Content marketing predictions: Why I’ve ditched my crystal ball

cameron upshallLast year Cameron Upshall made a series of bold predictions on how the content marketing world in Australia would develop in 2014. Here he bemoans the lack of change.

Australian brands had a fair old crack at content marketing in 2014. But unfortunately the market didn’t mature as fast as I thought it would in 12 months. This means the content marketing milestones I predicted we would reach by now are still a fair way off.

Here’s a look back at the scenarios I forecast on Mumbrella this time last year, and my take on why the content marketing space just didn’t get its groove on like I thought it would.

It’s strategy time

I predicted that content marketers would take a break from the daily grind of content production and consider why exactly they’re doing what they’re doing. But they didn’t.

Just 37 per cent of Australian content marketers have a documented strategy, according to research by the Content Marketing Institute released in late 2014. The reason a more strategic approach didn’t eventuate boils down to the fact that many marketers aren’t executing a content marketing program – they’re simply producing content for content’s sake.

Even some of the country’s biggest content spenders still don’t actually understand what content marketing is. For example, a contact at an international brand recently confided in me that they’ve been active content producers for years, when in fact they haven’t. They don’t understand that content marketing is about a defined, long-term strategy and producing a highly relevant owned asset for a target audience (or audiences) on a regular basis.

Don’t tell me that Facebook is the same thing as content marketing, because it isn’t.

Amplification: The perfect storm

I was expecting technology to end the ‘spray and pray’ tactics practised by so many content marketers. This would hopefully result in a refinement of amplification strategies and a big leap forward in the way brands promote and distribute content.

Amplification did occur, of course, but not in the way I expected. We’re now amplifying content with the help of native advertising – a phenomenon that has taken off globally. The major shift has resulted in both the traditional and non-traditional digital publishers releasing native advertising products. Sponsored editorial offerings have been springing up on a daily basis, and while many publishers are grappling with how to actually deliver on these products, a significant opportunity exists for marketers to leverage other people’s audiences.

An explosion of video content

I thought content marketers would capitalise on video content in 2014 and embrace longer-form video storytelling. Instead, despite the endless research proving that engagement rates for videos are higher than static content, we’ve just seen more talking heads. Yawn. This lack of commitment partly comes down to high costs, as cheaper production alternatives failed to hit the market. We haven’t seen many pure-play video-content hubs emerge either.

The dawn of data-driven content marketing

We all know we shouldn’t commit marketing dollars to a concept until we’ve decided the objective of the endeavour. But that hasn’t stopped brands doing just that in the content marketing space. You’ve got to pity the poor marketers who are blindly trudging on without really knowing if their efforts have been worth it. If you don’t know how to measure your content marketing strategy, how can you leverage the data to improve it?

Meanwhile, hats off to the truly savvy content marketers out there who have been keeping in tune with analytics and optimising their content accordingly.

The year of the content-influenced platform

I anticipated an explosion of new content marketing platforms hitting the market in 2014, and I wasn’t wrong. But while there has been a lot of progression in this space, the large-scale acquisition of these platforms I predicted just didn’t come to fruition.

Sure, Oracle bought Compendium and there’s been some capital funding going into some of the platforms, but we haven’t seen any major software vendors embrace the content marketing platform. This is because they still haven’t figured out how to monetise it, unlike the savvy companies that have long been making profits with email software.

Content, welcome to the boardroom

The C-suite is the most critical and yet most difficult part of the content marketing puzzle.

Established internal management structures that support traditional advertising models are the slowest to change their opinion on investing in a content strategy, as it’s very hard to disrupt the status quo. There are plenty of company leaders still scratching their heads at how content marketing could help them make sales, which quite frankly shocks me.

Ultimately, until the big Aussie brands work out the opportunity they have before them and take content seriously, I believe we’re going to remain in a content marketing hype cycle.

While, as I hope my article illustrates, there have been some monumental changes in the content marketing industry this year, I am saddened that many companies have failed to up their game. But while other brands are still trying to make up their minds about whether or not content is really for them, now is the time for you to make your own leap forward.

Cameron Upshall is commercial director for King Content Melbourne


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