Econsultancy and Outbrain teamed up last October to produce a Content Marketing Survey Report, the results of which should be of vital interest to marketers around the globe. More than 1,200 marketing professionals took part in the survey, which examined the number of brands incorporating content marketing, the strategies and mediums employed, as well as the challenges they have faced such as budget, size, and those unexpected little fun, never before seen things that happen when you take on new programs. The result was a revealing look at how marketers are responding to the challenges of content and a handful of insightful, future-facing projections. In a world where consumers are incessantly bombarded by commercial messaging, it has become increasingly crucial for marketers to stand apart from their competitors, and tailor messaging to engage target audiences.
2012 was a noteworthy year for content marketing, arguably its most important year to date, as it was filled with striking examples that are likely to set an industry standard. McDonald Canada’s “Our Food, Your Questions”, while risky, was met with much praise for the campaign’s ability to engage in a meaningful discussion with customers on the issue of food quality. Red Bull sponsored daredevil extraordinaire, Felix Baumgartner, with a record shattering space jump (Red Bull Stratos), attracted 8 million of views and is likely to pave the way for ‘hero-centric’ storytelling, which is predicted to be an important trend for 2013. Another notable content-led campaign, Oreo’s ‘Daily Twist’ celebrated the brand’s 100th anniversary by “twisting” the look of an Oreo cookie each day for 100 days, engaging the audience in a manner both creative and continuously engaging.
The research study was not without its surprises. The survey found that over 90% of in-house marketers and agencies “believe that content marketing will become more important in the next 12 months.” Despite this self-proclaimed exigency, only 38% of in-house marketers and a measly 13% of agencies/consultants stated that they currently had a defined strategy for content marketing. This asymmetric response will no doubt need to be corrected in 2013 and marketers seem to be well aware of this, as 55% of in-house, and 58% of agency/consulting marketers stated that they were planning to create a defined strategy for their content marketing. Surprisingly, 29% of ad agencies stated that they were not planning to create one. It will be interesting to see how the agencies that do not have a plan for content marketing will fare throughout 2013.
It might be dangerous to view content marketing as merely a trend that will fizzle out by the end of 2013, and therefore not worth pursuing. On the contrary, it is becoming increasingly evident that consumers are craving a more tangible relationship with the products they purchase and companies need to give them that value. Currently, 46% of companies stated that they have individuals dedicated to producing content marketing and only 34% have budgets dedicated to it. It is clear that marketers will need to put in extra effort to engage their audiences with valuable content for 2013 if they want to stay relevant and competitive.
Unfortunately, marketers also need to be focused on creating meaningful, quality-driven content marketing that provides long-tail value. “For content marketing to ‘work’, the input needs to be good,” said James Gurd, owner of Digital Juggler, “Content has to serve a purpose and provide a value to the end-user. I personally think that there is too much content being produced at the expense of a focus on quality…there is no structured, coherent plan and content gets thrown up on a website with no understanding of where it sits in the user journey and why customers would want to use it.” Indeed, the ambition for creating compelling, instead of substandard content, seems to be a noticeable barrier for marketers. The survey reported that, for agencies/consultants, 46% cited the lack of understanding and training, and 39% cited the lack of content creation skills, as obstacles to creating content marketing. It is arguably more effective to take the time to create high quality content, than rush into it without clear objectives. It is interesting to note, however, that in-house marketers are not experiencing similar barriers. Their respondents cited ‘lack of human resources’ (42%), and ‘lack of budget’ (35%) as the two main obstacles.
The Content Marketing Survey Report also demonstrates that there is a wide variety of content types that are being utilized by marketers, the most popular being social posts and updates, of which 83% of in-house markets and 70% agency clients are using. Email newsletters, on-site news articles, PR releases, blogs, and videos also account for over 50% of content marketing utilized by marketers. As we have seen, video content marketing continues to grow in popularity as more powerful technologies (including mobile and tablet devices) are introduced into the market.
The results of this survey make it clear that in-house marketers are more comfortable with, and are adopting content marketing faster than agency counterparts. Nevertheless, the latter are pledging to increase their focus on content marketing in order to further engage their audiences and provide value and utility. As we’ve outlined in our white paper (Ogilvy.com/BEAM), brands can employ the magic of branded entertainment effectively and profitably by creating entertainment authentic to brand ideals and rooted in the logic that drives all elements of the marketing mix.