February 26th, 2022

Copywriting vs Content Marketing: What's the Difference?

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Written by Margaret Isabel

In the world of modern advertising, copywriting and content marketing offer delicious benefits to hungry consumers and the marketing experts who cook up their strategy. But are they two completely different things, as opposite as buttery dinner rolls and green beans on a Thanksgiving table? Not so much. 

Copywriting and content marketing are a bit more like yams and sweet potatoes, a part of the same delicious potato family but each with their own unique flavor profiles and uses: 

  • Copywriting – Synonymous with the birth of advertising itself, copywriting refers to any text composed to market a product or service. Blog posts, slogans, emails, and web copy are all common kinds of copywriting you’ll come across online.

  • Content marketing – Content marketing was the immaculately-conceived brainchild of one Benjamin Franklin, who published Poor Richard’s Almanack to both advertise his printing business and give potential customers something fun to read between shifts tilling the land. Today, the most popular formats of content marketing are videos, e-books, and blogs (in that order).

In a competitive attention economy, brands rely on multiple forms of content to captivate consumer interest. But no matter which medium you choose as your bread and butter, it’s strong copy that crystallizes your brand’s identity, hooks your audience, and tells the gripping story that keeps them coming back.

The Family of Content-Writing Copywriters (a Thanksgiving Story)

To illustrate the differences between copywriting and content marketing, I invite you to my family’s Thanksgiving (where they will also learn the differences between the two). I already have all my speech points lined up on my phone:

  • 90% of brands today use content marketing techniques. 

  • On average, brands with blogs get 67% more leads per month than brands that rely on traditional advertising.

  • Content marketing is more cost-effective than traditional marketing and generates 3x more leads per dollar spent.

“I like traditional advertising,” I imagine my mother countering, pushing a fennel frond around on her plate. “I like the ones where the little lizard talks in a funny accent.”

I would agree, out of courtesy. She was from another time—a time before tabs, skip buttons, wider margins of consumer control. This Thanksgiving, I would hold my tongue. I would pass the rolls. I would be a model daughter.

Scene 1: Of Good Copywriting and Cranberry Sauce

I am meowed awake on Thanksgiving morning at the crack of dawn. I’m cat-sitting for Keanu, my friend’s liquid-smooth Russian grey, and I only have two jobs to do: 

  • Feed the cat
  • Procure the cranberry sauce

The meow rebounds. Feed me, it says.

“JUST A MINUTE,” I bellow at the door. I reach an arm out of the duvet and seize my phone from the nightstand. 6:31 am.

I feed the cat. Then I open Google. I need answers, quickly.

I type best cranberry sauce 2021.

Gastro magazines like Saveur, Food & Wine, and Bon Appetit all vault to the top of the page:

3 Cranberry Sauces That Deserve a Michelin Star

5 TRANSFORMATIVE CRANBERRY SAUCES THAT WILL REVOLUTIONIZE YOUR THANKSGIVING

The Best Craberry Sauce to Stockpile This Holiday Season

Dismayed by Bon Appetit’s glaring typo, I scroll down to the sixth title on the search engine totem pole: A Simple Cranberry Sauce To Impress The Fam.

I open the article, and immediately, I know that this is sharp copywriting because,
 

  • The article isn’t overly wordy

  • It gets right to the point (no long-winded explanations about the history of cranberry sauce before the ingredients list)

  • It provides me with actionable insights on how to execute a cranberry recipe

I see that the recipe comes from a brand called BogDaddy Cran Relish. Beyond blogs, their site is packed with other forms of content marketing, including:

  • Recipes
  • Cranberry memes
  • Youtube videos
  • TikTok videos
  • Podcasts

After perusing another blog post on the alternate uses of cranberry sauce, I happily take up their Call To Action (CTA) and subscribe to their podcast, “BoggyStyle.”

Scene 2: Content Marketing Blackout

Hours later, I come to. It appears I’d made it to BoggyStyle episode #14, “The Heuristics of Chutneys from Around the World,” and am receiving an incoming phone call from my mother. 

I pick up the call. “Hello?”

“Did you get the cranberry sauce?”

“Yes, mom, I got the cranberry sauce,” I lie.

“Are you lying?”

“No…” I look at my phone and check the time. I have 40 minutes to buy cranberry sauce before I need to get on the train.

“We just need you to bring cranberry sauce.”

“Okay!”

“Don’t screw this up.”

“I’m not going to!”

“See you at 3.”

“See you at 3.”

Scene 4: Dinner Begins, An Amouse Bouche of Blog Discussion

At the table, Ned, this year’s Thanksgiving tag-along, turns to me and says, “So, I hear you’re a blogger.”

“Well, I’m a copywriter,” I reply, helping myself to a slice of cornbread. “But, yes, I write blogs for different companies. Blogging is actually the third most popular kind of content marketing.

“What is copywriting?”

“Well,” I say. “Copywriting is how brands can:

  • Enrich relationships with existing customers,
  • Reach and convert new customers,
  • Add unique value to their industries,
  • And demonstrate credibility in their field.

You’re trying to connect with your reader and get them to do something—that’s a CTA, a call to action. Actions could be something like:

  • Following your social account,
  • Signing up for your emails,
  • Providing customer feedback,
  • Or achieving a sale.”

“So, if I were trying to get someone to pass the cornbread, what would you write for me?”

“Are you trying to get me to do it with a long-form article or, like, a Tweet?”

“Give me a Tweet.”

I thoughtfully examine the cornbread crumbs on my plate. “Corn dog? More like corn hog. This Thanksgiving, share the bounty and pass me the cornbread. Today.”

“Yikes,” someone mutters.


“I see,” Ned says, sliding a wedge of cornbread onto an unpopulated precinct of his plate. He glances around the table. “Pass the cranberry sauce?”

Scene 5: CTA Failure

I panic. “What is Ned short for, anyway?” I said, at an unwarranted decibel. “Nedward? Nedrick?”


Ned steers away from me like I’m giving off a smell. “Anybody see that cran sauce anywhere?”

A small commotion begins to ensue. People are shuffling around the salt shakers, wine glasses, and sides, puzzled. But I know where the cranberry sauce is. It’s still in the store, because:

  • In practical terms – My will to buy cranberry sauce was buried by my desire to be entertained.

  • In marketing terms – BogDaddy’s CTA got lost in their bog of content marketing.

“I’ll check the kitchen,” says Terry, scooting her chair back and dropping a napkin to her plate. I look at my mother. She stares back at me with Medusa vision.

Scene 6: Why All Content Marketing Needs Good Copywriting

“So, like, I have a podcast...” Jeremy interjects.

“We know, Jeremy,” someone moans.

“And I sort of just spitball the whole time—no script or anything. I have a hunch my audience doesn’t love prewritten material. Why do I need a copywriter?”

“Well, whether you’re a company or a one-man business, good copywriting will help you with:

  • SEO, or search engine optimization, which is the science of capturing your target audience by incorporating key search terms into your new and existing copy.

  • Expanding to multiple platforms so that you can scale your audience and hone brand awareness.

  • Authoring comprehensive web copy, newsletters, articles, social posts, and even video scripts that meet consumer demand for content and establish you as a unique, relatable, and trustworthy resource. That kind of thing.”

“Okay, so you’re saying all that will help me turn a higher profit?” Before I could deliver an affirmation, a blood-curdling scream slices through the air.

“I STUBBED MY TOE,” Terry hollers from the kitchen. Guests abandon their plates, Terry howls, and Aunt Seena starts bleating to no one in particular that studies show eating sugar cookies is a great way to distract the mind from minor injuries. 

I make a break for it and beeline for the front door.

Behind me, my mother shouts, “WHERE ARE YOU GOING?!”

“I NEED. TO FEED. A CAT.”

Scene 7: Smart Copy Saves The Sauce (A.K.A The Moral Of The Story)

The door slams behind me. I have about 8 minutes to hit all 3 grocery stores in a 2 block radius in one last desperate attempt to secure the cranberry sauce before I succumb to frostbite.

I make the rounds from market to market, finding every condiment aisle totally scavenged. After emerging from the last shop, I decide to throw in the towel. 

Walking back to Terry’s, I approach the blue and green marquee glittering in the window of a bodega on Bedford Avenue. As I make my way closer, I see a printed sign taped to the glass door. Nothing fancy, just a plain sheet of paper with printed text—bold Calibri 24 pt. font and meaty, 1.5” margins.

WE HAVE CRANBERRY SAUCE.

But I’d never been so moved to see a line of copy in my life. I duck into the shop, giving thanks to the Thanksgiving gods and the writer who crafted a perfect call to action in just four words. 

Copycat Copywriters: Keep Copywriting and Content Marketing In The Family

While consumers’ appetite for content is at an all time high, copywriting and content marketing share a family secret: that quality wins over quantity, every time. At Copycat, we know how to cook up that secret content sauce that will have customers coming back for seconds (and thirds). 

Check out our menu of service offerings to learn how we can prepare a feast of delectable copy to bring your marketing vision to life. 

Don’t worry—we won’t forget the cranberry sauce. 

Sources: 
Content Marketing Institute. The History of Content Marketing. https://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2016/07/history-content-marketing/

Content Marketing Infographic. https://www.demandmetric.com/content/content-marketing-infographic

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