Marketers invest a lot in thought leadership content. But if we take the name “thought leadership” literally as information that leads or influences thought, very little of it seems to materialize. Instead, I see a lot of common information parading as thought leadership content in form of blog posts, aggregated content, best practices, helpful tips, and "how to" information.
All marketing content faces the tough challenge of reaching and influencing non-customers. A recent study we conducted documented that most marketing content is primarily used by existing customers and ignored by non-customers. But if the content your organization creates has thought leadership value, it will easily scale the wall and reach both current and non-customers.
To lead thought, content needs to contain something that challenges thinking, like one of the following:
A new idea
A fresh perspective
A new insight
An original tend
A new comparison
Creating content with one with or more of the above requires special knowledge, or analytical skills that add more cost to produce than does routine marketing content.
Most though leadership content I see is really just educational information mislabeled to make it easier to market or get budgeted. Call me a purist, but if thought leadership content does not lead thought, it’s fake.