Like previous years, we have once again asked industry experts what they expect the key content marketing trends will be in 2014. In addition to those mentioned in our infographic The Changing State of Content Marketing and the accompanying in-depth report, we also canvassed opinions from colleagues to see what trends brands and companies should be expecting for 2014.
Create a firm strategy
Karen Webber, head of marketing communications at Axonn Media: “Content marketing is now widely adopted by B2B and B2C organisations, as it is clear this is the best way to engage and convert audiences and build loyalty. However, results are still a mixed bag. Many companies still don’t have a formalised content strategy and there is widespread lack of understanding of how to measure and interpret results. I think too many marketers still focus too much on creating more content rather than looking critically at who their audience is and what their expectations are.
“Next year, I expect companies to crank things up a notch or two. We are already seeing that more organisations are calling on specialist content marketing agencies to support them in their strategies as they realise competition for internet users’ attention is tougher than ever. This should hopefully result in more organisations formalising strategies and using analytical data to constantly hone these plans, which should mean less content that leaves audiences saying: “So what?”
“For this to happen, marketers need to take the time to clearly identify their audiences, develop comprehensive buyer personas and create content that addresses – and anticipates – user needs.
“My advice for brands for next year is to put the customer at the centre of their content marketing strategies and to strive to be useful, educational or entertaining with every single piece of content they publish.
Engaging content and targeting your audience
Adrienne Burns, head of client implementation at Axonn Media, predicts that with a lot of the focus of 2013 being on getting the quality of content right, 2014 will focus more on making the content as engaging, interesting and viral as possible, involving the target customer to share their views.
Similarly, it will focus heavily on imagery to support the content and multiple distribution channels to ensure it is being engaged with.
“As we can see from the ever growing amount of content being pushed out and shared on social media channels (particularly Facebook) and the growth of content-only blog sites such as Upworthy and Fast Company, the content needs to now engage users faster than ever before. This can be done by having catchy, controversial or question-based titles with also a heavy focus on imagery (multiple images) to support it.
“Content will need to be more focused on specific personas or target audiences versus a general industry audience and either relate to them directly (i.e. the customer can identify with the pain points expressed in the content) or it needs to answer questions that this customer group have, giving them key takeaways from it that they can implement.
“Moreover, this content will be useless if the distribution of it isn’t properly planned and executed. This is done by looking at multiple platform distribution, be it webinars, social media channels, on-site content, newsletters etc, supported then by real-time involvement such as tweeting or sharing pictures at events.
“Lastly, this content needs to focus around one theme at a time – there is no point spamming multiple topics at once as it will not capture the audience and promote discussion. This is where the campaign led strategy will dominate.”
Head of client management at Axonn, Peter Yates concurs: “I believe that to do effective content marketing in 2014, brands must enquire and listen more to the needs of their audience, and then deliver content that addresses it.
“There are now too many content strategies, and so individual pieces of content, being produced that marketers believe to be relevant to their target audiences. And even if their content is relevant, it then is lost in the noise of all the similar content their competitors are producing. For example, the ubiquitous ‘What to do while on holiday in the Algarve’ and ‘Top 10 things not to say in a job interview’.
“To truly stand out head and shoulders from their competitors and to be a thought leader, brands need to understand what their audience want from you next. What questions haven’t yet been answered, what do they need from your type of service which isn’t yet available, or what do they think will be the future of the type of product you sell.
“Tapping into these thoughts and imagination is what will lead to the truly inspirational content topics, it’ll generate better user engagement and ultimately steer business strategies.
“This can be done by (but not exclusive to) surveying them, asking for responses on your site and on social platforms, and also through other offline and direct marketing approaches.
“In my view it isn’t being done enough at the moment, but the few that are doing it well are reaping the rewards.”
Emergence of technology
The predictions of Axonn Media’s director of content, Chris Trimble, are based on technological developments. “I think we’ll see the emergence of technology in 2014. The more sophisticated content marketing becomes, the more difficult and labour-intensive it is to manage, and we’re at the stage now where a lot of marketers are going to be looking to technology to make their lives easier.
“Currently there’s little in the way of quality tech designed specifically to help with content marketing. This will certainly change.”
Frank Hartkopf, head of European content for Axonn Media, expects to see content marketing grow internationally and become more multilingual in 2014. “The content marketing revolution started in the English-speaking world, with UK-based companies leading the trend. We are already seeing increasing interest in Europe and Asia to adopt content marketing strategies in their languages, particularly in Japan, Turkey, Scandinavia, Benelux and German-speaking countries.
“At the same time, more and more marketers targeting international audiences will launch multilingual content strategies, outsourcing part of their content marketing to international specialists to make sure they engage customers in all markets.”
Content marketing in Europe
Laurence Mitchell, head of European strategic accounts says: “2013 has been an interesting year for content marketing in Northern and Central Europe; the division between markets has been clear for all to see with the DACH region taking the initiative and embracing content marketing, while other regions fall behind.
“2014 should be an exciting time as we see the divide between Scandinavia and the DACH regions decrease; content marketing has been a hot topic over the last few months in both Sweden and Denmark and this ‘buzz’ will certainly lead to more companies outsourcing their content, or embracing a smaller scale internal strategy.
“The reason we should all take note is not only due to commercial aspirations. Scandinavia has a strong economy at present; however, I truly see the difference in the 2014 marketing world being a cultural one. Swedish and Danish companies have been known for their brutally honest approach to marketing, and over the last few years potential business has been lost to companies based in the USA and Asia whose marketing machines have overwhelmed the Scandinavian way of doing business.
“Today, it seems as though the world is finally sick of ‘95 per cent discounts’, ‘buy one get one frees’ and ‘the next generation of innovation’.
“What makes content marketing work? Authority, dedication, honesty and a core aspiration to truly help your clients. In my experience these are traits embodied by 95 per cent of the Nordic marketers I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with over the last year, and the reason we should all keep our eyes wide open and focused on Scandinavia in 2014.”
Care to venture a prediction of your own? Add your thoughts in the comments section below.