Content Marketing — so last season, Capability — so hot right now.

If actions speak louder than words, then content marketing is surely going to lose in a battle with capability marketing. What is the latter, and why is it so compelling in the modern tech-commerce environment?

In a consumer culture where advertising is rapidly becoming an annoying ringing in all our ears, savvy marketers have been looking for new edges to break through the noise with a different melody. Last year was all about content marketing. And it works — it was one of the concepts that made sense. Write and make cool content: People come see it. And last year was its zenith. But, as the stock market “prices in” expectations, so should marketers look beyond old-news tactics and find new edges. Content marketing will never die, it’s just the new noise — you need to keep writing those fresh melodies, right?

Looking beyond it, I think it’s all about capability marketing — being useful, enabling better action. I think i’ve uniquely coined that, but if I am wrong — then “great minds” think alike, I promise. It came from recent chats with insurance peers.

A colleague at a respected insurance brand told me, last week at a conference, they bemoaned the inability to give their shoppers an accounting tool — based in the cloud — on top of their business insurance. It would be, they said, a “no brainer” to give some relevancy back to the shopper. I agreed. I do agree. Insurance doesn’t have that many opportunities to talk to customers, hang out and be remembered when they next want to buy some protection. Capability kills two birds with one stone — it’s a win for the consumer and a win for the insurance seller. It should also be a better use of marketing budget (whilst saving the consumer money, perhaps! If the tools are useful.)

But that kind of thinking needs justification. If marketers managed to convince their paymasters to hire journalists en masse (a species of professional, let’s face it, that’s been hunted to near extinction by the internet) — is selling tools an easier task? At least there’s a practical usage case.

Capability is really about expansion and overlap with a consumer’s activity and future activity. I’d call this “lifestyle territory”. It’s effectively a service or capability buffer that keeps competitors away from hacking up your core product and market share. Silicon Valley knows its value — hence why even pre-revenue or profit startups are able to acquire smaller rivals — and why bigger rivals swallow up “future threats”- think Facebook/Instagram, to name but one.

Insurance is getting looked at, so-called Fintech, or even “finsurgency”, is coming to drop disruption-bombs wherever they can. Does the sector stand idly by and let its key organs be punched? No, it needs buffers of its own and it certainly doesn’t lack the resources. It needs to embrace capability marketing now, before others do and challange the relevancy of some of the traditional insurance industry’s values. (A few which I still hugely respect and stand by.)

Capability marketing is simple — it means using your marketing budget to create useful cloud tools and software for your clients, customers and colleagues. It means creating more than just your core value. Projecting your innovation and willingness to evolve to all who engage. I’d argue that in this modern sophisticated consumer’s world, they’d respect far more the brand that dropped its ad-spend and upped its helpfulness with tools.

That colleague I mentioned knows it — you probably do, too. So don’t just sit about and wait for folks to swing in and slice up your share of the market — go on the offensive. Expand your lifestyle territory, acquire lateral assets and threats and invest in capability for your key stakeholder: the customer.

Content marketing is still important, it’s just so last season, and definitely shouldn’t be the beacon on your marketing runway, right?