This won’t be the first set of predictions you’ve read this year, but it may just be the most life changing, as 2014 is set to be the year content marketing comes of age.
However, the very act of making predictions about this subject is highly hazardous, as the term ‘content marketing’ means many different things to different people. So perhaps the first point is less a prediction and more a plea for us all to get some agreement in the marketing community on what we mean when we say ‘content’.
Without further delay though, it’s time to roll out the gypsy wagon for some future gazing:
1. Content will move closer to the heart of brands’ marketing strategies
As a relative newcomer to the media mix, content has previously suffered from being thought about late and in isolation from the rest of the communications plan. This can leave fantastic content ideas out in the cold with not enough budget ‘left over’ from the rest of the campaign and lacking a well planned ecosystem around them to make them a success.
Brands will learn from Sainsbury’s success this Christmas when they made the ‘Christmas in a Day’ film the crux of their whole campaign and supported it with shorter time lengths as well as ads. For reference, forward planning reached new heights with Red Bull’s centrepiece Stratos jump, which was seven years in the planning.
2. Big, ambitious stunts (and stars) will still draw large audiences
From one giant leap for man to an epic split for Van Damme. You could hardly have missed the content highlight of 2013, which brought together celebrity firepower and a high-risk stunt to draw in 66 million YouTube views.
Significantly, while once most A-D list celebrities wouldn’t have dreamt of featuring in an online video, dahling, now the very best award-winning actors and sports stars are getting involved: Damian Lewis in Jaguar Desire, Helena Bonham Carter for Prada, Rory McIlroy to promote the European Tour, Willem Dafoe for Jameson Whiskey.
These big names really help to pull in an audience but they don’t provide a free pass to instant success. The audience still needs to know the content is there, for example.
3. Fleet and fast will make the little guys big
While smaller brands and agencies are inherently more nimble, larger organisations are seeing that they need to create a similar culture to be in the race these days. Oreo constructed a Super Bowl war room, which enabled them to make their ‘world famous’ Super Bowl blackout tweet. For petite Hungarian studio Delov Digital, nimbleness comes a bit more naturally and they used this to their advantage in a brilliant and timely parody of Volvo’s stunt.
4. We will see more cases of heavy handed ‘newsjacking’
As content becomes ever more popular and brands see the success of real-time marketing, people will be quick to jump on the bandwagon. But it’s a difficult balance to strike and moving vehicles shouldn’t always be leapt aboard just because you can (unless you’re Van Damme).
There were chuckles around the office and marketing community over the ‘snack-based love-in’ between Tesco, Jaffa Cakes, Yorkshire Tea and Cadbury on Twitter. It was generally well handled, felt spontaneous and, most importantly, was funny. However, with all and sundry hoping to cash in on newsworthy events like the World Cup, for example, brands may be in danger of scoring an own goal unless they find a relevant way in that fits with their own editorial strategy.
5. (Good) Experiential advertising will never again exist without a film
Experiential marketing has been around for centuries and in recent decades these experiences have often been filmed, potentially to prove to the client that they actually happened, or at best to extend the reach of the experience.
Rather than thinking about what will attract attention on Victoria Station forecourt and filming it though, the starting point from now on perhaps should be more about what people will want to watch, and build the experience back from there.
WestJet created both a heartwarming experience and compelling piece of content when they turned their Christmas miracle of ‘real time giving’ into a charming film complete with poetic voice over, which has gained over 30 million views.
6. Longer time length content will need promoting in its own right
Anyone can spare 90 seconds to watch pretty much any old thing (a cat in a pint glass, perhaps). However, when brands are asking you to spend 5-15 minutes with them, a large percentage of your lunchtime downtime, you need to know what you’re signing up for.
A simple test proves our point in the hard metric of YouTube views.
On the face of it, which would you watch: a film starring Damian Lewis for Jaguar or an animation for a Mexican grill chain with eco leanings? Right.
But if the first film was 13 minutes long and Chipotle’s a mere 3m 23s, your mouse fingers might choose differently and this is reflected in the views: 280,000 views for Jaguar and nearly 12 million for Chipotle. Both are fantastic pieces of content and we urge you to watch them, but we guess you needed someone to tell you that…
7. More attention will be paid to distribution
Relating to the above point, but more.
Short or long, some great content is being made but then languishing in the depths of YouTube. It is not enough to make a brilliant film and simply drop it into the ether, even if you have a star name attached to it.
As competition hots up from other brands and the prolific civilian content creators continue to churn out hours of footage a minute, brands need to think long and hard about their distribution strategy (and allocate relevant budget to do it justice).
8. Bite-size media will become more prevalent
From Vine to Snapchat to Instagram and Twitter, audiences are getting used to consuming teeny tiny bits of content. So brands will need to think less about their big hero film and more about creating assets that will work perfectly in these new media formats.
Few brands demonstrated a better understanding of this last year than General Electric, for example via their compilation of user-generated Vines to create 'the world's longest apple drop' to celebrate #GravityDay. To use GE's phrase, brands will be thinking more of themselves as 'content factories', with that content breaking free from conventional ad formats.
9. More brands will move beyond traditional campaigns to a semi-publishing model
And by that we don't mean that all brands need to become publishers. We don't believe that. What we mean is that brands will increasingly learn from the ways in which broadcasters engage their audiences with richer narratives over extended time periods rather than sticking to traditional patterns of short campaign 'bursts and flights.'
Take one of our recent projects for the BBC, for example. Our epic trailer for the Doctor Who 50th anniversary was the centrepiece of a semi-continuous slate of content including exclusive online prequels, sneak peeks, making-of films, live events and social media activity, all created to keep fans hooked during the break between two series of the drama.
Brands like Dos Equis and Oreo too have demonstrated how a commitment to diverse content-creation beyond their core ad campaigns can build a much more immersive storyworld than most marketers and agencies can imagine.
10. Long-term brand strategy will still be key
Looking forward we should expect the masters of content marketing to continue to create and distribute excellent, innovative, on-strategy work. Step forward Coke, Chipotle, Dove, Volvo. It is these pioneering brands and those like them, who have a strong sense of self and what they stand for, that will be the long-term winners in this.
We’ll review these predictions at the end of the year to see if we’re more Nostradamus or Mystic Meg. But in the meantime, tell us what you think. What are your predictions for content in 2014?
Kath Hipwell, Planning Director and Andy Bryant, Director, Creative