Last week I found myself in Cleveland for Content Marketing World 2014, a huge event with 2,500 attendees and around 50 sponsors.

Joe Pulizzi and his team have grown this conference year on year, riding (and contributing to) the ever-growing content marketing wave.

Kevin Spacey gave the final keynote, capping a fascinating few days with what was a pretty interesting discussion of media disruption and associated Q&A.

But for me, the standout session was Julie Fleischer’s keynote on Kraft’s content marketing ROI.

As the Head of Content, Data, and Media for Kraft (and the winner of last year’s Content Marketer of the Year award) she is the driver behind a key shift that has happened within Kraft over the last few years. 

It was great to hear from a content marketer with a strong background in data, and this is really the underpinning of her success - not just being able to create value, but measure it and tie it to Kraft’s overall business objectives.

Not an easy task. And not one that has come quickly: 18 years ago they started their publishing strategy.

Content marketing as a scaled learning engine 

Julie gave the clearest description I have heard of a large brand using content to understand their customers. Perhaps given her background in CRM, it is understandable that this is her leaning, but it is also very clearly the underpinning of the success that her team has achieved.

Kraft very clearly does not see content as a means to simply generate some engagement, but to understand customers based on their interactions with content.

She described the content marketing program as a 'scaled learning engine', that helped the company understand its considerable audience as a whole, but more importantly, as individuals.

When a company that delivers 1bn interactions a year (and has 98% product penetration into US households) says that it uses content to address individuals NOT segments, I sit up and listen.

Marketing to individuals using first party data

The team at Kraft tag and track more than 22,000 different attributes of their audience based on their behaviour and engagement with web content.

With 100m annual visitors to its web properties, this is no easy challenge, and necessitated the integration of its content and data management platforms.

Having spent the last few years building a SaaS solution for exactly this situation, I understand the upfront challenge involved. But once it is built, you can start reaping the benefits - every one of those 1bn interactions is yielding detailed insight derived from content consumption.

Julie outlined the data goal quite specifically: content marketing yields first party data that is yours (free to own and analyse) and accurate (not based on extrapolated, external datasets). Mining content consumption data gives them the real-time insight to deliver content that matches audience needs and wants.

And it's not just about content delivery, as Kraft uses the dataset to power targeted programmatic ad buys. Julie projects that eventually all of Kraft’s ad budget will be programmatic, and therefore be able to use the data asset they are continually building.

This means that Kraft can not only quickly identify new trends, but also target advertising to jump on the growth in interest that they have identified. As she put succinctly, if your content is worth creating, it is worth paying to promote.

Linking content marketing to business value

We have been doing some research recently on content marketing maturity, and one of the key shortcomings in content marketing programs currently is the ambition or ability to derive business ROI from content marketing spend.

Julie says Kraft measures the same traffic/viewership/engagement stats as other companies (for example 1m app downloads, and 1bn recipe views), but “the most important thing is to drive attributable sales growth."

We’ve developed approaches that enable us to measure the actual sales impact of our different efforts and channels.

Although I’m sure they have more internally, the hardest ROI metric she would reveal was that Kraft has proven that its content marketing yields 4x better ROI than its traditional advertising. And for a brand advertiser of this scale, that is significant.

So for everyone who is looking to deliver content marketing ROI, the key takeaways are:

  1. The pace of change will never be slower than it is today.

  2. Gather first party data; it is accurate and free.

  3. Mine consumer insights to create content that is relevant.

  4. If it's worth creating, it's worth paying to promote.

  5. Targeting drives relevance, with underpins performance.

Andrew Davies

Published 18 September, 2014 by Andrew Davies

Andrew Davies is co-founder and Director of idio and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

13 more posts from this author

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Marion Patrick

What a fantastic post, Andrew.

Most of the time,we are so happy that 'someone, somewhere' liked our posts, or advertising, we fail to drill down and find out what, and why. Obviously, a major multi-national like Kraft has many more branding avenues to look at, but finding 'what' a prospect liked about you is easier for the smaller busiens with limited marketing opportunities.

almost 3 years ago

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Andrew Davies

Thanks Marion. Yes, and this is becoming easier for businesses of every size.

almost 3 years ago

Ben Austin

Ben Austin, CEO at Absolute Digital Media

Nice post Andrew,

I love the idea that content marketing yields (accurate) first party data. As marketers we are often reminded not to measure the value of content marketing in terms of leads but to look to its impact on brand awareness and brand perception etc. Whilst this is true, it's great to have something more tangible.

almost 3 years ago

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Lionel Matecha

With that much data they better be able to get some excellent customer insight. Most marketers suffer from a lack of data.

almost 3 years ago

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Ian Harris

More details would be great. What content does Kraft produce? What are these properties that 100m people visit? I didn't see the talk, but when brands talk about 'experiences' and 'interactions' to me it feels quite vague and wooly.

almost 3 years ago

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Ayman van Bregt, Digital Strategist at Game Changers

I loved her vision and that was very inspiring. A little disappointing for me was the fact that really touching on the subject of ROI and results nothing was revealed... And for the people wanting to get some more feel with Kevin Spacey's talk, read this: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/20140910225510-317845-hunt-to-let-your-story-be-hunted

almost 3 years ago

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Terence Powell, Web Developer at Intrango Web Design

Nicely written article about content marketing. Andrew Davies you nailed it. Thanks again for sharing this valuable information.

4 months ago

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