Content Marketing: What can we learn from Sherlock Holmes

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Is there anything we can learn about marketing materials from great, albeit fictional, unofficial consulting detective? As it turns out it is.

The Sherlock Holmes stories were written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, that tells us little about Sherlock Holmes’ financial situation. We are, however, informed that his friend and colleague, Dr. John H. Watson, has a thin wages as half-pay army surgeon and even thinner account.

to Holmes and Watson share lodgings and kept no slaves indicated that they lived in the HG Wells called “shabby gentility”.

Courtesy of Holmes’ and editorial oversight, Dr. Watson is a chronicler of the adventures of the great detective. It was considered rude for the late nineteenth century professional men to discuss the payment of fees and their most professions were forbidden to advertise.

get both the (fictional) was needed income, how then did they promote their services? The answer is that they use content marketing.

Dr. Watson chronicles the adventures of Sherlock Holmes was serialized and published in newspapers and magazines today that he received payment and Holmes got a much-needed publicity.

Dr. Watson failed to have his stories published in just any magazine or newspaper. They were published in magazines that Holmes’ target market read. Watson was publish their content on the sites targeted audience began to get information.

What was Sherlock Holmes’ target market?

Conan Doyle was very descriptive of his characters. From these descriptions we know that the typical customer using the services of the first unofficial consulting detective world

  • lived in or had a connection to London;
  • were from the upper middle class background; and
  • had to support themselves without having to resort to paid work or if they did work it was in practice considered appropriate for a man of his bench.

We also know that the target audience was educated at 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 was familiar with the writings of Goethe and understood what he meant when he said “Goethe is always pithy. “

Holmes was also in the habit of using words in French, so that Nous verrons (we’ll see). Again, his audience would understand the meaning.

Holmes is also said to have referred the archives of Times , which was, of course, the newspaper of choice for its target market.

in the subject of marketing, what have Holmes and Watson made

They have been very smart?

  1. They have clearly identified their target market and it would not be stretching the point to say they create at least two personas, one for men and one for women ;. They create compelling content that helped to build a relationship of confidence and trust with potential customers. Their story was told as a series of adventures that resonated with the audience. The Chronicles set out 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 to consult Mr. Holmes; and
  3. They ensure their content was published in all the places their target audience began to get information.

Not only was Sherlock Holmes expert scientific deduction, he also knew a thing or two about marketing materials.

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