Content marketing – there’s still a long road ahead of us

Jason Dooris

Jason Dooris is the CEO and founder of growing Atomic 212, Australia's fastest growing media and marketing agency on the BRW 2014 list. Over the past 20 years, Jason has held a variety of senior local and global industry positions including CEO MediaCom UK, deputy CEO MediaCom Europe, GM Saatchi & Saatchi NZ, GM Ogilvy & Mather Australia, GM Dentsu Aegis Australia and consulting practice director, Deloitte Asia. His vertical experience covers most categories with a particular focus on retail, automotive and FMCG.

Is anyone doing content marketing the right way? According to the Content Marketing Institute’s Content Marketing in Australia 2016, only a small minority of local marketers think they are effectively implementing the best content marketing strategies for their businesses.

What does this mean? For one thing, it suggests the industry has quite a long road ahead of it. But will the upcoming year be the year this all changes?

I am always cautious to say any year is going to be ‘the year of …’ Everyone was saying it was going to be the year of the mobile for the better part of a decade, until finally people realised we’re well and truly past the threshold.

In terms of content marketing, it’s difficult to say whether we’ve passed the threshold yet. But let’s put it this way, more marketers are investing more of their money into content marketing. If the Content Marketing Institute’s figures are anything to by, over 2016, almost 90 per cent of marketers have indicated they plan to deliver more content than last year.

So, what are the indicators that content marketing will really hit its stride in the upcoming year? Everyone is aware that changes to the Google algorithm in recent years mean marketers need to focus more on the quality of their content rather than merely pumping out quantity. As a result, we will hopefully see an increase in the quality of the output.

A quick survey of some of the major brand in content marketing suggests the quality of content is on the rise. Everyone’s favourite at the moment is GoPro, but other content marketing leaders include Coca Cola, GE and Red Bull. Meanwhile, it’s surely not a major revelation to say video output will increase significantly over the next 12 months.

But there are other gauges which might suggest significant maturation in the space. In particular, we expect there to be a flurry of mergers and acquisitions over the next 12 months. Such activity is always a strong signal that a market has matured.

Recent years have seen an acceleration in mergers and acquisitions related to content marketing companies – and by this I am not only referring to content creation businesses, but distribution, measurement, discovery and so forth. Major examples include Outbrain’s purchase of content discovery company, Scribit, and IBM’s purchase of SilverPop and Xtify.

If you want to see whether a market is booming, just ask whether major companies like IBM are buying up smaller niche players. There is every indication that this process will lead to global content marketing behemoths, but you can also expect a few casualties along the way.

All of this touches on another important development: Marketers are gradually coming to grips with the fact that a strong content strategy is not just about creating strong content, it’s about distribution – content needs to be pushed in front of the right audiences. The growth in platforms like Outbrain indicates that distribution across paid, earned and owned channels is at the forefront of many marketers ‘to do’ lists. There is no point investing in content if no one is around to see it.

But it doesn’t stop there. In my view, the true indicator of a mature marketing landscape is when there is an environment that can be measured and tested, one where agencies and marketers can be assured their content output has effectively led to leads or conversions or whatever metric the brand has chosen to use. This is an area that the industry as a whole needs to improve.

According to the aforementioned figures from the Content Marketing Institute, two issues at the top of the majority of marketers’ radars in 2016 include (a) measuring the ROI of their content marketing, and (b) measuring content effectiveness. Many marketers don’t know how to measure whether their content has yielded successful outcomes or not, while even less marketers believe their output is actually effective.

This means the industry still has a long way to go – if there are issues with both measurement and effectiveness, it suggests that content marketing has not yet reached a level of maturity with which marketers and their agencies should be comfortable.

However, practice makes perfect. When you look at those marketers who have been doing content marketing for years, I’d bet my bottom dollar that their output has in fact been effective. This tells us that many marketers are still finding their way, and those who aren’t involved had better evaluate the space quickly or risk being left behind.

Have we reached a level of maturity with which we should be comfortable? Probably not. But the market is accelerating at a rapid pace, and those marketers who have been excelling in content for years will be the players to lead the charge into content adulthood.

Tags: marketing strategy, digital marketing, content marketing

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