Absolutely! The people who think article marketing is just a way to get links, and, therefore it doesn't matter what kind of content you post, are just wrong.
Yes, publishing articles on directories gives you backlinks. However, you can get a ton of additional backlinks if your articles are good enough to get picked up by other people.
Plus, let's not forget that your content is a direct reflection on you and your credibility. If you publish articles (or any other kind of content, both on site and off), readers get to see what you're all about. It's a great way to establish yourself as an expert in your niche. If the content is compelling and informative, readers will take notice and have more respect for you. If the content is bad, readers will certainly notice that, too - and it gives them a great reason to go check out your competitors.