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Marketers will have to use organic digital marketing to unearth new leads and drive brand awareness after a new study by Martech found that professionals in the industry do not expect in-person events to take place until the second half of 2021.

The latest ‘Event Participation Index’ polled 300 marketers in the US and found that on average, there is currently a 30% chance that respondents will attend an in-person event during the next twelve months as concerns about the global pandemic continue.

With social distancing guidelines and measures still in place both in the US and across Europe, marketers are facing up to a lengthy period where traditional marketing channels like events will not be available to them.

While this would have been a major blow in the past, the study found digital is picking up the slack as the vast majority of professionals are satisfied with the marketing alternatives they have at their disposal.

Live events are usually a great way for brands to meet new contacts and clients, establish relationships, build brand awareness and affinity, all of which feed into increasing sales and revenue and generally helping companies to thrive.

Fortunately, marketers can deploy content marketing to support many of these objectives and push thought leadership and credibility.

The Martech study stated that “content is still king” and that the pause in live events will give marketers ample opportunity to focus on the quality of content that is published.

In addition to blogs, articles, news and videos, brands can also host events online where they can make use of new features like live polling and interactive question and answer elements to engage the audience.

However, Martech sounds a note of caution, adding that virtual events can be more challenging to manage than live events as a robust tech infrastructure and talented team of producers are usually required.

Marketers will have time to hone their skills though as 70% of respondents said online-based will be the only form of event they would consider attending until a vaccine for Covid-19 is available.

Eight in ten say they have already attended a virtual event experience since the outbreak in March and three-quarters were happy with how it went and what they were able to take away from it.

For companies that have been forced to cancel in-person events this year, 80% say they decided to switch to a virtual event but many have also been supplementing the new experience with different forms of content.

Almost two-thirds say they have hosted online education sessions during the last three months and almost half (47%) have published sponsored or exhibitor content during the same period.

It seems the disruption has prompted many companies to not only embrace digital marketing but to get more creative with formats and channels to reach out to customers and potential clients.

Whether many will switch back to live events in the future remains to be seen but for now, virtual events and other forms of content will be a top priority for brands during the remainder of 2020 and into 2021.


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.”


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.


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.


Marketers want greater access to “customer attention” metrics as they believe more in depth data about content consumption and viewability would drive better performance from campaigns and strategies.

A new study published by Forrester Consulting, titled ‘Attention 2.0: Enhancing Ad Measurement Beyond Clicks & Viewability’, attempts to determine whether customer attention metrics can support more favourable outcomes across the marketing and advertising pipeline.

The conclusion is unanimous. Out of the 164 brand marketers in a range of industries including automotive and retail, 98% said deeper attention metrics would drive greater value for their respective companies and improve returns and ROI over an extended period.

Making sense of data is big business for modern brands but a sizable 84% of marketers said they are not able to keep a track of customer attention when consuming content, especially during mobile ads.

It is no surprise then that four in five marketers said they are eager for more access to pools of customer attention data that can really make a difference to the quality of decision making and to support other positive outcomes.

If they had better access, two-thirds of respondents said they would attempt to improve the process of retargeting and get a better handle on the frequency of ads they need to publish, as well as enhance click-through rates.

With data taking on great import across the business, 63% of respondents said their organisations are planning to spend more on customer attention metrics in 2020, making it a core focus for marketing in general.

Moving back to the use cases for customer attention data, a majority of marketers also want to hone in on metrics to see what can help to “drive brand lift”.

A further 58% also want to be able to test creative to see what formats and mediums would be the best for generating the most attention.

Meanwhile, at a recent CMO Summit, experts have been speaking about the “attention economy” and how to put forward big brand stories to attract and engage customers on a regular basis.

Pocket Aces co-founder, Aditi Shrivastava believes audiences “no longer want to see ads” and instead, crave authentic content with strategic brand placements.

She adds: “We’ve done a lot of consumer studies directly with consumers ranging from age 15 to 35. Digital also helps you to understand their sentiment about their likes and dislikes, so you not only know if they’ve seen your brand but whether they have received the message or not.”

Shrivastava also outlined a few different methods for tracking ROI effectively. For brands with an online presence and a mobile app, measuring downloads is the path with the least resistance to better metrics. For offline brands, marketers should conduct brand studies and look to create a regular content schedule.

She says content should not be viewed as a “one-time activity” and needs to be optimised depending on a company’s needs, goals, and wider targets. It also needs to have a ROI driven mindset behind it to ensure returns are viable from the get-go.


Enterprise marketers need to use content during every phase in which a customer interacts with their company as it is essential for delivering ‘great’ experiences, a new study by Content Marketing Institute (CMI) has found.

Enterprise marketing is naturally grander in scale and scope than traditional marketing as it combines different departments and activities across an organisation to drive sales and attract and retain large audiences.

The latest report by CMI, titled ‘Enterprise Content Marketing 2020: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America’ has uncovered a direct link between the deployment of content during each stage of the cycle, which generally starts with ‘awareness’ and concludes with ‘action’, and the quality of experiences.

More than half of enterprise marketers working for a brand delivering ‘optimal’ customer experiences say that their content marketing strategies and campaigns are either ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ successful.

Those using content every time a customer interacts with their company are enjoying greater success.

Just 29% of all respondents are managing high-quality content marketing activities and those who do not are struggling to deliver the experiences that their customers demand.

CMI general manager Stephanie Stahl said that the report shows that brands deploying content regularly are not only providing great experiences but are also truly focused on the needs of their audience.

This can pay off in a number of ways at the point of sale and further down the line as brand retention and loyalty comes into play.

Speaking about successful enterprise marketers, she added: “They give their audience what they want and need, when and where they need it.

“They create content based on specific points/stages of the buyer journey.

“Their content creates credibility and trust. On top of that, they view their role as directly connected to sales.”

Stahl also believes that content ties everything together and is able to unite disparate moving parts to ensure that customer experiences are seamless from the first interaction to the last.

In large-scale enterprise marketing, this is very important.

Enterprise marketers are also becoming more strategic as 46% now have some sort of documented strategy for content marketing in place.

There have been notable strides in this area as only 36% said the same 12 months ago.

While content is a unifying influence, the actual act of coordinating content creation and distribution is still proving to be a challenge as 62% say that this is their top issue for the year ahead.

Back in 2019, the same challenge came out on top.

There is also room for improvement in terms of deploying content after every touch point as just 44% said that they agree that their organisation can deliver seamless, optimal experiences during the entire sales and engagement cycle.

The 10th annual study shows that for brands naturally eager for customers to return and buy products and services a number of times, content can play a major role in strengthening ties, trust and loyalty.

Nine in 10 providing optimal experiences value the creativity and craft that’s central to content creation and a similar number strongly believe that relevant content needs to be distributed at points when individual customers can see it most.


UK companies are heading into 2020 with renewed optimism and plans for greater marketing spend as uncertainty surrounding Brexit subsides and the political environment becomes more stable, the latest quarterly IPA Bellwether Report has found.

During the final three months of 2019, a net balance of +4% of enterprises increased the scope of their marketing budgets, a marked uptick on the -0.5% figure recorded during the previous quarter.

The rate of expansion in Q4 is the strongest for almost two years and suggests that companies are now ready to invest heavily in content, advertising and other marketing endeavours as the new year gets underway.

The report expects the feel-good factor to prevail for some time as its preliminary outlook for the 2020/21 period shows a net balance of +15.7% for companies expecting budgets to grow during the next 12 months or so.

Brexit has cast a shadow over marketing planning since 2016, but that gloom now appears to be lifting as a more resolute outcome approaches with the UK expected to formally leave the EU on 31st January.

A number of the surveyed companies said that they have been motivated to spend more on marketing since the result of the General Election, which saw the Conservatives deliver a landslide victory and a large majority.

IPA director general Paul Bainsfair believes that it will not be “plain sailing” just yet as Brexit has been such an arduous process that marketing leaders and decision-makers are still tentative about future planning.

However, the signs are pointing to greater investment in content marketing and other activities such as PR, sales promotions and events among UK companies this year.

IHS Markit economist Joe Hayes added: “It appears that firms are looking to release the pent-up investment which has been put on hold amid the high degree of political and economic uncertainty which has plagued the UK business climate for well over 12 months now.”

Since the release of the report last week, various leading figures in the marketing industry have reacted to the news of rising budgets for the year ahead.

Future Publishing CRO UK Zack Sullivan believes that the latest report shows there is a “new wave of confidence” and that digital content and marketing is particularly lucrative at the moment.

He also urged brands to be brand safe, transparent and relevant to succeed in 2020.

Peer39 managing director Andrew Morsy says that many companies in the UK used a difficult 2019 to reassess their strategies and are now attempting to drive new business leads and foster brand awareness, which are the main reasons behind the rise in investment.

Meanwhile, M&C Saatchi Performance managing director Libby Robinson recommends a focus on return on investment and performance during the first year of the new decade as this will minimise inefficiencies and support better campaigns across the entire funnel.

The report found that around a quarter of companies observed a growth in budgets in Q4, while 58% saw spending allocation remain unchanged.


Social media management will be high on the list of priorities for SMEs and large companies in 2020 as 75% are expecting to increase investments in marketing across social platforms during the next 12 months, according to a new report from Slickdeals.

The ‘Embracing Social Commerce: Strategies, Successes, and Future Investments among Retailers’ study found that social media is now a prime battleground for engaging with customers and driving sales.

The rise of social and its collective billion-strong audience has also turned online shopping on its head, creating a new dynamic where many brands can drive as much commerce on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms as standard e-commerce websites.

Social commerce was just a fledgling concept five years ago, but it has since evolved into a vast and varied network, allowing brands to publish content and deliver experiences that support the online selling of products and services.

The use of social networks to push e-commerce transactions has become so important that three quarters of brands will be looking to spend more on social media marketing during the first year of the new decade.

Social commerce is widely practiced, with 89% of respondents in the survey saying that they are already utilising it or are expecting to do so within the next two years.

High-quality content should be at the core of customer engagement, but actually getting a meaningful strategy together remains a challenge for companies.

More than four in 10 said that their biggest struggle is developing and enacting a social strategy.

Meanwhile, 38% want to build a reputation centred around trust and loyalty to attract and retain the interest of consumers, which often involves using content to build on emotional bonds established during previous interactions and transactions.

Companies often use the metric ‘attribution’ to measure the value of engagement on social media as this allows them to see who has signed up for a newsletter or made a purchase.

First-click attribution gives full credit to the very first interaction regardless of the journey afterwards, while the inverse is true for last-click attribution.

The study found that 33% of respondents assign to the first click and 34% to the last-click.

Slickdeals’ senior VP Tom Straszewski says: “We see that those who invest more heavily in social commerce tend to look more at first click versus last click attribution, given that a consumer’s first click represents the beginning of their overall engagement with a brand and, thereby, the most meaningful step in the customer journey.”

As the new year begins, Forbes believes that social media has shortened attention spans and expects “snippety visuals” to be among the best forms of content for communication during the coming months.

Social will be an excellent outlet for these shorter, bite-sized forms of content, which can complement longer, editorial blogs and articles on corporate websites.

Forbes says that hitting the “sweet spot” in terms of audience attention will be crucial in 2020 as dynamic customers find new ways to consume content and interact with their favourite brands.