Quality, well-distributed content is here to stay

The Drum has partnered with programmatic platform PulsePoint for a series of short video primers exploring the meaning and value of content marketing. Shot in the back of a cab, they outline everything you need to know about content marketing in the time it takes you to get to your next meeting. The final episode takes a look ahead at what to expect from content marketing in the future.

If 2015 was the year that brands finally woke up to the power of content marketing, particularly that delivered digitally, 2016 will mark the time that marketers realise the associated importance of data and distribution?

Ben Pheloung, head of demand, EMEA at PulsePoint, says: “We have always said that content is king, but now brands are realising that data, distribution and context are just as vital. Your content means nothing if nobody sees it.”

His comments come in the final episode of Everything You Need to Know About Content Marketing, a series of video primers and accompanying features that aim to give marketers the essentials of this fast-growing and complex topic.

Clare Hill, managing director of trade body the Content Marketing Association (CMA), says that the channel will continue to grow, estimating that it will hit £6bn in the UK alone by the end of the year, with budgets increasing around 25 per cent annually.

Its growing popularity is, she says, down to being able to deliver engaging relationships, consumer value and measurable success for brands, particularly at a time when another, less desirable ‘trend’, ad blocking, is on the rise.

Some brands have even made content the cornerstone of how they advertise. Bram Meuleman, Carat’s strategic innovation director, cites Lego as a case in point: with TV shows, YouTube webisodes and even feature-length movies, the toy brick company is transitioning from a simple product to a media powerhouse. Similarly, Red Bull and GoPro are two other content experts.

Rhiannon Thompson, associate director at CMA member Remarkable Content, believes marketers wanting to win in this space must continue to invest in ever-more sophisticated data collection and measurement tools, but cautions: “We know that the ultimate metric for all content is a bottom line impact.”

Agility is key for clients today, she says, and ‘real-time’ – in monitoring and measuring and in content creation itself – will grow in importance. “The ability to shape content according to the detailed statistics now available ensures greater ROI and efficiencies in content-to-audience delivery,” Thompson adds.

Yet real-time need not always mean ‘always on’. Pheloung says that brands such as Adidas or Red Bull who have a wealth of content opportunities and brand ambassadors can (and do) have a rich content programme in place. Others should spend their budget on meaningful, engaging content where that brand has earned a right to be.

“Think less like a marketer and more like a consumer,” he says. “What would you like to read?” A nappy manufacturer could own the wider space around parenting, for instance, while a financial services company can advise on implications around the budget or on helping a consumer get a better credit rating.

Neither is it a case of quantity over quality. ‘Bite-size’ might be a marketing buzzword but people will read in-depth content for the right content: in fact, the average blog post is creeping upwards, according to Orbit Media, which found that in 2015 it topped 900 words – 10 per cent longer than the year before. A SearchMetrics 2015 report, meanwhile, found the average word count of top-ranking content in Google was between 1,140 and 1,285 words.

Another key trend is the continued use of interactive content such as quizzes, calculators, polls and surveys. Research conducted by Demand Metric in 2015 showed that 91 per cent of buyers prefer more interactive or visual content that can be accessed on demand.

Meuleman is not surprised. He says: “As interactive content becomes easier and more cost-efficient to produce, it’s only natural that lots of brands will experiment with it. I believe we’ll see many more Buzzfeed-style quizzes, Oculus experiences, [Google’s virtual reality] Cardboard and Chrome experiments, for example.”

General Electric is one such pioneer. It launched the first in a series of virtual reality videos last summer to immerse consumers in its world, giving them behind-the-scenes access to factories and what it takes to create GE products.

Interesting and informative content tacitly funded by a brand can help it cut through the rise of adblocking.

At heart, content marketing is about the value exchange with the customer, says Pheloung. “If you create great content, they will love your brand,” he says. “If you give them an irrelevant, unrelated ad message, they’ll immediately switch off.”

Meuleman concurs. “More brands will grow bolder and get involved, but you need to have a clear reason to get into the content space. Why are you telling these stories? What gives you the right to tell them? And, importantly, why would your audience want to hear from you?”

Advances in martech and adtech allowing advertisers to reach the right audiences with the right message and at the right time with ever-increasing certainty will certainly fuel content marketing’s future.

But perhaps the most important element in the success of tomorrow’s content marketing campaigns remains that of yesterday’s: establishing credibility and ensuring that the content comes across as genuinely and transparently in line with what a brand stands for is – as ever – critical.

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. You can watch all six episodes of the series at our EYNTK hub.

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