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Performance-based marketing has taken a back seat following the outbreak of Covid-19 and brands are instead looking to optimise the efficiency and lead conversions and deploy affordable, organic content to keep campaigns on track according to a new study.

Forrester recently released the ‘2020 COVID-10 Crisis Will Stun US Marketing Report’ and it contains a range of new insights about how strategies have been transformed by the pressures of the global pandemic.

First up, investment in marketing technology plummeted almost overnight in March as enterprises targeted cut backs that would save time and money. Advertising budgets were also “slashed” as the focus moved to more affordable and efficient marketing formats and channels.

Martech is likely to suffer for some time yet with Forrester not expecting a recovery in investment until the middle of 2021 at the earliest. This decline will mean CMOs will collectively lose out on $222bn in budgetary funds during the next twelve to 18 months.

The drop off in martech spend which includes ad tech solutions, means overall marketing investment will fall in tandem. Forrester expects spend to be 30% lower at the beginning of 2022 when compared to the figure from 2019.

Forrester noted that consistently delivering brand marketing at scale will be a major challenge for smaller teams that will have to try and deliver high quality customer experiences and programs without the tools and resources they will previously have been accustomed to.

Proof Analytics CEO Mark Stouse saus the recent disruption has forced many marketers to abandon performance marketing investments entirely.

He noted: “Performance marketing, and the martech that enables it, was under question before COVID-19 and the experience of the past four months has really confirmed with the analytics have said previously — that touching customers too aggressively and too frequently actually makes it hard for the sales team to sell.”

Branding efforts through the publication of organic content is taking on a greater precedence during the crisis as it removes the risk and friction that is inherent to advertising programs.

Content is enabling brands to build awareness, confidence and trust organically as opposed to ads and strategies that simply revolve around how many emails or texts can be sent to potential customers every hour even when these comms may not be wanted by recipients.

Martech isn’t going away entirely though as CMOs place great value on marketing automation platforms which are set to see a 3% rate of growth during the year or so.

CMOs will move away from data management platforms and demand side platforms in favour of solutions that are capable of delivering the optimisation and efficiency that will be needed to get enterprises through a very challenging period.

This will result in lead conversion efficiency becoming an “industry KPI”. Brand development consultant Ben Shapiro expects campaigns to build on a goals such lead nurturing and custom retention for the time being as budgets and headcounts are cut back, with “efficiency” now an emerging theme that will soon become commonplace.


Email has experienced a recent resurgence in brand marketing as affordable solutions are prioritised amid challenging conditions but nine in ten marketers say the inability to reach inboxes directly can have a detrimental impact on overall revenue.

A new report released by Validity titled ‘Email Deliverability 2020: A Journey to the Inbox’ has uncovered a range of challenges and issues that are holding marketers back as they attempt to manage email marketing campaigns that can deliver high return on investment.

The study noted that email continues to be “core medium” and central to multi-channel marketing campaigns but that many companies are still struggling to reach consumers due to high bounce rates and other factors.

The cost of failing to reach a user’s inbox is high. 91% of respondents said overall revenue is affected when this happens and one in eight believe the impact on returns is “severe”.

Tim Bond, Head of Insight at The DMA, said email marketing investment is still delivering ample returns for brands but says mistakes made during the formative stages of campaigns can have a significant financial impact.

Bond revealed that for every £1 spent on email marketing, brands are seeing a £35 return, a healthy figure that suggests marketers should persevere in their attempts to optimise email channels.

Some of the problems that still undermine campaigns include high email bounce rates, growing spam complaints from customers and IP address reputation issues.

42% of respondents even admit to having been added to a user’s email blacklist since 2015 with spam and inaccurate data among the reasons for being flagged.

“What we have found is that a good deliverability strategy needs to be both comprehensive and multidisciplinary,” Validity vp of customer engagement, Guy Hanson said.

He added: “Deliverability success involves committing budget and resource if you are going to do it well, and those that do see positive returns from their investment.”

While email marketing remains a popular strategy for companies, 16% say their “best practice” email knowledge is not up to scratch, a figure that has increased by 6% during the last twelve months.

Marketers also believe some of this knowledge is available at their business but is located within other departments. Overall, 49% rate their best practice knowledge as good with only 17% hitting the highest rating of very good.

The view that knowledge is located elsewhere is probably due to the fact that 40% say compliance with legislation and industry standards are fundamental to best practices.

Hanson believes brands should now priortise delivery improvement as part of efforts to overhaul email marketing for the better. Part of this should involve a greater commitment of budget and resources, something that will be returned in kind with positive returns for those that are able to do it well.

Mr Bond also believes customers must be at “the heart” of email programmes from the beginning. This will make it easier to meet their demands and expectations and lead to improved ROI and higher levels of customer loyalty and retention.


The global pandemic has accelerated the deployment of digital transformation schemes but 80% of technologists say their organisation is under the greatest pressure to make changes quickly as every part of the workforce is mobilised for remote tasks.

The new findings are part of a special edition study by APM vendor AppDynamics which offers an in-depth look at the recent shifts in digital strategies following the outbreak of Covid-19.

The study notes that tech departments have been inundated with demands since March as organisations attempt to shift operations to digital wholesale to improve agility and scalability amid challenging working conditions.

The pandemic has forced companies to prioritise the deployment of a high quality digital infrastructure capable of supporting all remote workforces and customers.

Some of the respondents claimed that the very survival of their organisation had been placed on their shoulders. Almost two-thirds of technologists say they have never felt as much pressure at work before and a similar number say they are performing tasks they did not do prior to the pandemic.

However, those companies able to set up a digital-based workforce and workplace are in a better position to adapt to the challenges the pandemic has posed in the short term and better able to plan for the future.

The desire to greenlight digital transformation quickly has resulted in 74% of technologists claiming projects have been signed off in several weeks rather than the typical year-long period that was standard before.

Six in ten technologists also says projects have been implemented that may have previously taken several years. The emphasis has been on fast tracking all viable tasks and processes.

AppDynamics general manager, Danny Winokur added: “Technologists are stepping up in their organisations’ hour of need, and it is now the responsibility of business leaders to do everything possible to provide these women and men with the tools, leadership and support they require to deliver first-class digital customer and employee experiences.”

While internal transformation has helped companies to support core activities, the priority at the moment is very much on delivering great digital customer experiences.

The use of content marketing and web copy is rising, as is the optimisation of web pages as companies target “seamless” interactions and experiences. With other more traditional channels impacted by Covid-19, digital is now very much the frontline for organisations.

95% of respondents said their organisations had changed tech priorities following the pandemic with 88% stating the digital customer experience is the number one focus.

Effective digital transformation is key here too as 80% say a lack of unified visibility into the performance of tech is one of the biggest challenges they are currently facing. 81% admit to issues with managing spikes in website traffic.

To improve digital strategies during this time, technologies outlined a few areas and tactics that could help them. Nine in ten say clear goals and objectives are crucial, the same number who said they require access to real time data as and when they need it.

Greater autonomy and accountability and freedom to experiment and take risks are also needed to manage the digital transformation revolution.


Almost two-thirds of marketers believe administrative tasks are taking up too much of their time and are frustrated that they cannot fully focus their efforts on more important content marketing processes according to new research released by London Research.

More than 700 executives at large tech vendors and brands were polled for their opinions on content marketing and the findings were collated in a report titled ‘The State of Universal Content Management 2020’.

The study took place over two months, concluding four days before the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic became clear in early March, but there are insights that remain relevant for marketers as many pivot to cost effective content creation during a crisis.

The main takeaway is that many are getting bogged down in tasks that have no direct impact on the quality of output. Nine in ten respondents say they wish they had more freedom to explore new ideas.

Three quarters of those surveyed believe the admin work they have to complete, often on a daily basis, is preventing content marketing campaigns from reaching their full potential.

The vast majority say if content-related admin was reduced, they would be confident in personally adding “significantly more value” to the business.

The scale of admin is highlighted by the fact that 52% of a marketers’ time is spent ticking boxes and completing mundane tasks. Marketers say the planning and production phases of content marketing only take up 48% of time.

The need to create and publish excellent content marketing materials is also being undermined by a haphazard approach to content management. Two-thirds revealed that they do not have a centralised hub for content.

This lack of structure makes it more challenging for marketers to manage content effectively, which makes admin tasks take up more time and resources than otherwise would be necessary. It also slows the pace of content processes considerably.

When asked what they would do to improve the situation, it is no surprise that the number one recommendation would be to create a centralised hub.

Marketers also believe management content by each single channel is a mistake as this leads to a range of integration problems and makes collaboration more difficult. An omni-channel approach should be the target for brands in 2020.

“Content creation and distribution has quickly become a mature market, but the management of content still lingers in an awkward, immature phase,” Censhare cmo, Mathias Wurth said in a statement.

He added: “Not being synched up from message-to-message and region-to-region only creates doubt and lack of trust in a businesses’ products and services.”

The lack of structure, already a problem before the outbreak of the coronavirus, has been felt more keenly during the last two months as brands struggle to get everything together and keep marketing campaigns on track.

The study also noted that content marketers are grappling with messaging issues as some campaigns hit the right tone with customers while others fail.

For the time being at least, outsourcing content management to an agency may be the best course of action.


Digital transformation schemes have been put on hold by the majority of UK-based businesses despite its importance for supporting remote working schemes and advanced tech that will shape the workforce during the next decade.

A new report published by Global Data Centers found companies are finding it difficult to untangle a web of multi-cloud services and online tech.

While cloud computing has helped many companies to improve the quality and efficiency of core operations, the disparate use of providers and services has created an additional major barrier that leaders are struggling to overcome.

Any failure to deploy digital transformation has been brought into sharp focus by the global pandemic which has forced companies to rely on digital infrastructures and tech for even the most basic day to day processes.

The report did not cover the potential impact of Covid-19 but the findings are worrying as companies that have failed to digitally transform may find it much more difficult to adapt and change amid a real world crisis.

A quarter of the respondents said their IT team’s time and resources are often wasted in attempts to get digital transformation projects up and running.

The stop start nature of these projects costs a business a staggering $2.48m every single year.

It does not appear to be for the want of trying either as projects are often greenlit with the goal of deploying new tech that could transform business prospects.

Many say cutting edge tech like artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT) and software-defined networking (SDN) is being used.

However, 50% say projects are either “regularly” or “always” delayed, which is setting businesses back and wasting time and energy.

Two-thirds of businesses say they are now “heavily reliant” on a wide range of cloud services but that this is increasing the difficulty of integration.

Global Data Centers CSO, John Eland says connecting the dots between multi-cloud services and other tech is not easy and is one of the main reasons why transformation projects are not getting off the ground.

He added: “Adding further strain, there’s the risk that even just a Proof of Concept could have a negative impact on live production systems, leading to service failures that result in reputational or revenue damage.”

Eland believes all of these problems has created a phenomenon known as the “hesitancy gap”.

This is where IT teams are so focused on keeping everything in order that they forget to embrace new projects that can drive innovation.

As businesses try to make sense of a post-pandemic world, reducing this hesitancy gap and embracing digital transformation will be key to not only surviving but gaining an edge on competitors.

A couple of other findings from the report include the fact that UK enterprises delay transformation by nine months on average if they decide that they don’t have the time to build the right infrastructure to support.

The vast majority (94%) also say the only way to be truly “supercharged” in transformation is through the deployment of multi-cloud partners, services and connections without the need to bring it all together internally.


Marketers are still creating project-focused content in response to requests from internal decision makers rather than the needs of a particular audience or customer journey according to a new study released by the Content Marketing Institute.

While numerous whitepapers and reports have espoused the virtue of managing campaigns centred around the demands of target audiences and key personas, 43% of content creators still admit to creative being dictated by internal staff.

This means content marketing is by and large, acting in service to the wider business and the needs of specific departments rather than attempting to serve up articles, videos and blogs that audiences actually want and need.

CMI noted that this is typical of the “urgent” being given greater value than what’s important for the business in the long term.

Some enterprises are taking the right approach though. 30% of respondents said they have a persona-focused outlook where content is created for a particular audience. However, just 12% say their content is tailored for a specific stage in a customer’s journey or buying cycle.

CMI’s study, titled ‘2020 Content Management and Strategy Survey’ was fielded at the start of the year before the outbreak of the coronavirus.

CMI’s Robert Rose noted that the “disruptive change” forced by COVID-19 will require “fast and intelligent innovation”.

The good news is that 78% of those surveyed said they were already taking a strategic approach to the management of content in January and February this year, and 60% have a documented strategy in place.

For those not taking a strategic approach, a few of the issues that are preventing them from doing so are ‘lack of processes’ (63%), lack of urgency from leadership (57%) and a lack of investment in resources (52%).

Four in ten also blamed ‘organisation culture’ and a third said leadership does not see content as something that requires strategic management.

72% of respondents said their business does view content as core business strategy but the issues listed above have made it more difficult to achieve success.

The business-centric outlook to content is more surprising considering that marketers said the single biggest factor contributing to success is the ability to “understand and connect” with audience paint points, interests and values.

A sizable 50% of respondents said this was a top factor putting it way ahead of clear roles and responsibilities for content creators (25%) and the ability to extract insights from campaigns (10%).

Finally, when planning content, marketers are most likely to consider how best to drive their brand’s value proposition and show empathy to customer needs and interests.

These two values are not incompatible but it can be challenging to closely align the interests of the company with customer’s values when creating content.

Mr Rose said things could look different after the pandemic, especially as 73% of respondents admitted that their company is not making full use of content management tech.

He concluded: “Will that change in a post-COVID-19 world? As the shift to more remote work expands, will we see more collaborative content management and strategy features integrated into classic software suites?”


Triggering the right emotional responses with ad content can help brands to engage and connect with audiences amid the challenges of the global pandemic according to a new study released by video ad tech enterprise Unruly.

More than 2,260 consumers in the UK were analysed through their emotional responses to ad content, more specifically campaign ads centred around the response to the recent outbreak of the coronavirus.

Unruly used its own content measurement tool to gauge the emotional impact of advertising with a ranking between one and ten. The results were then ranked and compared to thousands of other general ads.

Brands have been rolling out their own coronavirus campaigns during the last few weeks and some have triggered a greater emotional engagement than others.

ITV’s ‘Apart, But Never Alone’ campaign topped the list after Unruly found that 40.50% of viewers had an intense emotional reaction to the content.

The NHS and UK government’s ‘Stay At Home’ was second with a 39.90% intense reaction share, just ahead of Jack Daniels’ ‘With Live Jack’ (37.30%). Nike, EE, Lego, Tesco and Facebook also featured in the top ten.

While not every brand will launch coronavirus-centric campaigns, the study shows that audiences are very open to content that can trigger more heartfelt reactions from audiences.

These ads can have a lasting impact too. Four in ten respondents said they had a more favourable view of ITV after seeing its ad campaign.

ITV used a variety of “familiar faces” to deliver its uplifting message which gave viewers a sense of continuity and reassured them that everything would be okay.

However, Unruly’s global vp of insights and solutions, Rebeeca Waring believes viewers could eventually become fatigued by content with similar messages and emotional tones.

She added: “To avoid this, brands need to ensure their ads are strongly branded and their brands are central to the storyline, not an afterthought. People are looking to brands to provide a sense of continuity, and your distinctive brand voice has an important part to play.”

Unruly carried out another consumer survey soon after the lockdown was put in place in the UK. It asked what content they would like to see from brands during the pandemic.

Ads showing warmth and happiness were the most wanted overall but around half of respondents said they were eager for more informative content as they looked to make sense of new working and social norms.

Brands who have missed out on the first round of content campaigns may want to tap into the desire for more informative ads, as well as articles and blogs, as the government prepares to outline new measures as social distancing guidelines are eased.

Regardless of the emotional triggers, the studies highlight again how important content is for audiences even if they are not in a position to purchase products or services at the current time.

Brands that can create memorable campaigns and support customers will generate goodwill when things eventually get back to some sort of normality.


Customers are more likely to purchase a product when a brand is able to make them feel “comfortable”, “healthy” and “relaxed” according to new research published by Engine Group US.

With many audiences attempting to adapt to a “new normal” amid lockdown measures and new ways of working and home-based professional and personal lives, a few companies have been running surveys and reports to find out how this has affected habits and behaviours.

Engine Group US found that many people are missing their old lives despite doing their best to adhere to stringent measures and guidelines as attempts to tackle the outbreak continue in Europe and the US.

Remote working is now commonplace but 52% admit that they miss their daily commuting habits and a similar number say the same for “physically going to work” and attending live events in their spare time.

With the recent disruption and upheaval, the general public craves content and digital experiences that help them to relax.

Two-thirds said feeling comfortable is a prerequisite for completing a purchase of a product or service and large numbers of respondents also want to feel safe and secure, and relaxed.

Audiences are also steadfast in their belief that marketing and advertising should continue pretty much as normal.

Just 13% said they “strongly disagree” that brands should advertise during the coronavirus outbreak, while 73% are either ambivalent or agree that ads should still be published. 

Ads are still a key revenue driver as 54% said they had made a purchase after clicking on a digital ad, while 79% had taken some sort of action after viewing one and 49% are “motivated” by the experience.

While brands will look to optimise ad spend in the coming weeks to keep within budgets, many are looking to content marketing to fill the void.

In a separate study by Sirkin, 72% said they expect to see a “substantial increase” in the deployment of web content to meet the needs of customers, who are consuming more digital content during the lockdown.

A similar number will also use more virtual events to get messages across and showcase products, while 67% expect a notable rise in webinars.

The most popular formats during the remainder of the year will be blogs (57%), video production (50%) and social media (66%) as companies turn to cost-effective, organic methods to keep the ball rolling.

Investments in editorials and other forms of premium content are also tipped to spike by market leaders as companies look to inform customers about Covid-19 and maintain a brand presence during a difficult period.

There is a captive audience out there ready and willing to engage with content as research by Scorpion found that social media usage has soared by 33.8% during the last month with younger adults being a key driver.

Stream service usage is also up 42% and there has been a 30.7% rise in online shopping as 25-34-year old homeowners look for new gadgets, furniture and clothing to keep them occupied.


Consumers are spending more time on connected devices during the coronavirus lockdown and are eager for a mix of content and ads that touch on the pandemic and also depict continuity and positivity, a new study by Unruly has found.

The various phases of lockdown being implemented across Europe and North America has forced consumers to take solace in their smartphones with 50% of the 2,638 respondents to a survey saying they are using iPhones and Android devices “a lot more than before”.

Other devices show a similar spike in usage with connected TVs (42%), laptops (35%), games consoles (29%), tablets (27%) and desktop PCs (28%) all acting as prime hub for extended online time for the general public.

The study found that the new normal, for now at least, will provide content marketers and advertisers with the ability to put forth engaging and informative experiences to a “literally captive audience”.

Insight vice president, Terence Scroope, believes audiences are now at “one of the most” engaged points in “our lifetime” as so many people are at home and crave distractions to get through the lockdown.

Scroope also believes brands need to address “the elephant in the room” by showcasing thought leadership on Covid-19 related issues and by outlining what they are doing with their business during the tough period.

22% of respondents said they want content conveying how brands are helping staff and customers in different ways and a similar number are on the lookout for ads that offer useful information about the coronavirus.

On the flip side of the coin, consumers also want distractions and normalcy. 17% of respondents said they crave content that depicts continuity, the same number who said they would like to see more humour and positivity in ads and content.

“The vast majority of consumers still want to see ads,” Scroope revealed in a statement. “But the key to success is in the content and the way a message is conveyed.”

In terms of ad delivery methods, four in ten young adults aged between 18 to 24 prefer to hear from the brands they follow via online video on social platforms, while the older customers want brand comms via TV ads and other traditional formats.

The pandemic has changed consumer behaviour significantly as only 10% say their daily lives are continuing as normal with the majority now social distancing to ease the strain on health services and reduce the chances of contracting the virus.

The time spent indoors has resulted in a spike in mobile usage with 81% of Millennials now logging onto social media more than they were before. Around half of all respondents are also indulging in more home entertainment.

There are other offline hobbies that consumers are enjoying though. Two-thirds say they have spent more time following recipes, cooking meals and baking goods during the last month, while 43% have devoted more hours to reading books.

All of these changes offer brands the chance to tweak campaigns to deliver the content that consumers need during this difficult time.


Organic search results are more trustworthy and relevant than ads but the majority of marketers would still choose paid search over SEO according to a new report released by BestSEOCompanies.

The study, titled ‘SERP Success: Comparing Google Ads vs. SEO’, polled 496 business owners and 522 search engine users to compare and contrast opinions about Google Ads usage and SEO methods.

There are benefits to both approaches and the two tactics can often work in tandem, and in an ideal world marketers would make use of paid and SEO to deliver the return on investment (ROI) and results their companies crave.

The effectiveness of the two tactics is not in question as 87% of respondents said SEO works for them. 90% said the same for Google Ads. The vast majority also believe they are “worthwhile”, “beneficial” and “important”. On average, marketers are spending $2,314 on SEO and $2,466 on Google Ads.

However, when asked what they would choose if only one tactic was possible, 64% of marketers would opt for Google Ads compared to 36% for SEO. This is despite the gains in key metrics that organic methods can provide in the long term.

A separate study by BrightEdge found that of all the site traffic across the web, organic search was a driver of 53% while paid was responsible for just 15%.

Marketers may prefer paid search as it is generally easier to track and measure compared to SEO, and can support campaigns from a standing start whereas organic needs more time and commitment to deliver results.

While marketers prefer paid, the consumers polled for the survey showed a strong inclination for organic results as they are deemed more trustworthy and relevant. This is backed up by the fact that 84% said they regularly click on these results compared to the 45% who do for paid search.

In fact, organic search results are more popular than any other feature in Google SERPs, way ahead of images, top stories, featured businesses, featured snippets and popular products.

More worrying for marketers is that only 11% of users believe search ads are relevant to the queries they input into Google despite the latter’s use of a “Quality Score” to improve the quality of ad content.

The good news is that marketers don’t have to choose between the two in reality as SEO and paid search methods such as pay per click (PPC) complement one another and can be used alongside content marketing to improve the quality of campaigns.

Marketers do, however, need to get some sort of documented roadmap or list of tactics down as only 30% say they implement a SEO strategy to boost their organic rankings according to another study by the Manifest.

Skill gaps could be contributing to the problem as SEO is a difficult undertaking to manage effectively as a small or micro business. SMEs are by and large, work on SEO in-house and on a part time basis. Working with an agency or outsourcing activities to professional freelancers could help.