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Artificial intelligence (AI) has been a hot topic in content marketing this week. A new study published by BrightEdge found that most brands will use the technology to improve creation and strategy this year.

Canadian PR agency RNMKR revealed that it had used AI to drive lead generation to the top of the sales funnel for its clients.

The BrightEdge study featured an in-depth look at the adoption of AI technologies, which include robotic process automation and machine learning, with a view to informing brands about key trends and to see whether it will have an impact on content campaigns in 2018.

The results suggest that the AI revolution is finally here. While last year’s Future of Marketing survey revealed a reluctance among marketers to fully embrace AI despite recognising its future value, this year’s study found that a few brands are already on board. Many more are either “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to use it to develop their strategies during the next 12 months.

Data and analytics are becoming more important for brands as they attempt to use the growing amount of information they collect on social and other platforms to inform content decisions. Therefore, it is no surprise that many are planning to use AI to streamline and improve these activities. Personalising content for target audiences has also been a widely discussed trend recently, and AI feeds into this objective.

“Despite some of the hype surrounding artificial intelligence, this survey shows that AI is very real, and marketers are adopting AI-first technology in search and content marketing sectors faster than most,” said BrightEdge CEO Jim Yu. “The insights that AI brings allows marketers to make smarter and faster decisions to deliver compelling customer experiences that perform.”

Gaining a better understanding of customers is more important than ever, as content must speak personally to different user groups. Approximately 31% of respondents said that AI had enabled them to deliver targeted customer experiences and get a better handle on audience desires. An additional 14.5% said it had also led to better performing content, while 8.5% claimed it had caused an increase in return on investment.

AI is quickly becoming essential for content creation according to RNMKR’s Founder and Chairman, Ari S. Goldberg, who revealed that the technology is having a profound impact on how they optimise content to convert leads into paying customers. AI can also be used to capture customer interest and help build strategies from the ground up.

“What we’ve come to realize is whether we apply those steps to luxury grooming and essentials, or to travel, or to luxury real estate, it doesn’t matter — it’s the same steps,” Goldberg said. “You’re creating content. You’re doing that based on SEO. You’re still using the same social platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, whatever it might be, so that the foundation, the tactics, are the same but the vertical and the brand might change.”


Content marketers need to work harder to gain traction on social networks as the number of articles is increasing, but brands can cut through the noise by creating “evergreen” content that continues to pay dividends months after its publication date.

That is one of the primary takeaways from the Content Trends Report 2018 published by BuzzSumo earlier this week. The 36-page study found that the number of shares per post on social platforms has seen a marked decline since 2015 due to more competition for engagement, a decline in organic reach on Facebook, and a rise in “dark social” sharing away from bigger, public platforms.

BuzzSumo Director Steve Rayson believes brands can still achieve success with their campaigns by adopting a different mindset. Rather than jumping on trends when they blow up and creating viral content with clickbait titles, they should move towards a more organic, evergreen strategy which can really pay off in the long term.

Evergreen content can continue to perform years down the line, as it will always remain relevant in search and social media. Rayson says evergreen content usually features one of four characteristics that are well suited to gaining shares and clicks over time:

  • It focuses on long-life topics that don’t go out of style
  • It is research-based
  • It is composed with a reference style that acts as a benchmark for a subject
  • It is regularly updated

It appears that content saturation is more common when a brand attempts to focus on a hot trend as the number of articles for this trend often explodes. The recent craze about bitcoin is an example of this. It is impossible for readers to wade through every piece of content published, so they veer towards pages and sites that have an authority on the subject prior to the boom.

Rayson says marketers must, therefore, build authority before a trend hits and look at “sub-trends” proactively to create a hub of high-quality content that may later become more popular if the trend goes mainstream. Working on direct distribution networks, including email subscribers and customer lists, can help to increase private audiences where social algorithms cannot impact reach.

Econtent also recently published its State of Content Marketing report for 2018, where it looked back on how the landscape changed last year and outlined several key trends for the coming months. MGID content strategist Megan James believes infographics and other high-end media formats will be popular this year.

Furthermore, the Pedowtiz Group’s Revenue Marketing Coach Pamela Muldoon claimed content supports a more flexible and scalable consumer experience. She said: “As content marketers become more savvy around the strategy of content, we will see smarter content ideation happening in all stages of the buying journey or customer experience. Instead of deciding that certain types of content are good for certain stages of the marketing and sales funnel, a more holistic approach to how an audience intakes information will be considered as content development takes place.”


Content production levels are steadily increasing, but consumers still desire accurate, informative and relevant blogs and videos more than anything else, according to an extensive new report on branded content published by computer software company Adobe.

When asked to rank six characteristics of content from the most important to the least important, “accurate” came out on top, with 38% saying it was a primary factor and two-thirds placing it into their top two. With the recent rise of fake news, it seems consumers are eager for brands to serve up content that is error-free. This notion is supported in other recent studies, which found that mistakes can lead to a loss of consumer trust.

“Informative” was next on the list, which isn’t surprising, but the fact that “simple” content was the third most important factor for respondents – ahead of “entertaining,” “interactive” and “beautifully designed” content – suggests many consumers prefer more basic written word blogs and articles over flashy and media-rich formats. However, the report found that Millennials do like to see more beautiful content when compared with baby boomers.

Adobe then asked consumers about the most annoying aspects of brand content. Four in ten said they didn’t like pieces that were not relevant to them or their life situation, while a similar number said any content that was poorly written or too wordy was a common pet peeve. This result ties into the notion of “simple” content identified earlier.

These annoyances are also potentially disastrous, as two-thirds of respondents said their presence would lead them to consider not purchasing from a brand in the future. Mobile-optimised content is also important, as almost half said they abandon content online if it takes more than a few seconds to load up. A further 45% said they leave a site if it is difficult to interact with on a smartphone.

Finally, the study found that most consumers do not share content on a regular basis, but a third said they would if it was raising awareness for a good cause. Content that offers an incentive, and is informative and not promotional, is also deemed more shareable. People are more cautious about sharing content compared to five years ago, but they still trust content served by online news sources and traditional publishers.

A separate study by GlobalWebIndex has found that content plays an increasingly bigger role in the lives of Gen-Z teens, with 45% claiming they use social platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, as a content consumption tool rather than to meet and talk with friends.

“Above all, social media serves as a content consumption tool for this young generation,” GlobalWebIndex’s report adds. “Our data shows an unexpected motivation for Gen Z – they are more likely to be using social media to fill up spare time and find entertainment, rather than to stay in touch with friends.”

Both studies indicate that marketers have a lot of work to do to deliver the right content and messages, but a common theme is that there is an ever-growing desire for engaging and relevant forms of content.


Brands often take a “risk-averse” approach to content marketing as they view it through a “campaign lens” rather than recognising how it can be central to deeper brand building and success in the long term.

That observation was one of the major talking points raised at the recent Mumbrella360 Asia conference in Singapore, which covers all aspects of the content marketing industry in Asia. Earlier this month, Indian marketers said they would be focusing on thought leadership and high-quality branded news, blogs, articles and videos as they plan to up their investment in 2018, so it appears that content is very much a hot topic in the East right now.

While marketers are eager to make the most of the content zeitgeist this year, Vice Australia’s Head of Content Alex Light said brands in Asia are still effectively finding their feet and that a less mature approach, when compared to Europe and the US, is manifesting into a trend of risk aversion.

“It’s unproven and people aren’t necessarily willing to go in with big budgets and investing behind it,” he said. “This is the same in the US and Australia, but people still see it through a campaign lens. It’s seen as a short-term solution rather than long-term brand-building.”

However, Light admitted that these frustrations will do little to dampen the enthusiasm for content and that there is currently a “massive opportunity” for brands to jump on board. He added: “This region has so much potential and I think content marketing is really about to take off here.”

Working with agencies specialising in translation and transcreation could help brands in Asia to deliver relevant and targeted resources to audiences at home and abroad. To improve ROI, however, Click2View Editorial Director Jackie Shorey believes brands must outline a better vision for their content efforts and be sure about what they want.

She said: “I do the usual journalistic stuff and say: ‘What are you trying to do?’ They will say they don’t know, they just want some articles. So I say: ‘What does success look like? What do you want? Who’s your audience? Who’s going to read it?’ And then it’s just: ‘Go away and do 10 articles.’ And that’s a pity; with a bit of digging we’ll do our best, but rather than me guessing or having to tease it out and getting it wrong.”

However, those challenges are universal and are not restricted to Asia, as better relationships between agency and client and a more holistic view of what each party wants would benefit content campaigns around the world.

Finally, industry leaders at the event touched on the ongoing conversation about metrics and measurability. The panellists said having clear goals and objectives in the first place would help brands to determine ROI for content marketing, though Andrea Edwards, of The Digital Conversationalist, said a new measurement tool that could bring everything together to give “one picture” and clear insights would be a great help.


Video is now the go-to content format for many brands, but William Grant & Sons Global Senior Content and Connections Manager Cathal Gillen believes marketers sometimes “over-invest” in the production of creative clips without considering whether it is beneficial for the business in terms of ROI and engagement.

In a new interview with marketing news website The Drum, Gillen claims he has seen first-hand how brands and ad agencies often divert a huge percentage of their media spend to video. While he agrees video can play a role in successful content campaigns, he believes other, more viable formats are often overlooked in the process.

He said: “Videos only go viral occasionally and there has to be budget to amplify it to get the right reach for your video content.” Going viral also seems an outdated concept in an age where consumers are looking for brands to serve up more personalised, informative and educational content, which actually adds value to their own lives.

Gillen continued by urging brands to recognise just how invested they are in media and social giants, such as Google, as a lack of alternative outlets for content could potentially have its downsides in the long run. He added: “We have to be really cautious towards the big channels. So much of the revenue and budgets are going into Facebook and Google. It is important to be really mindful about the power they bear on us. Martin Sorrell calls them ‘frenemies’.”

Finally, Gillen touched on the ongoing issue of transparency and metrics. He believes brands must do everything they can to measure effectiveness to ensure they are not wasting time or money on ineffective platforms and content formats, though he admits it can be challenging due to the statistics served up on social platforms.

He said: “When we look at impression numbers and reach numbers, we try to see how people have been impacted. You might have reached 10 million people but, how many people have viewed it? With Facebook, if you’ve been counted in as three seconds, is that good for you? Probably not. But if the view is something like 20 seconds out of 30 seconds in video then that’s potentially good.”

Video has been central to content campaigns for some time now, but last year saw the arrival of another major marketing trend: influencers. Contiki Social Media and Influencer Manager Natalie Siagian revealed in late January how the use of celebrities and other high-profile figures who have access to large audiences should not be seen as a silver bullet for engagement success.

There are around 500 million tweets posted every single day, so the scope for a targeted influencer campaign is considerable, but Siagian said it should never be a substitute for high-quality, relevant content. She added: “If you are looking at influencers to solve all your problems, that’s not going to happen. But if you are looking at influencers to communicate a message to reach a new audience, you must make sure you’re being smart about it.”


The approach to content marketing continues to mature in India after a new report published by social media giant LinkedIn found the clear majority will be using tech including, machine learning, data analytics and programmatic ad buying, to support creative strategies and thought leadership content during 2018.

The growing appetite for all things content in India is highlighted by the fact that a sizeable 74% are planning to spend more on marketing mediums and platforms during the next 12 months, which is considerably more than those in other countries, including Hong Kong (33%) and Singapore (25%).

LinkedIn surveyed marketing professionals in those three countries and Australia during September and October last year and has now published the Marketing Team of Tomorrow report with the main findings. In content marketing terms, a diverse approach is preferable, and many are eager to integrate the latest trends.

Therefore, it is no surprise that web content, personalised infographics, videos, and articles are the main focus for APAC marketers as a whole, and India in particular. The move to tailored content is now seen as a crucial part of the marketing mix, as brands attempt to serve up added value resources to educate and inform customers while pushing them along the sales cycle.

Content marketing is in the top three marketing trends for Indian marketers overall, and technology will be central to attaining the best return on investment from these endeavours in 2018. Data analytics leads the way, with 94% of respondents saying it will underpin content activities in the coming months, but both machine learning and programmatic ad buying are not far behind.

These results suggest there is a growing maturity and sophistication among Indian marketers in the approach to content marketing, which is a trend reflected in the West as more brands become well-versed in the strategies that can give them a competitive edge across social media and the wider web.

More than a third are also outsourcing content generation to a third party, such as a digital agency. Again, this a trend that has been seen in various other reports during the last six months and suggests brands are now bringing the creative process into sharp focus. The fact that India is also doubling down on creating storytelling to engage and interact with customers supports this trend.

Virginia Sharma, LinkedIn India Director for Marketing Solutions, said: “We’ve stepped out of a year where content marketing took centre stage, and Indian marketers got a flavour of what new-age marketing looks like, powered by data and presented in video. As we enter 2018, technology will underpin all marketing activities, and teams will focus on outsourcing technical expertise while retaining an in-house focus on improving customer experience.”

She added: “This year, Indian marketers will do away with ‘one size fits all’ and will deploy high-quality ‘branded content’ and thought leadership content to gain customer trust and loyalty.”

Other key trends for India this year noted in the report include an expected rise in video content and marketing automation investment.


Snapchat announced the arrival of a new Stories Everywhere feature earlier this week, but the drive to get users to share more content on the platform is unlikely to win over marketers and advertisers, who continue to focus their attention on Facebook and Instagram for targeting buying audiences.

Stories Everywhere is basically Snapchat’s way of connecting with the services users rely on every day. Any user-generated content will soon be able to be posted in emails and text messages, as well as Facebook and Twitter, without having to navigate away from the mobile app. The feature will arrive alongside a complete redesign in the coming weeks and is aimed at keeping more users locked into Snapchat.

However, its usability for brands is limited, and a spokesperson for the image messaging site even admitted the latest changes are consumer-focused and will not appeal to advertisers, as there won’t be any impact on ad units. Snapchat said in a statement that Stories Everywhere would make it easier for users to share their favourite moments with “friends and family outside of Snapchat”.

With that statement being aimed squarely at the general public, it is no surprise that some brands and agencies have confirmed that they will not be investing any more money into content and other experiences on Snapchat in the near future. Deutsch’s Senior Vice President Rachel Mercer said the move felt like a “Hail Mary” effort, as the platform has a diminishing relevance in the social media landscape.

Snapchat revealed that it has 178 million users during its third-quarter earnings report, but that was just a 4.5 million uptick from the previous quarter. Mercer believes advertisers already on the platform may see a small boost in engagement but that it would only be a “short-term gain”.

She added: “The reality is that the sophisticated advertising platform, from a targeting and marketing perspective, leans heavily towards Facebook, Instagram and depending on the context or needs, Pinterest and Google. Generally, Snapchat is most effective for awareness plays, and with diminished user reporting, I don’t know if it’s still applicable.”

Wavemaker Managing Partner Noah Mallin echoed these sentiments and added that social users will be less inclined to migrate to Snapchat now that there is the ability to share stories on other platforms. However, he claimed that may change “down the road” if Snapchat can bring new users to the platform.

T3 Director of Connections Angela Yang also believes that Snapchat’s walled garden was one of the reasons why it has been successful and is seen as a potentially viable alternative to the bigger social hitters. She said one area where it could differentiate itself is via visual content and strengthening its commitment to be a “camera company”.

She added: “For example, I created this amazing video for Snapchat. How much more mileage can I get out of it? It gives brands the opportunity to take pieces of content and get more eyes on it in other platforms. Snapchat’s got to think of new, innovative ways to capture the world around us for this to work.”


UK brands can drive significantly better results from their content marketing campaigns with just a “small shift” in commitment levels, according to new research published by the Content Marketing Institute, which suggests an “all in” mindset is preferable for creative strategies.

The report, Content Marketing in the United Kingdom 2018: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends, shows a strong link between how much time, effort and resources brands are willing to invest in content and the success they subsequently experience through a variety of positive business outcomes, such as increased conversions and sales.

It is perhaps not surprising to see that those with a “somewhat committed” approach are failing to drive the results they need. Only 5% of this group said they had high success, which is significantly short of the 38% who said the same from the “most committed” pool of content marketers.

However, what is interesting is that it wouldn’t take a notable shift for those with a neutral outlook on content to start enjoying more success with infographics, videos, articles and other high-quality published resources. Working with a third party, such as an agency, is a simple course of action that can increase commitment and raise standards.

This is now a common trend, as most UK marketers reveal in the study that they now outsource one or more of their content marketing activities, while content creation is the single most popular activity for outsourcing. This finding suggests that more brands are using agencies to create written and visual content for corporate websites and social platforms.

Conducting data analytics and comparing metrics has traditionally been a blind spot for marketers, and this is still true to a certain extent, as 40% admit they do only a poor or fair job of ailing metrics with content marketing goals. However, 43% said they are now doing an excellent, very good or good job in this regard, which suggests there is a slow and steady improvement overall.

The Content Marketing Institute also published a five-point plan for marketers to help them emulate their highly committed counterparts. This plan includes strengthening commitment and adopting a “go hard or go home” mentality, being more tactical by using a documented strategy, being more realistic about expectations, and placing a greater focus on creative output.

“Our annual UK content marketing research shows that a small shift in commitment can make a big difference in terms of overall content marketing success,” Content Marketing Institute research director, Lisa Murton Beet, said in a statement.

She added: “The strongly committed are more likely than the ‘somewhat’ committed to have a documented strategy and are more realistic about what content marketing can achieve, among other distinguishing characteristics. Based on these insights, we recommend that companies hovering in the ‘neutral’ zone with their content marketing consider what it would take to strengthen their resolve – it might be that they need more buy-in, a better strategy, more budget, more people – and, in some cases, a simple shift in mindset.”


According to a new study published by Marketing Week, grasping the concept of marketing and the value of content continues to be a blind spot for brands in numerous sectors and industries. About a third of the marketers surveyed said their organisation completely misunderstands the practice.

The Career and Salary Survey takes an in-depth look at many topics, such as diversity and inclusivity in the workplace, but the latest study has highlighted what appears to be a general lack of knowledge about the primary functions of marketing and how it can and should benefit the company.

More than one third of those surveyed said their company’s marketing strategy was completely at odds with objectives and goals, and a common trend is that many key decision-makers are focusing on creative and promotional material as an investment only, rather than considering it a flexible activity capable of driving customer engagement, retention and other positive business outcomes.

It is perhaps no surprise that agencies are ahead of the rest in terms of marketing comprehension, as more than half said it is completely understood within their company. The gaming and gambling sector and fast-moving consumer goods enterprises also show an aptitude for understanding marketing’s main purpose.

However, there were some surprising statistics at the other end of the scale, as just 47.5% of marketers in travel and leisure could say the same about their brand, which is rather low considering how important content can be for connecting with consumers at the right time and driving sales.

Ryanair CMO Kenny Jacobs said. “It’s an industry where communication plays a key role. It’s a very competitive consumer category, so communicating what your product is, what the value is and your proposition to your target consumer is central to every single travel business.”

The report also found that marketing was often misunderstood by employees and departments outside of creative, communications and PR, which means many are acting in isolation and therefore are unable to bring the various functions of a business together to amplify the effectiveness of marketing.

Several industries where marketing is most misunderstood include construction and property and the utilities sector. More than a third of marketers with job roles at media owners, which are typically larger corporations, also said marketing was still viewed as a foreign concept by executives and employees.

UKTV CMO Zoe Clapp said: “Marketing is such a central function to grow the business and to fully understand consumers, so that figure needs to be much, much higher. Part of the problem is the language marketers use. We use so much jargon and what we’re trying to do is a very simple thing: we’re trying to grow market share and grow the business.”

Clapp also touched on the topic of eliminating silos, adding that UKTV always communicates with the entire organisation and that all disciplines work in tandem to improve their marketing skills to benefit the overall business and drive growth.


Brands need to have a “real desire” for “value exchange” when planning their content marketing campaigns in 2018, according to creative expert and acclaimed movie director, Otto Bell, who claims the biggest companies in the world are now focused on delivering excellent branded experiences regularly.

Bell, who is Chief Creative Officer at CNN, has produced content for many clients, including Nike and Volvo, and has offered his views on the importance of videos, infographics, ads and other formats as marketers attempt to cut through the noise to connect and engage with audiences across a variety of platforms during the next 12 months.

In terms of storytelling — a contemporary content trend — Bell believes the inclusion of a brand must elevate and enhance the story rather than detract from it in some way. He asks: “Is it harder to tell that story when you remove the brand?” If the answer is yes to that question, he claims that he then knows that he is “onto something” and that the content will be more likely to resonate with end users.

While everything points to content being a major activity for driving a host of positive business outcomes in 2018, he warned that good branded content cannot be considered a “silver bullet” and that brands must work hard to deliver something that can really impact customers and improve their wellbeing in some form.

He asks: “Are you going to deepen my understanding of something? Are you going to provide me with some kind of utility? Are you going to make me laugh?”

He also believes there is a growing desire among audiences for brands to take moral stands and show what they believe in. Bell says: “Look no further than the Super Bowl last year [and Budweiser’s tribute to its German immigrant founder]. Consumers want to know what brands stand for, where their profits are going, and how they are participating in the world.”

Creatives may be a little overwhelmed by the sheer scale of content formats, mediums and platforms available now, but Bell insists that this breadth of variety is beneficial for brands and that they must mix and match these options for each campaign to reach the right audiences, at the right time.

He adds: “I can be a little bit channel agnostic in terms of coming up with the right answer, so what a brand needs to meet its objectives might be a short film of an event or a social media takeover — or all of those things working in concert.”

Bell concludes by stating that agencies and brands must work together to get the very best from creative as a “back seat” outlook from either party can be disadvantageous to a campaign. “Open briefs” with a broad list of objectives can often be the best as it allows both parties to move forward and talk through ideas together. “These brands spend years and years and millions of dollars, shaping and honing their brand image. If you are going to ask them to loosen the reins, you’ve got to talk through that,” he says.