This is Part II of a two-part series about content marketing’s evolution ahead of 2020. Read Part I here.
In recent years, marketing specialists and researchers were asked to make predictions about the state of marketing in 2020. With that milestone less than a year away, we checked back on some of those forecasts to determine how close we are to them being realities.
Take a look to compare your progress compared to the predictions. It’s possible you could improve your content performance by revising some of your current strategies and integrating some new martech solutions.
Here are several predictions in addition to the those listed in Part I of this series.
2020 Prediction: “All advertisers need a lot more content so that they can keep the engagement with consumers fresh and relevant, because of the 24/7 connectivity.”
In what seems like ancient history now, a Coca-Cola executive had the foresight to make that statement in 2011 — during a global advertising summit.
Jonathan Mildenhall, who was a vice president at the time, said the company’s Content 2020 advertising strategy was designed to move Coca-Cola “from creative excellence to content excellence.” As part of that initiative, the company shifted from using traditional agencies for creative ideation — and less TV advertising — to investing in efforts to engage followers on social media platforms and storytelling.
It was groundbreaking, with marketers like Joe Pulizzi of Content Marketing Institute announcing the news with blogs like “Coca-Cola Bets the Farm on Content Marketing: Content 2020.”
With the benefit of hindsight, we may not be able to really appreciate the major leap this represented. But it was significant in that it was visionary and represented a huge departure from Coca-Cola’s previous marketing strategy.
Marketing Reality: Following that prediction, it didn’t take long for many B2B and B2C marketers to start investing in content marketing.
As of 2018, B2B marketers were reporting that they were spending 26% of their total marketing budget on content marketing, according to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI). The marketers who reported the highest level of content marketing success dedicate 40% of their budgets to it. And 57% of B2C marketers were planning to increase their budgets for content marketing in 2019, according to another CMI report.
Another trend in content marketing has been the increasing relevancy and quality of content — a significant shift from the days of SEO-driven, keyword stuffing tactics. With the demand for a 24/7 brand experience, marketers have the opportunity to connect with attentive audiences by delivering them what they want — highly relevant content.
Marketing teams also realize the importance of increasing the quantity of content — and distributing it on the right channels in the right media formats at the right times — to increase the effectiveness of their campaigns.
As a result, more companies have been investing in customer data analysis over the past few years. And with the recent introduction of artificial-driven technologies like content intelligence, the process has become even more streamlined and effective. Some of these platforms are able to perform data analysis, competitive framing and measurement. As a result, they can make recommendations that can boost content performance.
2020 Marketing Prediction: In another departure from its focus on traditional marketing, Coca-Cola, committed to a model that involved engaging users through social media platforms in 2011. That made the brand among the early adopters of incorporating social media as a key marketing strategy — with the intent of engaging in conversations with customers 365 days out of the year.
Marketing Reality: At the time Coca-Cola publishes its 2020 strategy, any marketing teams were reluctant to seriously consider social media as a legitimate marketing strategy. Today, many have jumped on board with a social marketing campaign of some sort, whether on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or other platforms.
However, many still struggle to accurately measure the impact of social engagement beyond Likes and Follows, long after many of them have committed portions of their budget to social media. Yet, they remain committed to understanding the benefits of using social media as a critical component of developing authentic relationships with their customers.
As with other content, marketers are gaining the ability to develop more meaningful engagement through martech tools that help them understand their audiences through customer data insights. And those types of insights also show promise for better identifying marketing ROI from social media campaigns.
2020 Prediction: “The number one possession people have is their smartphone and there are more mobile devices than people on the planet. Mobile is the way people interact with friends and brands. … Branding is rapidly becoming a two-way conversation as social media has given consumers a voice unlike anything ever seen before.”
In 2015, Taco Bell’s then CMO Chris Brandt (now at Chipotle) shared his vision with Fast Company on the state of marketing in 2020. In assessing the impact of mobile, Brandt predicted that the most successful brands would create more personalized experiences as a result of tracking individual consumer behavior in real-time. As a result, marketers would start using that information to tailor an experience for each person and their specific behaviors on a mass scale, Brandt said.
Marketing Reality: According to one estimate, American adults are now spending an average of four hours a day on their mobile devices — up from 2.8 hours in 2015, when Brandt first forecasted the importance of mobile communications. Experiences.
And, today, marketers are responding with increasingly innovative ways to create a mobile-focused marketing strategy, relying on data-driven solutions that ensure a personalized customer experience.
By integrating content experiences optimized for mobile engagement, companies are creating seamless experiences with their customers — whether they’re interacting with the brand on smartphones, desktops or in person. And those brands that successfully leverage customer data can create highly tailored customer experience that increase conversions.
2020 Prediction: “Transparency is the new black. Consumers expect more information from the brands they use and they expect brands to do good. They want to know who they are and what they stand for,” said Brandt in another prediction about the state of marketing in 2020.
Those who are genuine will be among the most successful, he said in 2015. “Brands have to be more transparent in a genuine and authentic way — to live and demonstrate their values — they need to walk the talk,” Brandt said. “If they do, they will win both the hearts and the minds of consumers, which builds sales overnight and the brand over time.”
Marketing Reality: Customers are becoming increasingly aware and vocal about their expectations for companies to engage in ethical practices, from the use of technology to sourcing and employee sourcing and — from the use of technology to material sourcing and workplace environments. Many consumers also are pushing for companies to show where they stand on environmental issues.
And through the power of social media, they can quickly express their displeasure when a company fails to live up to their expectations. For example, Whole Foods came under fire in 2016 following a tweet that quickly went viral. A customer questioned the use of environmentally-damaging plastic to package a peeled orange, leading to millions of impressions related to #OrangeGate and demands for alternatives.
Whole Foods, paying attention to the feedback, immediately decided to remove the offending fruit from shelves. However, after hearing concerns from disabled customers who still wanted a convenient option, the brand responded with an alternative — recyclable jars. Whole Foods demonstrated how companies must engage in real-time conversations with customers and respond in a transparent, human way.
In other similar news, Google faced customer backlash over gender pay disparities, Uber for sexual harassment, Pepsi for a commercial that seemed to diminish the significance of social protests and numerous companies like Equifax for failing to immediately inform customers of data breaches that exposed their personal information. They all responded with varying degrees of success to the backlash.
Meanwhile, manufacturing companies are being transparent about how they source raw materials, including their practices related to conflict materials from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
In this climate, companies must engage in content marketing strategies that are proactive — prioritizing messaging and promotion around the company’s values, ethics and practices. Companies realize it’s no longer a nice thing to do. It’s essential to respond to the values that matter most to their customers and employees.
Marketing success today
More quality content to feed consumers experiences 24/7 on an increasing number of channels. Innovations in artificial intelligence to give marketers the ability to accomplish more. Brand transparency. The continuing influence of social media to engage with customers. When predicting the future of marketing, researchers were on target in almost all aspects. More customer demands and martech innovations still lie ahead.
Today, the most successful marketers are taking heed, masterfully developing an omni-channel approach that seems seamless to customers, while monitoring trends to keep a high level of engagement. It’s an exciting time to be in marketing.
Learn more about Vennli’s content intelligence solution to find out how you can start increasing customer engagement. Contact us for a personalized demo.