Content Marketing 100+ Years Ago

the furrow john deereThink content marketing is a new phenomenon? Not by a long shot. Every customer in history has loved a little “something for nothing,” a fact that companies like Jell-O and John Deere figured out long before your grandfather’s time. If you’re looking to rev up your content strategy, take some marketing inspiration from these late 19th/early 20th century examples…

John Deere: The Furrow (1895)

In 1895, John Deere launched The Furrow, a magazine about agriculture, farming, and everything else that might interest the average John Deere customer. The Furrow essentially became the very first piece of content marketing ever created.

Even more impressive is the fact that The Furrow continues to circulate today, and is now available online and on the iPad. The Furrow reaches 1.5 million readers in 40 countries, and is published in 12 different languages.

The website also offers photo and video galleries, and features social media integration (Facebook and Twitter). The company has expanded its publishing horizons to include an additional magazine, Homestead.

Michelin: The Michelin Guides (1900)

It’s possible – though there’s no evidence – that Michelin, in France, noticed what John Deere was doing across the Atlantic. In 1900, Michelin published the first Michelin Guide, which is available today in 14 editions for 23 countries, and sold in nearly 90 countries.

35,000 copies of the first Michelin Guide were published in August 1900. This guide, which contained maps, hotel information, and a list of mechanics, was given away to motorists all over France. Ironically, there were fewer than 3,000 automobiles in France at the time.

Jell-O: Jell-O Recipe Book (1904)

In 1904, Jell-O published the first Jell-O Recipe Book (view color scans here). The Jell-O book featured recipes, tips, and mouth-watering illustrations (well, if you’re into Jell-O). This free book was largely responsible for helping rocket Jell-O sales up to $1 million in 1906.

Obviously, this kind of content strategy is still employed by many food manufacturers today. Take Kraft, as a cutting-edge example. Kraft launched a website back in 1992 and a YouTube page in 2005. Great content – regardless of the form – will never go out of style.

Burns & McDonnell Engineering: Benchmark (1913)

So, you may have heard of those first three examples before. But have you heard about Burns & McDonnell? In 1913, the engineering company launched BenchMark magazine, which is still published today. BenchMark can be viewed online as a PDF, on your iPad, or in its original print format.

This year, BenchMark will be celebrating its 100th year anniversary as the engineering industry’s lead (not to mention oldest) free magazine.

1942: Every Brand Becomes a Publisher

Jump ahead three decades with me to 1942. Though there are plenty of other good content marketing examples between 1913 to 1942, it was during this pivotal year that many brands became publishers. I have to tip my hat to Rex Hammock who covered this subject in great depth 11 years ago.

Hammock’s examples include Du Pont Magazine, GM Folks, NYLIC Review (from the New York Life Insurance Company), and U.S. Steel News. During 1942, with wartime efforts in full swing, brands started publishing their own content like never before, and they haven’t stopped since.

The next time someone tries to convince you that content marketing was born in the 1990s or 2000s, just pull out one of these examples. Have a favorite example of your own? Share it in the comments section below!

The following two tabs change content below.
Ben Richardson is a writer based in Nashville, TN. While he loves writing on a variety of subjects, he's our go-to on all things related to branding and the creative aspects of content marketing. Follow him on Twitter!

Latest posts by Ben (see all)

    Related Posts:

    Share This