As 2014 comes to a close, we asked a series of marketers for their thoughts on where content marketing is going and what brands and publishers have been doing particularly well this year.
What do you see as the key trends for content marketing in 2014?
James Carson, Director at Carson Content:
More and better video is being produced by brands all the time. With Facebook’s newsfeed and shorter formats, it’s easier than ever to get video seen.
Indeed it’s hard for me to go to the Facebook newsfeed on my mobile and not watch a video. I can only see this trend get bigger.
Not that it’s specifically content marketing, but a content trend nonetheless: native advertising. Marketers want to create more content, and in the mobile age display is looking less attractive.
Native advertising is supposed to go some way to solve it. I wrote Econsultancy’s Native Advertising report if you want to find out more about this big ad trend.
Doug Kessler, Creative Director & Co-founder of Velocity:
- The return of paid media. This time for promoting content.
- The rise of marketing science as we all learn to measure, test and optimize.
- The death of the stupid infographic and the return of smart ones.
- In B2B, we’re seeing (and using) more humour and emotion and it’s good.
Dan Brotzel, Content director at Sticky Content:
This was the year that we felt like everyone finally made it to the content party, with organisations from a range of backgrounds (PR, social, contract publishing, seo, video etc) recognising the centrality of content to digital marketing and restructuring their businesses accordingly.
Not unrelated to this, perhaps, there were growing concerns about content fatigue and the triumph of quantity over quality.
We saw businesses thinking much harder about how to identify and occupy their own specific content niche, transferring in editorial skills, and building editorial workflows and team structures. In B2B, the quest for interesting content from ‘boring’ businesses was very striking too.
In all of this, the issue of managing sustainable creative agility in a traditional corporate set-up – with all its departmental silos, sign-off labyrinths and stakeholder pile-ups – seems to loom as large and challenging as ever.
Kevin Gibbons, MD at Blueglass:
The key trend for us has been making content:
- Data-driven – in order to be newsworthy within the media, your story needs to credible and tell people something interesting which they don’t know.
- Customer centric – you need to be able to resonate with your audience in order to tell your brands story. An obvious, yet often under-rated method of distribution is to leverage the brands existing channels and lists. In order to get sign-off on this, of course your content needs to resonate with its audience.
Brands have a power in their data, people and relationships, they should definitely look to use it more frequently!
What are the best examples of content marketing you’ve seen in the last few months?
BRIAN’s Brain Presents: WORD on usvsth3m (it’s a native advertising piece, but still a piece of content). When that site was launched, I was thinking – it’s getting a big audience, but how is it going to monetise?
I thought this piece of content fitted brilliantly with what they were doing and matched Confused’s brand values in a simple and effective way – I played it for a good 10 minutes.
Elsewhere in native ad land, we’ve seen a few larger longform pieces appearing (as they were appearing in publishing the year before)– TV Got Better (Wired / Netflix) is a good example.
Some people said that was ‘The Snowfall of Native Advertising’. I’m not sure that’s really a good fit, but nonetheless there are some similarities.
I judged the Search Awards 2014 Content Marketing category and the Cruise Guide from Virgin Cruises / Branded3 won.
It might seem simple, but the understanding of the user needs, depth of issues answered and quality of execution are a rare combination in B2C editorial. That’s why it took home the gong.
I loved LinkedIn’s Bring In Your Parents to Work Day. A great idea, well-executed.
GE’s 6-Second Science Fair on Vine is top-notch.
Moz consistently raises the bar for helpful, practical content and a generosity of spirit, while IBM keeps getting better and better at content marketing.
I’m consistently impressed by crocus.co.uk, Hubspot and General Electric.
I’ve found it interesting to find the big media publishers taking a more content marketing based approach, specifically built for digital, as opposed to having a one-fits all approach to both offline and online media.
What types of content and formats have worked best (or not worked well)?
I think video has made a big impact and is going to be a massive growth area, and 2014 was when Facebook has seriously rivalled YouTube as a video distribution point.
On formats that haven’t worked so well – I’m not particularly convinced of blogging’s effectiveness in B2C marketing.
Brands really have their work cut out to take attention minutes away from mainstream publishers, and while many brands have invested in editorial, few blogs really match up to the quality of what’s on offer for the reader from media brands. With that in mind, why would customers read your blog?
B2B is different of course. I think blogging in this space can be very useful, just look at Econsultancy!
We’re still big believers in SlideShare, for linear storytelling. (We recently did a user-powered, stop-motion SlideShare experiment for Salesforce).
I really like Prezi, though they withdrew Flash support and left us in the lurch. Infographics are a great medium but 9 out of 10 suck.
For me, good content is a happy marriage of form and substance – choosing the format that’s fit for purpose for the message/strategy at hand is part of what we should mean by ‘quality’ – so I’m always a bit agnostic about seeing trends in content formats.
That said, I found myself looking at lots more things on Slideshare this year – there’s a lo-fi simplicity about a slideshow that’s very appealing in our technically pimped-up world.
Similarly, there’s something very tablet-friendly about a good old e-book. Email marketing continues as the unsung hero, the doughty workhorse, of the digital marketing mix, despite its naysayers.
And the success of in-depth content streams such as Econsultancy’s own blog suggests that reports of long-form’s demise have been a tad exaggerated too.
When thinking about content types and formats you now have to consider all devices.
Mobile can no longer be ignored and HTML5 is much more responsive and adaptable towards multiple screen-sizes. Plus there’s much more you can do with a piece of content to make this interactive and engaging towards the user.
So many people are now using mobile to consume content via social apps and we’ve certainly found that ensuring content that is readable in all formats across devices is seeing a significant increase in coverage. This makes perfect sense, as it’s built to showcase your work at it’s best to all viewers, not just a percentage of them.