Content marketing was a major trend in 2014 as advertisers caught on that their access to media was often much greater than they realized. As a result, directly communicating with potential customers in an accessible and compelling long format was no longer impossible.
The results have varied from tremendous to awful. While some marketers have seen exponential sales growth due to content marketing efforts, others have seen next to no lift at all. Meanwhile, content marketing has been lambasted in the public view by none other than John Oliver, whose diatribe against the practice went viral with nearly 3 million YouTube views.
The backlash and the volatile performance makes one thing clear: Content marketing is not easy. For it to work, marketers need to place a tremendous amount of effort and care into their marketing efforts to ensure that the campaign reaches the right people in the right way.
This has proven a major task for some brands, who naturally take a conservative approach to their marketing and are uncomfortable with producing content that does not have a clear call-to-action or doesn’t fit into the typical and familiar formulas of advertising. Part of the problem is a lack of in-house expertise combined with a fear of ceding responsibility for content development to an agency. In other cases, creative differences between agencies specializing in content marketing and in-house marketing staff turns the process of producing content into a long, laborious and stressful exercise.
When this happens, the quality of the content falls, and any content that gets through the sausage factory is much less engaging. The struggles show.
This isn’t the case with all brands. Old hats at native advertising who know how to anticipate marketing trends can use the approach to offer old and new customers more engaging touch points, while extending reach to audiences that were previously unreachable. Two brands that have caught a lot of attention from marketers are Red Bull and Marriott, who have used content to increase sales and secure brand affinity with a broader group of consumers.
Other marketers have taken notice, and they are trying to recreate the magic. Now that content marketing has an established history, more advertisers are learning from the successes and the failures to offer better-performing content for specific sales and campaign goals.
Technological developments in online advertising help. The growth of automated ad placement, retargeting through programmatic advertising and more opportunities for social sharing and content distribution on sites such as Reddit, Facebook and Pinterest mean there are a lot of platforms for brands to extend their organic reach.
The same goes for direct response advertisers, who know more destinations to produce content for and how to reach more niche segments in an increasingly fragmented world. While this is an opportunity, it is also a challenge. Creating content for so many different platforms is labor intensive and taxing. It also requires a level of creativity and sensitivity to niche audiences that some marketers lack. More research, strategizing and analysis is needed than ever before to make sure that the content marketing campaign is well received by audiences.
You wouldn’t be the first to find this Herculean task intimidating. Large and small enterprises are balking at the complexity of the modern media landscape. But these challenges are opportunities to well-informed marketers who can take advantage of the new media landscape to boost sales. And content marketing, more than any strategy, is at the core of what the new media landscape has to offer.
If you want to learn more about how content marketing can work for your company, the topic will be a major focus at LeadsCon Las Vegas, where the worlds of lead generation and native advertising converge. Marcus Sheridan from The Sales Lion will talk about the true impact of content marketing on brands and direct response advertisers.
Click here to register for LeadsCon Las Vegas 2015.