me some time to understand that this is...

People have to really get into it. And it's not just getting into it, like a technique. But getting into the mindset of content marketing.

What is that for you? The mindset or maybe the definition of content marketing.

I'm going to talk about the mindset, because I don't really believe in definitions. Because you can redefine content marketing from different points of view.

But the mindset is that you look at communication. You look at what you want to communicate as a company, as a brand, as an organisation. From the point of view of your audience. And mind that we talk about audiences. We don't talk about target groups. And you try to emerge in what they are thinking. What they are feeling. What they want. What they lack. And you try to overcome these questions, these shortcomings. By content. And, of course, in the process you create a context. Where your product is part of this story. These stories that you bring. It's more than just a technique of creating content. It's really picking the mind of your audience. And trying to anticipate what they are going to look for or what they want.


Do you have an example of that? To make it a little bit more concrete.

What do you mean with that?

Well, for example, one of the cases we did the last year. We started in 2020. It was a brand called KidsLife. And KidsLife, what they do is that they hand out the money to parents for their children.

Okay, yes.

A kind of welfare for children. And so, there are five organisations in Belgium that do this kind of service. And they all offer the same money. They all offer the same service. So how can you make the difference? Well, at first they tried with campaigns. And, well, they didn't succeed in making any difference. So what we did was: we started looking into their audience. What they were lacking in all the communications of all the other brands.

And what they were lacking was that raising a child is a costly affaire. It's a huge interference in your budget planning, as a parent. And so, we tried to overcome all these concerns that parents have about raising a child and the cost of raising a child. So we brought content. We focussed on this kind of content. Like: we will help you, as KidsLife. We will help you as an organisation. To make it affordable. We will look into hacks, we will look into solutions. To get your child raised in a happy situation. Without it costing you a leg and an arm. So that's what we did and we succeeded in it. We built an audience with this content. And so, every month we have a growing number of people going to the website. Because they are looking for this kind of information. They're looking for this kind of content. And in the process we tell them: hey, maybe you should join us. KidsLife. And that's how they get their new clients.

Our audience are people who are working in or with the event industry.

How do you see the link between events and content marketing? Is it part of it? Or...

Yes, that's an interesting question.

What we see is that not only event marketing but any topic in the field of marketing, it's all coming together. And that's interesting because all the silos we used to have in companies...

They still exist in most big companies. So you had people who were involved in sponsoring, events, social media, ad campaigns, et cetera. They were all working separately. And so they wasted a lot of money. A lot of money. A lot of vision, also. In making the brand bigger.

So a lot of brands, they see now that this is not the right way to tackle it. So, the right way to tackle it, is: start from your brand's story. The story of your brand. And then see how you can translate it. In an ad campaign. But also in events. For example: if you look...

Well, I look a lot at cases abroad. And one of the companies that really surprises me, all the time, with all the work they do, is The New York Times. I mean: The New York Times, it's a publishing company. Well, they're one of the fastest growing brands in content marketing. And what they do is: they start from brand stories. And then they look at what kind of interesting, exciting ways they can tell these stories. And first they only had the field of the newspaper to tell these stories. But now, already, they use any means to tell these stories. They do virtual reality. They do events. They do a lot of events. To bring these stories to their audience. To the audience of these brands. And so, how I see event marketing evolve in the future is that event companies, they should vertically integrate everything that is content marketing. And look at it, not just like doing a fancy event, but start, really, from the core. And the core is: what is the essence of this brand? What does this brand want to tell their audience?


And it's then a matter of, where in other ways you would write an article, make a video, but then it's bringing that story through the events and let them experience it?

Yes and not look at it from event point of view.

I remember a case. An event case. In Las Vegas. There was a hotel that was being demolished.

I mean: all the time these hotels are being demolished. And bigger and more fancy hotels are being built. That's Las Vegas.

And so, this company that owned the hotel, they contacted three companies. And they said: well, how much would you charge to demolish this building?

And well, two of the companies, they made an offer and they said: well, this is the amount of dynamite we will use. And this is the cost for security et cetera. Everything you would expect for demolishing a building.

There was one company, they said: well, you know wat? We're going to make an event out of it. We're going to make it into a huge show. We're going to do fireworks. We're going to put a lot of cameras everywhere. And it's going to be an event. And it cost three times more then what the other companies offered. But they choose this company and this event was the start of what was going to follow. In the coming years. So the new casino that was going to be built at the same spot.

And for me that's how companies and also event companies, every company, should look at the stuff they're doing. How can we make this into an interesting story? If you do an event, don't just think about catering. And the number of people or bands you put on show. Think about the interesting stories you can create. And don't just look at it from an event point-of-view but also talk to the people from content. Talk to the people from advertising et cetera. And bring them all together. Look at an event as a show. Like a train you create. And the first, so the locomotive in front, is a way to emerge the crowd. To make them want to go to this event.

And maybe a lot of people, maybe, I don't know, 50% or 80% won't be able to go to this event. But, I mean, they're also interesting to talk to. If you can build a pre-show to your event, you will also het this 80%, who won't go to the event itself, involved. At the event, you can do a lot of interesting things. I mean...

I'm always so surprised that the only thing that most brands that organise events can come up with is an after show-video. Where you have people at a reception. With a glass of champaign and eating hors-d'oeuvres. That's not interesting. Nobody wants to see that. I mean: only if you were there and you want to see how you looked at the event. That's not interesting. Try to do something interesting. Interview the people who were at the event. Do something with the people who spoke at the event. You can do all kinds of snippets. Kinds of little pieces of content. Which you can use afterwards. After the event.

With one event, you can involve people for two to three months with this topic.

The thing is that events and content marketing seem very interwoven. Because on the one hand it's a means of doing content marketing. But on the other hand, you could use content marketing to get people to your event. So it's very interesting.

Koen, there are more than, I think, two hundred examples in this book. To have a look at. Also, you and your colleagues won the marketing book of the year award. Congratulations on that.

Thank you.

People who want to buy the book, is it also available in English? Or just in Dutch for the moment?

At the moment it's just available in Dutch. But we're thinking, well we're looking into, French and also...

Well, first French and then maybe also an English speaking book.

Okay, so our Dutch viewers can order immediately and the French and the English ones need to wait a little bit.

You can order the book at Lannoo. At the publisher.

You can also order it on our website. That's At a 20% discount.

Oh, that's always interesting.

Thank you, Koen, for sharing your insights on content marketing with us.

Okay, it was a pleasure, Kevin. And I hope to see you again in less than four years.


And you at home, thank you for watching our show. I hope to see you next week.