Content marketing has reigned supreme in 2013, with more and more businesses investing in this strategy, and experts suggesting 2014 will spell the same story, but with a different focus.
A study published in late November by the Association for Data-driven Marketing found 53% of marketers intend to increase their content marketing budget in 2014, with 16% saying they will significantly increase it.
This rise comes as 80% of marketers said they were producing more content than 12 months ago.
ADMA chief executive Jodie Sangster predicts 2014 will see businesses utilising many of the trends seen in 2013, but in new and more effective ways, providing businesses with greater returns.
“Businesses will continue to invest in content marketing both in terms of budget and focus, however it’s evolved since it emerged in 2012,” she says.
“In 2012 it was quite new and the challenge businesses were facing was generating interesting content. Now, it’s moved to distributing content. Businesses are now concerned with how best to reach the customers they want to target and how to cut through the vast amount of content available.”
Sangster says businesses have realised content marketing is a clever way to increase customer engagement, but it’s not the only popular marketing technique at the moment.
“Looking at some of the award winning campaigns, it’s been those using a combination of channels and techniques and going a little bit outside the box which have been most effective,” she says.
“We’ve been talking about multi-channel for a long time, but it’s now changing. People thought it was about making marketing look like it matched, but it’s really about how you’re using the channels in a way that does engage the customer – it doesn’t necessarily all have to look the same.”
The success of the multi-channel approach was seen in Metro Melbourne’s Dumb Ways to Die campaign, created by McCann.
The campaign was the most decorated at this year’s Cannes advertising festival, securing six cyber Lions (five gold and one silver), recognising its excellence in digital communication, as well as winning a radio Lion.
Sangster says in 2014 the marketing industry will go through three key changes: data being seen as a business solution, a re-focus on the creative and a centralising of the customer experience.
“In 2013 one of the biggest shifts we saw was marketers focusing on using data to ensure their marketing is more effective and engaging with the customer,” she says.
“The shift we’re seeing now is data being viewed as a business solution which drives marketing. This is a great move forward because it makes the marketers job easier. In 2014 we should see the impact of this.”
Sangster says the second key change will see marketers place a higher value on the importance of creativity.
“While big data has been said to solve all of marketing’s problems, the real cut through is achieved through great creative. It builds brand awareness and our research shows marketers are starting to shift back to this mindset,” she says.
The third main change will see businesses focusing more on winning customers by making them the central focus of the business.
“We’ve been talking about this, but not truly doing it. Businesses will need to put the customer at the centre and then work back from there,” Sangster says.
“Everything will start with the customer, and then the marketing will relate to that. Companies will be restructuring around the customer.”
Sangster says while there has been a general movement away from straight push marketing, there will always be a role for it.
“The style of marketing you use should depend on the outcome you want. If you want a short, sharp response, then you’ll want to go with push marketing,” she says.
“It’s still effective for advertising discounts or buy now offers, something in which you want people to quickly respond. But if you want to achieve longer-term engagement where you want brand loyalty and awareness, creativity plays an important role in creating that affinity with the brand.”
For small businesses, determining the objective and finding a marketing strategy to fit it is particularly important.
“Make sure you know what you want to achieve and you have the right skill set. For example content is quite a new way of doing things and you might be better off bringing on board a journalist, rather than a marketer,” Sangster says.
“There are also many suppliers around which can help small business utilise data. You may not be able to afford to bring someone in house, but you can work with partners to make the most of these trends.”