Content Marketing: What We Can Learn From Sherlock Holmes

Could we learn a thing or two about content marketing from an awesome, albeit fictional, unofficial consulting detective? As it turns out, there is.

The Sherlock Holmes stories were written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who tells us a little about Sherlock Holmes’ financial situation. However, we are told that his friend and colleague, Dr. John H. Watson, has a low salary as a semi-paid army surgeon and an even thinner bank account.

The fact that Holmes and Watson shared lodgings and did not keep servants suggests that they lived in what HG Wells called “shabby gentility”.

With the permission and editorial supervision of Holmes, Dr. Watson is a chronicle of the adventures of the great detective. It was considered vulgar for professional men in the late 1800s to discuss the payment of their fees, and advertising was prohibited in most professions.

Since both (fictional) men needed income, how did they advertise their services? The answer is that they used content marketing.

Dr. Watson’s chronicles of the adventures of Sherlock Holmes were serialized and published in the newspapers and magazines of the day, for which he was paid and Holmes received much-needed publicity.

Dr. Watson did not arrange for his stories to be published in any magazine or newspaper. They were published in magazines that Holmes’ target market read. Watson published his content in the places where his intended audience went for information.

What was the target market for Sherlock Holmes?

Conan Doyle described his characters well. From these descriptions, we know that a typical client using the services of the world’s first informal consulting detective:

  • lived in or had a connection with London;
  • were from an upper-middle-class background; and
  • they could afford to support themselves without having to resort to paid work, or if they did work, it was in a profession considered appropriate for a person of their class.

We also know that the target audience was educated to a higher level than was usual at the time. We know this because Holmes quoted Goethe in German.


Wir sind gewohnt dass die Menschen verhohnen was sie nicht verstehen.

From The sign of four

His audience would have been familiar with Goethe’s writings and understood what he meant when he said “Goethe is always timid.”

Holmes also had a habit of using French sayings such as nous verrons (We will see). Again, his audience would have understood the point.

Holmes is also said to have referred to the archives Timeswhich was of course the favorite daily of his target market.

What have Holmes and Watson done for content marketing?

They have been quite clever:

  1. They have clearly defined their target market and it would not be an exaggeration to say that they created at least two personas, one for men and one for women. They created engaging content that helped build a trusting relationship with their prospects. . Their stories were told as a series of adventures that resonated with the target audience. The chronicles presented the problem and showed how Holmes was able to solve it;
  2. The chronicles entertained and informed the reader, but they also pre-sold them on the idea of ​​hearing Mr. Holmes; and
  3. They made sure their content was published in all the places their target audience went to get information.

Sherlock Holmes was not only an expert in the sciences of reasoning, but he also knew something about content marketing.

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