Digital marketing countdown to 2015 – 5 key trends, starting with content marketing

  • by helga
  • 28/12/2014

Key trends for digital marketing in 2015It’s been an interesting year from a professional point of view and digital challenges were the bread and butter with most of my clients.

As the holiday season sinks in and the New Year approaches, I’ve taken some time to review main highlights for 2014* and to read through several sources** for key trends in the coming year. So what’s coming up in 2015 in terms of digital marketing?

I’m bringing you 5 key trends in 5 days, one trend each day, in a sort of countdown from today until 1 January 2015.

After reading through a lot of reputable marketing sources and opinion makers, firstly I need to ask – where has the digital excitement from the beginning of 2014 gone?… I mean, it’s really dry land out there. Perhaps we have to wait until January and CES to feel enthralled by new expectations of the tech-to-come, including digital marketing? Or maybe marketers aren’t an inspiring bunch to start with, if we exclude a couple of gurus who are more into philosophy than ROI… if there were more of those, personally I’d be a happy reader.

Assuming that marketing is your thing (would you be looking at this otherwise?), read on for the first trend…

Content marketing is here to stay, which means a new type of media house will flourish (think BuzzFeed) and honest content will be more valued than ever.

Content is the largest focal point for digital marketing in 2015 – that is the consensus between brands, marketers and general public. According to a recent survey by SmartInsights, nearly one third of marketers rate content marketing as the activity which will have the biggest commercial impact in the coming year. Forbes also says content ‘will be more important than ever’ in 2015. Predictions point for web content becoming an independent part of search engine optimisation (SEO) and video having a larger role.

New media houses and content producers will flourish

As the demand for content marketing will continue to power media houses and shape in-house teams around content creation, one of the most interesting consequences is the emergence and proliferation of new media publishers. Just picture it, it makes absolute sense: in order to keep up with the demand for so much content, brands will need to buy and/or increasingly sponsor publishers to fulfil their content needs.  Partnerships with influential content creators will also become paramount, as Kissmetrics points out.

When there is so much demand for sponsored content, will independent content survive alongside ‘native’ formats? Putting it in another way, if publishers are offered more and more money for creating sponsored content, will their independent arms also strive? The question reminds me of the Borlaug paradox.

Let me explain the Borlaug paradox for those of you less familiar with agricultural history: Norman Borlaug was the father of the “Green Revolution”. His work improved food security in many countries by developing high-yield, disease resistant wheat varieties in the 60’s and 70’s. At some point, it was thought that improving the yields of staple crops would actually solve world hunger and stop farmers from clearing forests for farmland. Although Borlaug’s work was nothing short of revolutionary (the hint is in the word “Revolution”), the main benefits postulated by the Borlaug hypothesis never happened. Why? Because it turns out that farmers don’t clear forests to feed the world, they do it to make money. So helping farmers become more efficient and more productive, especially those living near forests, didn’t actually reduce the threat to forests – it increased it.

Anyone can make the news

Back to content marketing, it should be noted that transparency and ‘genuine’ content is already a worry in 2014, particularly in social media – the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) has a whole campaign around it, ‘Keep Social Honest’. E-consultancy suggests that to increase transparency around content in 2015, bloggers and other publishers will need to start disclosing payments from brands. It would be a really interesting thing to see!

The good integration of these new media publishers with social media channels accelerates the crowd effect, where influencers can make or break what is relevant or what becomes news. There is some democracy in the process, I suppose. Content curation is always a tricky endeavour and let’s be honest – it’s hard to avoid views from a privileged few to prevail. Leaving curation to a competitive market sponsoring small content nuggets that then get picked up or ditched by an entertainment-hungry crowd seems a better method than many. But from a societal point of view, it means that brands will influence our vision and our attitudes in ways far subtler (and greater) than clearly labelled advertising formats had allowed thus far.

Taken to the extreme, content marketing hides and negates all commercial interest sitting behind what we read, wear, eat, drink, drive, do, everything we buy, what we’re influenced by and even how we behave. This is not to conjure up a world where we’re merely puppets in the hands of brands; on the contrary – it’s a world where consumers have absolute power to choose what they like and where brands can only succeed by pushing themselves off-stage.

So what – what does this mean for your organisation?

The importance and consolidation of content as a marketing pillar means that organisations need to get their act together on content and create effective governance structures, if they haven’t already. They should also seek better tech tools and internal processes for curating, recommending, targeting, personalising, distributing and integrating content with other marketing channels. They have to think of their target markets as typical media audiences – with specific needs for news, entertainment, inspiration, community – and shape their marketing teams like a media house catering for those needs, with their product/service and wider brand remit at the foundation.

As an alternative to creating content in-house, organisations can also team up with publishers and external content creators. However, these need to be long-term relationships with honest and transparent outputs, where the content creators understand exactly how they’re adding value to the customer lifecyle, rather than producing ad hoc pieces that are simply adverts in disguise. It’s easier said than done, but setting a strategy at the beginning will deliver fruits down the line.

That’s all for today! Tomorrow I’ll be back to talk about ‘mobile’ marketing…

I need help with marketing in 2015!

* for a good review of what happened in the digital marketing world in 2014, check out this article in Digital Strategy Consulting.

** to name just a few of my sources: e-consultancy, emarketer, kissmetrics, mashable, clickz, smart insights, search engine land, moz, marketing land, marketing week etc etc


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