What’s the role of content marketing in 2019?

By Lazar Dzamic and Justin Kirby are the co-authors of The Definitive Guide to Strategic Content Marketing: Perspectives, Issues, Challenges and Solutions

A spectre is haunting the marketing world, the spectre of Content. Everyone is talking about it, but they are not all saying the same thing – or even talking about the same thing. And that was our starting place. We decided to write a book that focused on the Why of Content rather than the How – not least because the executional intricacies are being discussed online ad nauseam. We wanted to take an unbiased look, warts and all, at the challenges facing brand building in the digital world and the role of Content in it. To reveal, not to judge. To rise above the often-partisan pit fights that Content elicits. 

Inspired by more than 60 leading academics and practitioners we interviewed for the book, more recently we have been helping the Content Marketing Association (CMA) with the agenda for their Summit in London at the end of February. We picked 4 key themes that we think help encapsulate what 2019 holds for content marketing – and beyond:

The Content agency of the future?

Why Content exists in the first place: what is the problem it tries to solve? This is connected to the ways traditional brand building via advertising has been undermined in the digital world. A lot of different players are trying out a lot of different recipes for earning attention online. Who, if anyone, could work across the whole of the customer journey? How to move with different speeds Content requires? How to merge ‘stories’ with ‘systems’, to use the RG/A phrase? And how to be culturally relevant?

Data and technology: delivering value vs. just messages?

The annual Marketing Technology Landscape ‘Supergraphic’ from Chiefmartec.com charts the rise and rise of tech solutions by many vendors. Content + Experience is now their largest category, but there’s a tension at the heart of it: how data and tech is used to deliver value to customers versus simply delivering messages that describe the value of what is on offer. Can data and technology be used to deliver more meaningful and useful experience to customers? And could data’s, as yet, unfulfilled promise be addressed by brands going beyond the dashboard to find out what customers really really want and need through greater empathy?

Content effectiveness

There’s evidence that the vast majority of content fails to miss its mark, which highlights the confusion about what’s being done and why, and how to measure it. That’s partly because there are some who see Content as a discipline that is distinct from other marketing efforts. If so, then that distinctiveness needs better articulation, as does how its impact is measured. If, as we believe, Content is more of a philosophy that cuts across marketing and puts the customer at the centre of everything, then there’s no shortage of marketing and other business metrics than can be brought to bear. The challenge becomes one of measuring things right, and measuring the right thing based around brand vs. performance marketing goals. But does Content, provide an opportunity to bridge that current binary divide?

Purpose or purposewash?

The recent Gillette ad controversy is the latest in a longer list of ‘purposeful communications’ that brands have had to pull and apologise for. There’s even a term for things like that: ‘purposewash’. Yet, Havas and others present evidence asserting that those who create meaningful Content and live their ‘values-in-action’ narrative outperform their peers. Is this the starting place for the purpose of Content and its better promise? Can it help build more sustainable and meaningful brands?

These new waters need new maps. Let the charting begin.

Lazar Dzamic and Justin Kirby are the co-authors of The Definitive Guide to Strategic Content Marketing: Perspectives, Issues, Challenges and Solutions published by Kogan Page in 2018

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