Free Will, Determinism, and Content Marketing

Ah, the classic debate of free will vs. determinism. Don’t worry – this isn’t going to be a philosophical essay on the idea that you have no control over the decisions you make.

Instead, believe it or not, it’s helpful to acknowledge these theories in order to wrap our heads around best marketing practices.

Let’s set up some basic context:

  • Free Will (def.): The ability to act at one's own discretion
  • Determinism (def.): A theory that acts of the will are causally determined by preceding events
  • Content Marketing (def.): A type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of valuable online material (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand

At first glance, this list of definitions looks like the pretext for the grammar school English test that asks “which of these does not belong?”. Instead, the question we’re going to answer here is “how do these all belong?” and apply it your marketing mix.


Paid Media and Determinism

Paid media often follows the philosophy of Determinism, such that an event is the result of some previous event. In eCommerce terms – a potential customer adds a product to cart, doesn’t end up purchasing, only to later receive a re-marketing DPA ad on their Facebook feed and eventually make a purchase. In this case, the final purchase event is a result of the effects of paid media efforts.

However, just because advertisers can predict behavior, it doesn’t always mean that behavior is determined. This is where free will and content marketing come into play.


Free Will and Content Marketing

Can you think of a time when you actually sought out viewing an advertisement? In the world of Adblocker, fast-forwarding through television episodes, or muting a Spotify music ad – it’s a wonder as to why and when someone would consciously choose to view an advertisement of their own free will.

It’s when a company produces valuable marketing content that free will is exercised. The key word here is “valuable”.

Whether that be writing a blog or recording a podcast, the intent behind why a company engages in content marketing is ultimately to educate and to provide value for the consumer. (See definition above if you need a refresher).  

It’s not about being overly-promotional. It’s not about sales. It’s about creating something that is useful for your consumer, no strings or payment for it attached.

Don’t get me wrong, eventually we want the consumer to make a purchase down the road, but plain and simple – the original point of content marketing is to provide value. That recognition of value turns into trust, which turns into customer loyalty, which turns into repeat traffic, which turns into… drumroll… a purchase!

Did I mention there were no paid media dollars driving that purchase either? Talk about free will.


Paid Media vs. Content Marketing vs. Free Will vs. Determinism

Although no conclusion will be made here regarding the age-old "free will vs. determinism" debate, we can make the conclusion that both paid and organic media strategies should be applied to your marketing mix. 

This is because content marketing serves as a support platform for paid media efforts in the same way that paid media efforts support the visibility of content marketing materials. Be it a paid media campaign with a pre-determined result or free content that drives traffic organically, it’s imperative to incorporate both camps when choosing your marketing strategy.

As for the free will debate – it’s up to you as the reader. Did you choose to read this article or was it pre-determined?

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