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Content marketing will be a primary focus for brands during the next 12 months, as 60% expect to spend more on digital resources and ads during that time, according to a new report released by Dentsu Aegis Network.

Titled Brands Win in the Digital Economy: CMO Survey 2018, the report found that content marketing is now ubiquitous across the whole business spectrum but that larger organisations are really doubling down on these activities. Almost half said their budgets will increase by 5% or more, and only one in 20 said they envisage content spend falling during the next year.

Confidence is high among chief marketing officers (CMOs) in the financial, technology and automotive sectors, as all expect to drive great returns for marketing strategies. However, there remain a few key challenges as CMOs attempt to leverage new tech to identify opportunities and make sense of big data and the wider digital economy.

The main concern for CMOs is the lack of control they have over digital investments or new programs that their company is focusing on, as this can often make it more difficult to deliver successful marketing campaigns. Linking different channels and elements to aid the customer’s experience is another concern.

Data will be a prized asset for CMOs during the next two to three years, as 71% say it provides the biggest strategic opportunity, especially when attempting to reach and engage with real people. However, 68% claim extracting insights from growing data sets is harder.

“Content is king” is now a well-worn mantra, but it still rings true for marketers, as 72% of respondents said high-quality content will be a top priority during the next year.

A separate study by Havas has again highlighted the key role content plays in making a brand “meaningful” to consumers. The Meaningful Brands study found that 60% of the content that brands produce does not provide any added value to end users. Therefore, working with the right partner, such as an expert third-party agency, can make a difference to ROI and engagement.

Havas analytics officer Maria Garrido says brands that fail to step up and deliver the content consumers need risk disappearing entirely and claims that the number of brands that will do so will “be worse” year-on-year as customer expectations increase.

Therefore, brands must think about their dispensability and consider how to reboot content to create meaningful and lasting bonds with audiences. Garrido believes content needs varying by brand, category and consumer and that marketers must know how to serve up articles, blogs, videos and infographics that end users really want to engage with.

She adds: “If you take the healthcare sector, consumers have an expectation that first and foremost, the content should be about helping them. And the second thing is it should be about informing them.” Garrido concludes that content must reinforce and fulfil consumer expectations but urged brands to use a mix of entertaining, informative and educational resources to get the job done.”


Optimising content for search engines is a crucial process for B2B brands, as 87% of their audiences say they find relevant articles, blogs and news using Google, Bing and other leading search platforms.

That is the primary takeaway from a new study released by Clutch earlier this week. Content has long been seen a prime outlet for B2B enterprises to push thought leadership pieces and engaging prose, but the findings suggest SEO services are particularly important for amplifying the power of these messages and ensuring they are visible to the right people, at the right time.

The study noted that search engines can support a sort of snowball effect, as featuring on the first page of Google listings can then lead to more people clicking through to a corporate website and then making a purchase of a product or service or developing a lucrative relationship with a client.

“SEO remains an important way for B2B audiences to find content,” Content Marketing Institute, vice president, Kim Moustos said. “Don’t forget, though, that it involves optimizing content not just for search engines, but also for the people behind the queries.”

In 2018, optimising for search is very much centred around serving up content that provides value to the end user rather than merely checking boxes in the hope of it performing well in SERPs. However, search is just one aspect of the content mix, as 85% said they find business content via social media.

An additional 75% said they go to a company’s website for this content. How well a B2B brand can link these channels and put its content front and centre will play a major role in the success of digital marketing efforts.

“We produce a wide range of content, whether it be social media or content for our own website,” Digital Third Coast digital marketing manager, Mike Theodore said. “The goal is to drive organic traffic to our company and our service offerings, to be seen and heard as industry leaders, and to build a level of credibility with prospective employees, clients, and strategic partners.”

Blogs or articles are the most popular content formats for B2B audiences, but the study found that a broad, diverse content portfolio is best in today’s multi-device, multi-platform world. In terms of topics, tech leads the consumption stakes, ahead of small business and workplace/personnel.

Content consumption habits are also centred around the sale funnel and what an end user needs at a specific point in time. For example, during the awareness phase, almost half read blogs and articles, while product descriptions are more popular for those in the interest stage.

Theodore added: “We’re very conscious of the content we produce for our clients based on their different stages of purchasing. We’re always conscious to write to the best ‘persona.’” The good news continues for B2B brands, as audiences now engage with at least one piece of content every week, though Theodore believes the actual numbers could be even higher.


Four out of five brands are now confident that their digital marketing efforts are working, according to a new survey from B2B research enterprise Clutch. The belief is driven, in part, by the growing desire among consumers to read, watch and view content on their smartphones.

83% of businesses say they are effectively achieving their goals through digital marketing. The connected device revolution has been crucial in this growing confidence, as brands say it has given them more of a direct line of communication, making it easier to engage with audiences regularly compared to traditional marketing and ads.

“That number is high because digital marketing is where customers are,” said Flynn Zaiger, CEO of digital marketing agency Online Optimism. “Walking down the street, people aren’t looking at billboards or checking newspapers – they’re staring at their phones.”

It is no surprise that social media is the most popular form of digital marketing, as this allows brands to get in touch with millions of people across various platforms every day. Websites are the second most popular, ahead of email, which still takes a prominent role in the marketing mix.

More than half say content marketing will be a top channel in 2018, and a similar number said the same for mobile apps and display and banner ads. Respondents believe content and other digital channels are an excellent outlet for pushing evolving brand stories and messages, something other mediums struggle to support.

“People are responsive when you have the ability to tell your brand story, whether it’s on social media, your website, or email,” Jeremy Greenberg, founder of web design agency 97 Switch, said. “With other mediums, there’s not as much ability to tell your story.”

While content and social media reign supreme, SEO is falling out of favour among brands, as they believe it requires too much effort to get right. This appears to be a major blind spot for marketers, as a failure to invest in SEO can make it more difficult to drive maximum ROI from digital channels and corporate websites.

“Businesses have a harder time with SEO,” Jon Borg Breen, co-founder of B2B agency Symbiont Group said. “It’s not as immediately impactful as having a brand-new design on your website that people can say, ‘Wow, that looks cool.'” Experts still state that SEO is an essential component in the marketing mix and that while it may not deliver immediate returns, it will elevate channels in the long term.

Finally, when asked why they continue to invest in digital marketing, almost a third said it was primarily used to drive profits. Many brands still use digital content to push consumers along the sales cycle more effectively. However, the survey also found that small to medium-sized enterprises are leveraging digital marketing to improve brand awareness, while large organisations use it to stand out from competitors.

Online Optimism CEO Flynn Zaiger added: “Using your digital marketing to help differentiate yourself will get you more leads and increase your close rate, an essential growth strategy for larger companies.”


A new study by Walker Sands Communications has found that marketers are struggling to keep pace with ongoing advances in technology, as just 28% believe they can leverage its full potential in strategies and content campaigns.

The study, titled Maximizing the Value of Martech Innovations, takes an in-depth look at the role of tech in marketing and attempts to determine whether brands are keeping pace with the ever-quickening march of new innovations and changes. The major takeaway is that it continues to be a major challenge.

While tech is a source of frustration, marketers are not shying away from investment, as 65% said they will spend more on martech during the next 12 months, while only 5% expected their budgets in this area to contract during that time. Three in ten say their budgets will remain steady.

Content marketing continues to be one of the most popular tech outlets for brands as 48% said news, blogs, videos and other creative resources were at the core of their martech solutions. Email marketing was also popular, while CRM and analytics are quickly gaining ground.

Making better use of data to inform content decisions has been a key trend this year, so it is no surprise that marketers are turning to AI, automation and machine learning to improve strategies. There is less experimentation in email marketing, where best-of-breed solutions appear to be slightly less important.

The move to AI implementation has started, but it is not widespread just yet. Just 11% believe they are fully capable of leveraging AI and machine learning, but a similar number are part of the way there, with an additional 17% only just getting these digital-focused initiatives off the ground.

The Internet of Things (IoT) and the growing variety of connected devices have been more of a focus for marketers with 26% revealing they have implemented IoT effectively. All the tech links in some way to data, and this will continue to be an important area for brands moving forward.

Top marketers from a selection of the world’s biggest brands, including Coca-Cola and Lazada, recently met up to discuss the critical role that data is now playing in making smart decisions and the need to track and analyse metrics to support brand safety and a wider transparent media landscape.

Digital-savvy marketers are better placed to make use of data to power decisions, but many of those present admitted that there are additional hurdles that are preventing brands from maximising their return on investment. Relevant topics, such as ad fraud and viewability errors, were discussed.

Meanwhile, Fonterra’s director of creative and media, Graham Woodall, said brands that have yet to truly embrace digital transformation schemes may be able to use this hesitancy to their advantage, as they will be able to approach new tech in a better way.

He said: “We’re at quite an early stage when it comes to doing anything interesting with digital. I look at that as a real positive in a funny way. Yes, it is sad that we are years behind a lot of the other contemporary brands, but the good news is that you can actually look at what’s out there and decide what you want to be. I think that’s a real advantage.”


Cutting-edge tech will underpin digital marketing strategies at large retailers during the next 12 months. According to the latest CMO Performance Report published by QueryClick, two-thirds are planning to invest in artificial intelligence and machine learning.

The content marketing landscape is becoming increasingly saturated, and brands believe they need to find new ways to cut through the noise. Making better use of data is seen as essential for gaining a competitive edge. This approach will enable brands to understand how customers are using different channels and platforms, so they can serve up relevant messages at the right time.

150 chief marketing officers at enterprises that have an e-commerce site, and revenues exceeding £150m, were surveyed for the 2018 report. 66% said machine learning and the use of software applications and algorithms to learn and predict outcomes would dominate their spend in 2018 and early 2019.

Voice-powered search has not truly taken off yet despite the popularity of personal assistants, such as Alexa, but three-quarters of CMOs said they will overhaul their SEO strategies soon to have a better chance of ranking on the first page of voice search rankings. About 43% said this will happen during the next 12 months, while 32% expect to wait a little longer before doing so.

Just 3% of the brands surveyed said they had already optimised SEO for voice search queries. This area is of growing importance, as consumers are now making 50 billion searches by voice every month. Those that trailblaze could reap huge benefits in terms of driving traffic.

Influencer marketing is now maturing after bursting onto the digital scene several years ago, and 63% of CMOs said they would continue to invest in high-profile individuals, celebrities and other people to promote services and products. A recent report found influencer marketing soared by 198% last year.

“Consumer attention is under an unprecedented assault from brand messaging and content across more channels than ever before, and retailers are fiercely competing for their share,” QueryClick founder and CEO, Chris Liversidge, said. “Amidst the challenges, however, lie opportunities for retailers able to rebuild their strategies using data science to truly understand what consumers want, and consistently engage with them.”

Content marketing trends in 2018 have been dominated by personalisation and engaging with consumers across a growing number of digital touchpoints, so it is no surprise that brands are looking to new technology to improve how they approach this more complex undertaking and better drive their return on investment from general digital endeavours.

Liversidge added: “An investment in digital, including machine learning technology, that allows retailers to track and unify the customer journey across all channels, and allows them to deliver timely, targeted messages to capture demand, is fundamental to their success.”

A separate report published by Qualtrics last week found a quarter of marketers still rely on “gut instincts” rather than data analytics to inform decision making and campaign strategies. Two-thirds said they don’t have the time perform “complex analysis”.



Google is set to roll out a new “Speed Update” feature to boost mobile-optimised content in search engine rankings. A new study from Searchmetrics shows that pages tailored for smartphones are already performing much better overall.

The new update will arrive next month as Google continues its focus on serving up super-fast content on mobile devices. Time is certainly of the essence for brands that are not mobile-ready, as the study indicates they are already falling behind. Their poorer ranking results are likely to be even more pronounced when the update goes live in July.

Searchmetrics analysed thousands of organic mobile searches to gather the data for its study, titled Mobile Speed Study 2018. The major takeaway is that the content ranking at the very top of SERPs loads significantly faster compared to pages farther down the page. In many cases, the faster-loading content loads in less than a second.

Google has been at the forefront of mobile-optimised content with its AMP initiative, and the study found that pages using this open standard feature on the first page for six out of ten searches. Google says AMP doesn’t provide a boost to rankings by default, but it does provide a better user experience, which is one of the reasons why these pages perform so well.

“The research suggests there is already some correlation between page speed and mobile rankings − and Google’s Speed Update is only going to make this stronger,” Searchmetrics Director for Marketing & Communication, Cliff Edwards said. “So webmasters need to be continually testing and finding ways to optimise their web pages for speed. Overall this is going to mean plenty of work for many sites as even in the top five positions 32% of search results took longer than three seconds to load.”

The media industry was one of the first to adopt AMP en masse, and the study shows that 87% of media-related searches deliver at least one of these optimised pages. This result puts media well ahead of other sectors, such as finance (67%), travel (56%) and e-commerce (59%).

Edwards added: “While AMP content most commonly appears in topical news and media related searches – for which it was originally intended − it is also now seen in over half of the first page results in finance, e-commerce and travel searches. So there is evidence that some non-media sites are starting to take advantage of the user experience and speed benefits of AMP.”

Content consumption on smartphones is soaring around the world, so it makes sense for brands to optimise their content and SEO strategies to account for mobile’s growing dominance. The new Speed Update feature will finally make page load speed a determining factor in SERPs, and Google is likely to continue its push to serve up faster and more relevant content for users. Moving forward, brands still need to do more to ensure they are at the top of the pack in terms of quick-loading content.



Brands in the travel and hospitality industry are turning to content marketing to deliver more personalised messages to audiences, according to new research by digital enterprises MailCharts, Liveclicker, SmarterHQ and Cheetah Digital.

The study, titled “Marketers Are on a Mission: The State of B2C Marketing,” takes an in-depth look at the various marketing activities that brands in the travel industry are leveraging to connect and engage with customers. There is currently a laser focus on content, as it allows brands to deliver higher-quality ads and messages compared to “mass marketing” methods, such as email.

Almost three-quarters of millennials are frustrated at the number of “irrelevant” emails they receive each day, so it is perhaps no surprise that brands are looking to use more engaging and innovative forms of communication to appeal to both young and older audiences. In fact, two-thirds of B2C marketers in travel are now aiming to provide personalised messages rather than a one-size-fits-all message.

“While ‘personalization’ has been a buzzword with marketers for years, it’s clear that brands have yet to master tailored messaging; as consumers are growing increasingly frustrated by generic communications that don’t align to their specific tastes, interests, or behaviors,” SmarterHQ CEO Michael Osborne said.

Data has been a headline topic in recent months with the arrival of GDPR, and travel brands are eager to make use of the growing mass of information they collect to serve up better content to people across the web. More than half of the respondents said personalisation was a priority; however critically, the report noted that brands still must get better at using data to support their marketing objectives.

“When it comes to personalization, data is paramount,” Cheetah Digital’s executive vice president for global marketing, Judd Marcello said. “Customer data is typically underused or used inefficiently. It tells brands, especially retailers, so much about where they can improve or what their customers want, and they can use that data to make a big impact on their business.”

There are now a variety of digital touchpoints available for brands to engage with audiences. In fact, almost one-fifth of marketers are planning to spend more to improve their multi-channel content output, with social media and mobile apps among the most popular platforms. Marketers are also investing more in running ads across a variety of channels rather than opting for a single channel approach.

While customers often see email marketing as a nuisance, 54% of the brands surveyed said it still delivers the best return on investment overall. The technology has been in place for some time now, making it a cost-effective and consistent means for getting in touch with customers. Behavioural emails will take centre stage in the future, with 30% of the brands planning to spend more in this area, which again shows the need to make better use of big data and analytics. Around 30% of the brands are also turning to cutting-edge technology, such as artificial intelligence, to improve their marketing methods.


In 2017, agencies and brands alike began to see the importance of digital marketing in targeting and connecting with niche audiences, the IAB Digital Video Centre of Excellence says. This was particularly evident with video ads. The results of the March 2018 survey of 353 media buyers and brand marketers conducted by Advertiser Perceptions indicated that 23% of video advertising budgets in many businesses are set aside specifically for ads on social media sites. IAB revealed the results of the survey in April, with 50% of all respondents claiming they intend to spend even more money on video ads over the course of the next 12 months.

Social media advertising spending

Ads on social media often incorporate video content in the form of advertisements on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook. Professional guidance can help these video ads to increase their click-through, conversion and customer acquisition rates. A third-to-a-half of a company’s advertising spending should be spent initially on content that allows scaling, according to Chamber Media’s Travis Chambers. As the advertising spending grows, content will need refreshing every quarter for a couple of reasons.

One reason is that content will become less effective as the audience watches that content multiply over time, and another is that social algorithms are aware of this and that content’s reach will also begin to decrease if there is not enough new content being uploaded. However, evergreen content can be served to new audiences continually and still retain its effectiveness. For high-converting mobile video, the most effective format is to have a hook within the first couple of seconds that will keep the viewer interested. Make sure both the problem and its solution are referenced very early, and then use humour, strong calls to action to entice a purchase, with press references and testimonials included to enhance credibility.


With social media videos, many advertisers have rather polarised strategies, either being of a more traditional mindset and expecting to get results with a focus on brand awareness or more focused on e-commerce and immediate sales, often at the brand’s expense. These mindsets are correct together but not independently. Both avenues are required to achieve success, with several brands making huge top-funnel video adverts for social media but lacking any plan to ensure the customer stays engaged afterwards. Once the high funnel video has been served, it should be followed up to the same consumers with mid-to-low-funnel content that gives credibility, offers reminders and creates a sense of urgency, such as offers, origin stories and product demonstrations.

Mistakes to avoid

One easily avoidable but common mistake in regard to social media buying is viewing numbers in a vacuum, with many marketers examining ad platforms individually rather than as a whole. This mistake can result in a misinterpretation of failure when the opposite is true. A holistic mindset is vital when judging the effectiveness of campaigns. Another common mistake is using lower-paid junior ad buyers with limited experience, which rarely works out. It is far better to invest more in elite advertising buying talent, which over time can end up being worth millions.


Matt Hancock, the UK culture secretary, thinks that children should not be allowed to have overnight access to mobile phones, and he does not allow his own children to have them at all. However, he does not agree that the nation should follow the lead of the French government by creating legislation on the issue. Digital issues are included in Hancock’s brief, but the culture secretary says that while it is everyone’s responsibility, including parents, to ensure that children remain safe online, the government can make certain that internet companies properly police terms and conditions on their sites.

Hancock draws the line at the idea of more direct intervention by the UK government to control the level of exposure that children can have to new technology in a manner like that employed by the French. A law enacted in 2010 in that country bans phones from classrooms. Emmanuel Macron, the nation’s President, has gone even further, with youngsters under the age of 15 not allowed to use them at school at all from September this year. Hancock does not believe it is appropriate for the law to go this far, saying that society needs to mature to get the most from the “amazing and brilliant” technology instead of using it badly. However, he acknowledges that it is difficult for parents when children often understand the new technology more than they do and there are no previously established social norms to help them with guidance.

Despite this, Hancock is more stringent when it comes to other ways of regulating the internet, reiterating his intention to enact legislation forcing social media companies to be responsible for the content that is available on their platforms. He says that the UK may choose to craft its own legislation on the issue if an international coalition could not support such regulation. He made these comments ahead of the start of London Tech Week, which is designed to promote the digital industry in the nation’s capital city.

The rules regulating children’s access to the internet on many high-profile social networks have been tightened with the advent of the European General Data Protection Regulation. The law sets the minimum age that children should be allowed to have a social media account at 13, with fines of up to €20m or 4% of annual worldwide turnover, depending on which is higher, for those firms breaking that law. The age at which users can consent to data processing has also been set at 16 by default unless countries enact specific legislation to lower it. This action has already taken place in the UK, with the age lowered to 13 because of the Data Protection Act 2018. Several social networks have already tightened their practices as a result, although the government has given few details as to the nature of any possible future legislation on the issue.


Brands are only spending a fraction of their advertising budgets on mobile content even though smartphones now account for more than two-thirds of measured site traffic, according to a new in-depth report published by Gartner L2.

Mobile devices have soared in popularity for content consumption during the last few years as the public pivots towards small-screen devices to read the latest news, articles, blogs and watch videos. However, it appears that brands have yet to fully adapt their campaigns and strategies to cater towards this latest trend.

Gartner L2 noted that mobile content consumption was traditionally associated with “top-of-funnel” awareness but has now evolved into something much greater that can have a real and lasting impact on revenue and growth. Gartner L2 studied 400 consumer brands to identify new trends, best practices and case studies as marketers continue to optimise their content and ad campaigns across devices and platforms.

The major takeaway is that brands that don’t optimise their content for mobile consumption are missing out. A sizeable 67% of measured site traffic for brands is now attributed to smartphones, and to a lesser extent, tablets, but brands are investing just 13% of their total ad spend on mobile content.

“Mobile has expanded from a top-of-funnel awareness device to a legitimate transaction point for brands,” Gartner L2 VP of Intelligence, Evan Neufeld said. “However, even as consumers increase their reliance on mobile phones, the majority of brands continue to underinvest in mobile marketing initiatives. Those who fail to prioritise mobile risk losing sales and consumers to competing brands who understand the degree to which mobile phones are constantly connected to their customer bases.”


Gartner L2’s Senior Associate, Evan Bakker, added that brands can overhaul their mobile marketing efforts by delivering higher quality content and ads to smartphones, improving their targeting with sophisticated platforms and investing more money in Google’s Shopping Ads. Bakker said this is very important in an era where “cross-device purchase” journeys are becoming increasingly prevalent.

In other branded content news, research from online news site Topix has found that brands that tap into a consumer’s history and nostalgia during the creative process can reap the rewards through higher levels of engagement. Audiences also react strongly to schadenfreude and humour.

Topix looked at the highest grossing brand stories since 2013 with the aim of uncovering the emotions that lead to the highest levels of engagement. The study indicates that marketers can benefit from being more attuned to the emotions of their customer base, as knowing how they will react and behave can help brands serve up more relevant and personalised content.

“We’re in times that are very challenging,” Monster’s vice president of marketing, Margaret Magnarelli said. “If we don’t combine feelings with facts, we’ll lose customers. They want to feel validated.”

Nostalgia, history and schadenfreude – which is defined as a person taking pleasure somebody else’s misfortune – topped the list of emotions, with humour and pride of knowledge rounding out the top five.