Content Crusades: The next generation in branded storytelling

Man falls from the sky. Power fails during football final. Jay Z releases free album.

Did any of these get your attention in 2013? Now that the average person is overwhelmed by content from all angles, brands and marketing teams are turning over every stone in the competition to resonate with an increasingly fickle audience that is more informed and media savvy than ever. That’s why, today, content marketing is the new frontier in advertising and media.

In November this year UM London, a media agency who has been an early pioneer of content marketing, released the latest instalment of its flagship research series, Little Book of Curiosity,titled Content Crusades. This publication sought to get under the skin of a consumer’s content consumption habits.

The recent leaps forward in mobile and internet technology mean that today’s consumers are experiencing brands from a multitude of angles. This chimes with the results of Content Crusades, which reveals some stark truths about consumers’ relentless desire for content. For example, one of the last things 56 per cent of us do at night is check our emails, with a further 35 per cent also checking Facebook.

As the appetite for content grows, so too does the opportunity for marketers and advertisers to build more engaging, more immersive branded experiences. But are brands speaking with one voice across those platforms? Are they making the most of the opportunities to plan campaigns strategically around real-world events?

Findings from the study suggest that marketing teams need to evolve an always-on ‘newsroom’ mentality by empowering staff to follow and react to consumer developments on a minute-by-minute basis. Equally, content needs to work in bite-size chunks and seamlessly integrate across multiple media formats. Today’s consumers expect to access news via a newspaper (62 per cent) and TV programmes (65 per cent), but also digitally via websites (47 per cent) and apps (16 per cent).

Linking to the first instalment of the Little Book of Curiosity series, published in October 2012, multi-screening remains as popular as ever: 22 per cent of respondents claimed to shop for clothes online while watching their main TV screen. This means that brands need to be in two places at once – if not three or four.

Despite these distinct shifts in content consumption towards digital and online, in terms of quality, Content Crusades reveals a victory for old media: books remain at the top of the list in terms of the trustworthiness and entertainment value. This confirms that professionally produced, well-edited content is still considered some of the best available, consistently beating user-generated Tweets and Facebook posts in terms of value.

Indeed, social media platforms such as Facebook could be losing salience: although 65 per cent of respondents claimed to read their newsfeed every day, one third of users have considered deleting their profiles altogether. And for the brands seeking to harness Facebook, a word of warning: don’t annoy your followers. Forty-five per cent of respondents said they would consider ‘unliking’ a brand if they posted irrelevant or pointless content.

We must always remember that media doesn’t exist in a bubble. As the Wikileaks revelations showed earlier this year, online data is a serious issue for the wider public. Big corporations should self-police as much as government bodies in terms of protecting privacy – if not more so. These concerns were reflected in the results of Content Crusades, which showed increasing levels of security paranoia; over half of respondents interviewed (56 per cent) have recently increased their social network security settings and a third (34 per cent) are worried that the government is tracking us online.

Taken as a whole, the results from Content Crusades offer a compelling insight into an industry facing great changes, in which we are increasingly expected to justify our activity in financial terms. But within this heavily monitored and monetised world, the myriad brand platforms are places where strategic brilliance and creativity can still shine and set you apart from the rest.

Whether we’re skydiving from space with Red Bull, dunking in the dark with Oreo, or releasing an entire album for free online, one thing’s certain – the content revolution has begun. Is your brand ready?

The Little Book of Curiosityseries of insight reports is designed to unlock new ideas and fresh perspectives in an easy-to-digest format. The majority of the data has been gathered via a large-scale quantitative study during August 2013 across a group of 1,800 nationally representative respondents on UM London’s proprietary Curiosity Panel. The report also references the Wave 7 global social media tracker and the IPA’s Touchpoints study.

Claire Spencer, is head of insight at UM London

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