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29/Jun/2020
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Branded content is better at improving brand perception and eliciting positive emotions from consumers compared to traditional linear ads according to a new study published by Channel 4.

The research found 60% of viewers had a positive view of branded entertainment and 70% rated it highly in terms of originality, entertainment value and quality, suggesting content funded and produced by companies can have a greater impact than standard ad campaigns.

Channel 4 recently worked with Age UK to create a series of branded entertainment titled ‘Old Peoples Home for 4 Year Olds’ and it found that brand perceptions changed considerably after it aired.

The number of people that viewed Age UK as an ‘uplifting brand’ soared by 51% and 29% more saw the charity as ‘caring and compassionate’.

The publication of videos and other forms of content with a branded yet grounded and organic feel is the way forward according to Sophie Lloyd, Channel 4’s Branded Entertainment and Creative Leader.

She says the research shows that entertaining and engaging content allows brands to deliver the authentic messages and high quality storytelling that viewers and customers crave and are willing to engage with.

For the study, Channel 4 partnered with the BVA Group for the research and published many of its key findings last week.

It found branded content is particularly effective at communicating with younger audiences who are more sceptical of traditional advertising. Gen Z views this sort of entertainment as a softer sell which leads to better brand resonance and higher levels of engagement.

However, brand alignment is important. 84% of respondents believe the brand needs to be a “logical fit” for the tone and type of content it publishes. This helps brands too as they are more likely to be closely associated with the content without the need to mention themselves or showcase logos or mottos.

A seamless alignment between content and brand leads to higher rates of approval from audiences which in turn drives more positive results across all KPIs for a brand. This increases return on investment and makes campaigns more likely to succeed in the long term.

The research also found that the power of content can result in a notable boost to brand perceptions, something that is more difficult to achieve with traditional spot advertisement. This is because it is easier to put forward a compelling message in an environment where viewers are more receptive to it.

High quality content then leads to positive brand associations. 44% of respondents said they had a more favourable view of a brand after consuming branded content and programming.

Uber saw the benefits after its ‘Where to Britain?’ campaign. The perception that the brand had a ‘sense of humour’ climbed 105% afterwards, as did the view that it had friendly drivers (+95%).

Sophie Lloyd concluded: “We’ve always believed branded entertainment delivers for brands but with this – the first research of its kind – we now have proof. It’s an opportunity for brands to co create quality editorial entertainment and weave their values and messages through storytelling and narratives that viewers want to engage with.”


30/Sep/2019
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Keeping up with the content demands of B2B consumers and partners is a major concern for decision-makers, according to a new study released last week by Episerver, which found that 84% believe that meeting digital expectations is now the single biggest “external” issue.

The ‘B2B Digital Experiences Report 2019: How Companies Are Meeting Rising Expectations’ explores the tactics and strategies being deployed by B2B companies to deliver consistent, high-quality campaigns and highlights a number of problems and challenges to overcome.

The need to provide excellent digital experiences was highlighted in a recent, separate report by Episerver, which acts a prelude to the latest exploratory research showing that 91% of B2B consumers believe that they have a better experience and think more fondly of a brand when the latter is able to publish personalised content that speaks to them.

Personalised, tailored content has been a key trend in marketing for a couple of years now, but it still remains a top priority for business-to-business organisations and will continue to shape the direction of campaigns during the next 12 months.

The study found that personalised content is the single website feature that B2Bs plan on adopting the most during the next year, with 36% saying that they plan to focus on personalisation, putting it ahead of mobile experience improvements (33%).

The emergence of cutting-edge technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) is making it easier for B2B brands to improve personalisation, and 82% revealed that they will use AI during the next three years to increase the quality of their digital experiences.

“Consumers expect more from our organizations every day,” Episerver’s senior director of content management strategy Deane Barker noted in a statement.

He added: “Unfortunately, the accounting department expects…well, less. Digital marketers are in a tug-of-war between rising expectations and dwindling budgets. With this report, we’ve looked at the factors pushing and pulling these teams toward their decision points. If you work in digital marketing, I promise you’ll see yourself somewhere in these results.”

Personalised content also fits neatly into the trend of one-click purchases on e-commerce sites as it helps to streamline a buyer’s journey by providing the information they need to take action and buy products and services without having to navigate elsewhere.

The previous ‘B2B Digital Experiences Report’ by Episerver found that the majority of B2B enterprises are at least using basic web personalisation but that there is significant room for improvement in terms of providing content that consumers crave to drive engagement and sales.

One in five B2Bs say that they see the growing number of digital channels they use as an opportunity for even better personalised customer experiences, and those able to act on this will see happier consumers who believe that companies actually care about their journeys with a brand.

Another report released last week by Uberflip and Heinz Marketing defined the new “marketing standard”, which is based around data and content.

It said: “The new standard is centered around a buyer experience that’s built around ease of access and discovery, frictionless consumption, personalized and relevant suggestions, and curated engagement paths – a buyer experience designed to delight, engage, enable, and empower better decisions.”


24/Sep/2018
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According to a new study published by B2B research enterprise Clutch, brands that produce business content with added value will benefit from a snowball effect of enhanced awareness, engagement and retention. The study also outlines a range of interesting trends and information for marketers.

The good news is that content marketing appears to be working as intended. Almost nine in ten of those surveyed said they had completed the purchase of a brand’s product or service after consuming content online, while more two-thirds believe the articles, blogs, videos and infographics they consume are either useful and valuable in some way.

Content marketing can trigger positive actions from consumers in a variety of ways. For example, more than half said they would take the time to research what a brand offers if they deem a piece of content to be engaging and offering added value. The report notes that giving “value first” is a preferable strategy, as it will feed into awareness, search intent and sales further down the line.

While 33% said that the content they consume is often “biased and unreliable,” these materials would not put them off from purchasing a product entirely. On the contrary, almost three-quarters of people said they had bought goods or services from a brand despite their concerns about the quality of content marketing.

Content that is transparent and unique will drive engagement and sales in the best way for brands, but the results suggest less reliable promotional resources may also have a place in the marketing mix. However, marketers need to approach with caution, as it is difficult to get right.

“I think audiences can find content marketing biased and unreliable if the content is, in fact, biased and unreliable; audiences aren’t stupid,” said Arron Richmond, a content manager for High Speed Training. “This is a gigantic missed opportunity because the one thing content marketing should aim to achieve, above all else, is increasing a customer’s confidence to buy from you.”

Targeting value is still the best method for serving up content that audiences want to engage with, and Clutch believes there are three primary factors involved. The first is to produce content tailored to the specific preferences and issues of an audience, using keyword research and customer outreach to underscore topics that will resonate.

Brands should also showcase their expertise by doubling down on a “core question.” This practice allows writers to answer with authority while hitting the bullet points that audiences want from content. Finally, brands should optimise for SEO, as 87% said they use Google and other search engines to find business content.

The study also unearthed a few surprising takeaways about content and what each generation prefers. Millennials are often criticised for their short attention spans and love of simple videos, but blogs and articles were the most popular with young adults and Generation X. Baby boomers also enjoy articles but prefer to read reviews and product descriptions. In contrast, just 16% of Millennials said they prefer these descriptions.


25/May/2018
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Tailoring content for search terms is vital for driving clicks and engagement, so it is no surprise that brands went to great lengths to tap into the excitement of the royal wedding to amplify the power of their articles, videos and messages across the web in the run-up to the big day last weekend.

Analytics expert Adthena has analysed a raft of organic and paid searches conducted before Prince Harry and Meghan Markle got married on 19 May with the aim of determining the winners and losers for the week. Total spending on search ads is set to soar to $95bn (£71bn) this year and represents 42% of digital investment, so this feedback should help brands ahead of other trending events this summer, such as the World Cup.

The big winners were those that referenced the potential designers of Markle’s wedding dress. Bergdorf Goodman, a luxury department store in New York City, and Matches Fashion both used the keyword “Erdem” to boost their click share significantly. Erdem is a fashion brand and one of Markle’s favourite designers.

Stella McCartney eventually got the honour of making the dress, and several fashion sites battled it out over the use of a “Stella McCartney Wedding Dress” keyword. This increased click-share for fashion site MyTheresa from 45% to 85%. However, Farfetch had the lion’s share of ad clicks on the actual wedding day, with a 72% share.

Adthena’s analysis shows how brands can optimise content campaigns around popular events with the view to driving engagement through click share. The royal wedding was a particularly attractive event for brands, as it was popular across the globe and especially in the US. In contrast to fashion sites, news outlets focused on the drama surrounding Markle’s father to improve their ranking in SERPs.

In other news, a new study from the CMO Council has highlighted the importance of brand storytelling and putting the consumer at the centre of marketing campaigns. New customer acquisition is a prime growth driver for 68% of marketing leaders, and they will need to improve end-user experience and serve up compelling and engaging content to achieve their aims.

“What we hear from our CMO clients is that they are attempting to tackle some of their organizations’ toughest challenges, sometimes losing sight of keeping the customer at the center of it all,” said Sheryl Jackson, a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP and CMO Customer Transformation Leader. “For the CMO to be effective, they have to keep the customer at the center of every conversation and figure out solutions that will drive growth. But then translate the strategy into the languages of their c-suite peers.”

A separate study by the CMO Council has also found that engaging visual content is central to any marketers’ aim to differentiate their brands in increasingly competitive e-commerce marketplaces. Brands are turning to content to offer something different to the likes of Amazon and eBay, which are yet to realise the power of engaging creative content.


05/Mar/2018
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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.”


22/Jan/2018
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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.”


08/Jan/2018
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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.


13/Nov/2017
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The importance of creating localised content for global audiences in 2018 and beyond has been highlighted again, after a new study published by tech enterprise Smartling revealed that 94% of marketers are planning to increase their investment in translation, transcreation and other strategies designed to deliver more relevant resources to consumers.

Entering new markets was traditionally a time-consuming and often expensive task laden with risk and uncertainty, but today’s connected digital world has empowered brands to offer their products and services in scores of potentially lucrative regions around the world.

Smartling’s new study, which incorporates the opinions of 300 high-level executive marketers in the US and Europe, suggests content now goes hand-in-hand with expansion and growth plans. A staggering 94% said they are aiming to up their investment in content localisation services, such as translation and transcreation, during the next year.

This suggests the value of content marketing to modern enterprises is soaring as localised resources, including news, web copy, articles and videos, are seen by brands as a critical asset for catalysing growth and increasing revenue opportunities in regions they may previously have struggled to impact in a meaningful way.

To achieve their own multinational aspirations and engage with these new audiences, marketing leaders will spend more money on tailoring mobile applications, social media platforms, websites and other forms of content so they can be consumed in many different languages. They are also planning to enter seven new markets on average next year.

“Companies active in multiple geographic markets understand the many benefits localized content can deliver, but not all know how to best leverage this powerful competitive differentiator,” Smartling’s Vice President of Marketing Juliana Pereira said in a press release. “In today’s global business environment it’s all about enhancing, tailoring and personalizing customer experiences. Providing translation in the local language goes the extra mile to show your customers that your brand speaks their language, quite literally.”

Brands believe that showing consumers they care about their culture, traditions and preferences is essential, as 80% of respondents to the survey conducted by IDG Research said localisation was vital when attempting to enter new territories. A further 88% said translation services would be required to support expansion plans.

Brands also see localisation as a primary money maker, as 74% said they see a global content outlook as a revenue driver. The extent to which localised content is a core strategy is demonstrated by 40% stating that their enterprises are already spending more than $500,000 (£380,000) every year on such services, a figure that is likely to rise even higher in the coming years.

The Global Content Marketing report published earlier this year also found that content localisation is becoming an increasingly important process for brands, though it cited resource issues, such as budget constraints, inadequate support from executives, and deadline challenges among the top reasons why many are yet to truly master the art of global content.


16/Oct/2017
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The versatility of content marketing was highlighted again this week after Spanish banking group Santander revealed how it has been using an educational content hub to reach new audiences, and a current survey found that private equity firms are leveraging engaging news and articles to build their brands.

Digital content marketing has been around for a decade now, but large organisations are still discovering how beneficial a targeted and relevant marketing campaign can be for driving positive business goals and objectives. Santander said it recently turned to content marketing after struggling to acquire customers due to a focus on product promotions.

Santander realised that its previous strategy was failing to meet the needs of its current customers and decided to create a “Prosper and Thrive” content hub to address the problem. It says high-quality content has been a core component of its strategy as informative articles have driven social engagements, website visits and email signups.

Santander has used content to demystify finances for millennials, a group of young people it claims has often “shied away” from the industry. The latest targeted campaigns have not only been practical and entertaining but have added value by improving the financial wellbeing of millennials.

“Millennial expectations have dramatically shifted. They want and expect more from their everyday experiences, which includes how they bank, who they trust and how they consume information,” Arnold Worldwide VP and Director of Engagement Planning Jessica Newton said.

She added: “Content allows us to build and nurture relationships with millennials without talking about products and services, on their time and in environments most relevant to them. Through this approach we’re able to make them more aware of who we are as a bank and shift their perception of us as a bank.”

The program launched less than a year ago, but it has already been a huge success, having driven more than a million site visits and 200,000 engagements on social platforms. The 125 published articles have also led to thousands of people opening new accounts and opting into the bank’s email initiative.

A new report from Pitchbook and BackBay Communications has also revealed how private equity firms have embraced content marketing campaigns en masse during the last two years to build their brands. Content is now seen as an asset in an increasingly competitive market where deals and funding are more difficult to secure.

Creative videos and articles are now used by almost half of the enterprises surveyed to demonstrate their expertise within the industry and company culture. Demand for excellent copy is also set to soar during the next 12 months, as 58% said they are increasing budgets to improve their visibility and reach to give themselves the best chance of succeeding.

BackBay Communications President & CEO Bill Haynes concluded: “It is essential for private equity firms today to have a professional approach to media relations — whether residing in-house or outsourced to an agency — to manage and protect their reputations and that of their portfolio companies, as well as to capitalize on positive news and demonstrate their expertise.”


09/Oct/2017
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Tech marketers are using content marketing more than ever before and are planning to invest significant amounts of money into the practice during the next 12-months, according to a new study published by Dimensional Research and 10Fold Communications earlier this week.

“Content is king” is a well-worn mantra in today’s marketing landscape but is no less relevant as brands continue to pivot towards high-quality articles, news and videos en masse to reach and engage with target audiences, increase awareness, build trust and drive conversions. The extent to which marketers are embracing content is highlighted in the new study, as 75% of respondents said the amount of content they generate would soar by 300% during 2017.

Content is now a core component of the marketing mix for most marketers, so it is no surprise to see that four in ten will spend $250,000 (£188,000) or more on creative and content campaigns over the next year. This investment is partly being driven by demand from consumers for storytelling through digital video, which requires higher quality creative processes to meet growing expectations.

Another key trend highlighted in the report is outsourcing. Many enterprises now call upon the services of digital agencies to deliver the best content campaigns possible. A staggering 99% of tech marketers said they use third parties for a quarter of their output, and 83% are happy with the quality they are getting from the third parties.

However, several challenges are preventing brands from reaching their potential as 44% claimed a lack of expertise on some subject matters is making it difficult to create excellent content, though this is another area where a digital agency could be of great assistance. Awareness of analytics is also growing, as 80% use basic tools, such as Google Analytics, to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns.

“The marketplace is constantly changing, making 10Fold research survey on content, timely and insightful. The findings should help tech marketing VPs and CMOs that are barraged with conflicting priorities build out their marketing strategies based on facts,” Dimensional Research principal, David Gehringer, said. “Based on the results of our research for 10Fold, there is no doubt that there is an insatiable demand among technology companies for content that has technical relevancy and that is delivered in a form, such as video and blogs, that is appealing to their buyers.”

Video, social media and webinars were named as the best content formats by the tech marketers surveyed, though there was more of a focus on video for top executives, which is likely to be linked with the growing investment in storytelling. Meanwhile, content calendars are now a popular resource for tracking schedules. 10Fold CEO and founder, Susan Thomas added: “Our primary goal with this research was to capture deeper analytics about content plans and budgets to help our customers and the tech community develop stronger content strategies.”