Audiences are tired of listicles and clickbait headlines – brands must educate, inform or entertain

The Strava team skiing in the United States

The next article in our Q&A content marketing series produced by SmartCompany’s content agency, Bureau, features Cathy Tanimura, Senior Director of Analytics and Data Science at US-based exercise app, Strava.

Cathy has a passion for leveraging data in multiple ways: to help people make better decisions, to tell stories about companies and industries, and to develop great product experiences. She previously built and led data teams at several high growth technology companies, including Okta, Zynga, and Cathy caught up with SmartCompany’s content agency, Bureau, to share her thoughts on “listicles”, click-bait headlines and the future of video and voice marketing.

What’s your definition of content marketing?

Content marketing provides useful information to your audience, without explicitly advertising to them. Good content marketing incorporates a unique perspective or information your business has in order to educate, inform, or entertain. In the process, it should generate positive brand associations.

How does this method work without overtly promoting a brand’s product/service?

Focus on the needs of the group you’re trying to reach. When you work with many clients, you often gain insight into common patterns and trends that are invisible to each individually.

When I was at Okta we realised that CIOs and heads of IT departments were hungry for information about which enterprise applications would help them be successful. We were able to provide data on what peer organisations were using, and point out fast growing apps such as Slack and Zoom.

At Strava, we’ve found a deep interest in trends in sport, and what keeps people motivated in their athletic journeys. We’ve shared data on trends in people setting, and breaking, New Year’s resolutions, and factors that help them stick to their goals such as finding a friend or a group to work out with.

How has content marketing changed over the past five years?

I’ve seen a shift in interest towards content that is based on proprietary data. In the past, the best options were often customer surveys or simply the writer’s opinion. With the rise of big data and data science, savvy organisations can put together unique and fascinating insights into their industries.

How are B2B audiences consuming content differently than previously?

I think audiences have become more sophisticated and demanding when it comes to the content they really engage with. I still see “listicles” and click-bait headlines, but these are often less than satisfying reads. There’s a desire to cut through the hype and the jargon and tell me what I really need to know.

For SMEs with a limited budget, what are the best tactics to use?

Stay focused on who you are trying to reach, and where you can reach them with the resources you have. Platforms such as LinkedIn and Medium have made publishing content easy, and they also provide some distribution. Twitter is another tool for distributing content. As with other social media, connections matter, so think about developing your network through people you know, thought leaders, and people you meet at industry events.

Content is more pervasive than ever. How do you ensure your content gets cut through?

First, be valuable to your audience. Give them a new perspective, new information, or a new way to tackle a problem.

Second, be timely. For example, last year when California was experiencing some of the deadliest wildfires in its history, Strava was able to provide data on how widespread the impact from the resulting bad air quality was. Running was down 77 per cent and cycling down 78 per cent from normal levels in Northern California communities.

Strava has also worked with researchers to analyse running, walking and hiking data to help firefighters develop safer ways to fight wildfires.

Has content moved beyond awareness and vanity metrics to more lead generation and ROI attribution models?

I think it depends on the purpose, and it’s important to have clear goals and measure accordingly. When entering a new market or targeting a new audience, driving awareness and measuring that may be appropriate, with other types of marketing later turning that awareness into sales.

For deeper in the funnel content when the audience is already aware and you’re trying to get them interested in a specific product or service, lead generation and attribution may be more important.

Attribution is certainly more feasible than it was in the past using link tracking and deep linking technologies where you are able to track views and clicks.

What brands are doing it well and who isn’t doing it well?

Brands that are serious about providing value and developing long term relationships are generally doing better. I still see a fair number of listicles and content that lacks real substance or has too much of a sales pitch. And of course, anyone using data in their content needs to strictly respect privacy, and share only aggregated, de-identified information.

Can you quantify the importance of video and voice over the coming years? 

While I don’t think video and voice will ever replace text-based content, video and voice are exciting new avenues to reach audiences. There’s just something about hearing in someone’s own voice, or seeing something in action.

We’ve been experimenting with voice at Strava, launching a podcast called Athletes Unfiltered this year. The podcast shares stories from a diverse group of athletes with their triumphs and struggles laid bare. We see this as another way to connect with current and potential Strava athletes, and inspire them to get out, be active, persevere, and achieve their personal best.

Read more from Bureau‘s eight-part content marketing series here.

Yoghurt brand Chobani divulges marketing tactics on how they’ve grown their social followers

Voice will be essential for brand relevancy as search rankings shift with voice queries

Influencers are playing a greater role in marketing says international software brand

Brands need to earn the right to mention their products by creating valuable content says ME Bank content lead

Marketing trends shift as voice spearheads new content tactics

Brands need to use the right content on the right platform at the right time: IAG Head of Content, Zara Curtis


Bureau is SmartCompany’s content agency helping brands attract and connect with small businesses, startups and entrepreneurs. Bureau creates articles, ebooks, videos, podcasts and infographics from data-led insights to achieve marketing ROI for businesses.

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