Content marketing is the message; native can be the envelope

The Drum has partnered with programmatic platform PulsePoint for a series of short video primers and accompanying features in print exploring the meaning and value of content marketing.

As consumer action such as ad blocking and ad skipping take greater hold, marketers the world over are re-evaluating their communications strategies. For many, this means pouring greater budgets into content marketing and native advertising – industry buzzwords that might yet live up to the hype and help brands connect with customers in more meaningful, useful ways.

Content marketing is not a new phenomenon but one that is being revolutionised by digital – indeed, America’s Association of National Advertisers (ANA) pronounced ‘content marketing’ the ‘2015 Marketing Word of the Year’ ahead of ‘programmatic’, ‘transparency’ and ‘storytelling’.

Yet Ben Pheloung, head of demand EMEA at PulsePoint, believes that, for many, the term ‘content marketing’ has become confused, with many thinking it is interchangeable with native advertising.

Says Pheloung: “Content marketing is the message. Native can be the envelope that message is delivered in.”

James McAllister, content director at UM Studios, the content creation division of media agency UM, is even blunter. “I find it easier to explain what content marketing is not,” he says. “It is not advertising.”

“With advertising you find an audience who are happily enjoying something and find a clever way to disrupt them with your brand. Content marketing is working out what the audience wants to consume and thinking about how the brand can be a part of it.”

UK trade body the Content Marketing Association (CMA) defines it as “the discipline of creating quality branded content across all media channels and platforms to deliver engaging relationships, consumer value and measurable success for brands.”

It says that the UK industry is worth an estimated £5.2bn a year, with budgets increasing at around 25 per cent a year. Of that around £4bn is owned media and the rest native advertising.

CMA’s managing director Clare Hill says that although it is only around half the size of the display advertising market, increases in budgets show that marketers are keen to use content to cut through.

However, while most (88 per cent) of US marketers used content marketing in 2015 according to a Content Marketing Institute (CMI) survey, only 32 per cent of them had a documented content marketing strategy.

Hill suggests marketers build a road map and lay down key performance indicators before they even start sweating the strategy.

Pheloung adds there are essentials a marketer needs to ask before embarking: How much content is too much? Is ‘always on’ always right? And what story do you want to tell, and why?

“For instance, I’m a new dad but a nappy brand wanting to reach me with blog posts or advertising messages about its product is wasting its time,” he says. “But if you’re talking to me about parenting, how you can help me navigate the frightening yet exciting world of your first newborn, then you’ve got a captive audience. New or soon-to-be parents want as much information as they can gather about what to expect.”

As Penny Bartram, head of solutions EMEA at Bloomberg Media, cautions: “With a surge in interest in content marketing, there is a risk that brands will create an abundance of content without thinking about who wants to consume it and how they want to consume it.”

It is why (good) digital content marketing has evolved over the past decade from spammy SEO tactics where people wrote for search engines, not for people. As a future EYNTK about content marketing feature will explore, the industry now needs to look ‘beyond the click’.

A good content marketing strategy should outline key business and customer needs, together with how content efforts will address them.

Marketers must build audience personas and content maps; uncover the brand story (or stories), looking at how those messages differ from competitors and what happens once they are shared with an audience; shape a channel plan, setting clear criteria, process and objectives for each platform to be used and ensuring they create a cohesive brand conversation.

Everything You Need to Know About Content Marketing is the second EYNTK series from The Drum, designed to help readers and viewers get up to speed with some of the most important issues in today’s marketing industry in one short film – something they can watch in the back of a taxi on the way to their next crucial meeting on the subject.

Find out more about the series by visiting our EYNTK hub.

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