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Five ways Artificial Intelligence could power content marketing Last week I went to an event hosted by StoryStream, which bills itself as as a ‘next generation content marketing platform for brands.’ To help launch its new Aura platform, more on which in a moment, the company assembled a trio of AI experts to discuss how the technology might impact on marketing in the coming years. After an hour or so of fascinating debate it became clear that Artificial Intelligence tools for marketers have huge potential – it is just down to the foresight and imagination of those marketers as to how they are used and how effective they are. So how then might AI impact on the future of content marketing? Here are five ways that it is being used already that are likely to become a lot more common in the future. 1. Content creation – Robots are already replacing journalists at some media companies, but their role is rather limited. As Francesca Marconi of Associated Press, which has been experimenting with AI in this way, explained recently, “there are many good examples of projects with automated insights. We take structured data (eg sports and financial data) and then develop the templates which include specific sentences. The AI matches the data with the template to generate a story that is readable by humans. This is automation with little human intervention.” In the future it is possible that longer, more complex pieces of content, can be created using AI. But as Francesca, and many others point out, AI will never totally replace humans in content creation. The next area of content creation likely to be disrupted by AI is video and I think this is where brands will start to become more interested. They will be able to create video templates leaving the AI to fill in the gaps, such as adding the words, reordering the images/footage. Those caption-led videos, which can potentially be personalised to suit differing customers personas, are going to be very simple to produce at scale. 2. Image and content management – This is one of the areas that StoryStream is innovating in. Its new Aura AI system uses visual recognition technology to help brands find images that are likely to resonate best with customers. The platform assesses images rating their appropriateness for a campaign, looking not just at what is in the image (location, colours, objects etc) but also factors like how it might emotionally connect with users. In addition to smart digital asset management, Aura also delivers multi-channel publishing and supports this with content analytics. To stand out on platforms like Instagram and Snapchat brands are going to need to get cleverer at choosing images. Harnessing AI to collect the most appropriate ones and optimise them for each campaign will help savvier companies stand out. StoryStream’s Aura 3. Customer insight and personalisation – AI can create thousands of custom personas driven by data information from the obvious (age, demographics etc) to the more subtle (previous communications, referral source). These can then be used to pull together email lists which can be very tightly targeted. There are many companies operating in this space inducing Dynamic Yield, which also offers an AI powered content recommendation system and Richrelevance. Content personalisation has been a key trend for several years now. AI’s trump card is that it enables brands to do it quickly and at scale. 4. Chatbots and conversational content – One of  the many ways bigger brands are experimenting with AI at the moment is via chatbots which are invariably used in customer relations. They run from the very basic through to ultra sophisticated bots like the one which powers the excellent fintech app Cleo. A couple of years ago some publishers got very excited about the potential of chatbots for recommending content, and this yielded some interesting experiments. The best of which is the very smart Quartz app which suggest news stories it thinks its readers are most likely to view in an informal and engaging way. National Geographic also deployed an Albert Einstein bot to promote its Genius series about the scientist. The opportunity for brands is to use chatbots to find out more information about their customers and then to use this data via AI to present them with relevant content. A good example of this is Tommy Hilfiger’s Facebook Messenger bot TMY.GRL which takes a conversational approach to gently push users towards content on the Tommy Hilfiger site. 5. Optimising PPC advertising – AI is at its most potent if it can mine large amounts of data to find trends and then make recommendations. This makes it ideal for managing PPC advertising. One company that might be providing a glimpse of the future is Albert. They have an AI powered platform that can process the data from omni channel campaigns and then make recommendations to which channels are the most successful at engaging with customers and delivering results. London based Clicteq operates in a similar space offering an AI automated approach to both paid search and paid social. Ashley Norris, Consultant Editor, The CMA Read more Are brands still missing a trick with long-form content? Have you ever heard of Julia McCoy? If not you should have. She is clearly a very impressive individual who has overcome significant difficulties to become the CEO of a content creation company aged just 25. Her company is thriving too notching up over $4 million in revenue last year. In many ways the business model powering her company, ExpressWriters, is not a million miles away from many agencies both in the UK and across the globe, but what differentiates Julia from many others is her passionate belief in long-form content. She advocates consistently creating content on as weekly basis. However, as McCoy told Forbes that’s one long-form content piece (2,500 word) per week. It is a tad ironic that in an age where so much focus is placed on video, as well as podcasting, that for Julia and others too that words, and lots of them, should be the key to content marketing success. In some ways it flies against established notions of content. We don’t want to read large chunks of content on our mobiles apparently. Also for many journalists, especially those brought up in the print age and a maxim of not wasting a word, creating large amounts of content for its own sake seems to go against their instincts. Nevertheless the evidence continues to grow that long-form is a highly effective way of not just attracting audiences, but also turning them into partners and customers. In mainstream media it has arguably powered the renaissance in subscriptions and membership of both The New York Times and The Guardian for example, and is a staple in business titles. The secret sauce of Julia’s long-form content is that it is deeply rooted in content strategy and especially SEO. She stresses creating a customer persona to begin with and imagining the type of content that the person will engage with. And then, using tools like KWFinder and SEMrush, discovering low competition keywords that the content can address. Then after the groundwork has been done it is done to the skill of the writer. Harnessing research, embedding keywords and writing  authoritatively in a post which they aim to be the last word on a particular subject is not an easy task. Getting the subject matter right is equally as important. The sweet spot is to answer readers’ questions on a subject in an evergreen way, yet is perhaps linked to something that is newsworthy, thereby attracting both current and future searches. There is still some discussion about Google’s attitude to long-form, but the consensus is that it likes and respects it. Just as important longer pieces of content seem much more likely to be shared on social media thereby bolstering SEO credentials through the back door too. Perhaps readers respect the amount of effort that has gone into producing content and are happy to salute that diligence via a share. The other thing to remember about long-form content is that results aren’t always instantaneous. Publishers play a long game with it. As Julia suggests results should be considered over a two year period rather than a two month one. So why then do so many brands feel agnostic about long-form? The key reasons are inevitably time and resources. It seem far more sensible to create a multitude of smaller chunks of content in the hope that one might attract lots of readers, rather that betting on one piece of content that has taken days, possibly weeks to produce. Yet those small chunks can easily be overlooked. All premium content is time consuming, expensive and challenging especially video and podcasts, yet brands are very excited about both of those formats at the current time. Maybe words, and lots of them, are seen as a little old fashioned. Ultimately long-form is one of a series of tactics that brands need to adopt to ensure that their owned media is perceived as authoritative and attracts significant search, and in some instances, social traffic. However it is the tactic that not enough brands are using and that could mean missing some very significant opportunities. Ashley Norris, Consultant Editor, The CMA Read more A DAY IN THE LIFE OF GIUSEPPE BLOOM-MANGIONE, MANAGING DIRECTOR, MAHLAB EMEA Giuseppe worked at Mahlab, an editorially led content marketing agency, for four years in Sydney, Australia, before moving back to the UK in 2016 to be with family. His role involved growing the business and implementing teams for key brand clients across APAC. He is now leading Mahlab’s London office to work with clients across the EMEA region. 6am, and my alarm goes off. Same time every day like clockwork. I start my day with the most important things: kissing my wife good morning and giving our dog @siralfredwinston a cuddle. In the comfort of bed, I check Slack to see what’s been going on in our Australian office overnight. I reply to anything that needs my immediate attention as it’s 5pm in Sydney and approaching the end of the working day. I then have a quick read of the news via the Quartz Daily Brief email. 6:20am time to get out of bed and into my PE kit. Reluctantly, most days start with some sort of physical activity. On Mondays I do meditation, Wednesdays are for yoga and today I’m running the perimeter of Wandsworth Common with pooch Alfred.   Back home by 7:15am. I shower, get dressed and have breakfast with my wife. I drink Huel, a meal supplement that is vegan friendly, packed with all the nutrients I need and great for when there’s little time to spare. I grab my bag for the day that I prepared last night and get out the door by 8am. After a 45-minute commute spent thinking about the day ahead, I’m at our Google Campus workspace in Old Street and ready to go for 9am. I’m building a brand new office here in London and am very focussed on our goals for the first year. Between 9am and 1pm today, I have one sole focus: talking to brands and marketers we’d like to work with. We’re fortunate to be working with some fantastic brands in APAC and want to speak with as many potential clients in EMEA as possible, so we’re simultaneously running outbound email campaigns, content marketing, PPC and planning a series of events. This all requires a lot of attention to detail, so I only stop to respond to incoming emails that need urgent attention. During the course of the morning, I receive a couple of meeting requests, and four marketers in the technology and financial services industries, verticals in which we are experts, have requested more information about Mahlab. A great start to the day. 1pm, and time to break for lunch. I grab a bite to eat from the onsite cafe and speak to our social media lead to discuss the Facebook News Feed algorithm changes and how they will affect Facebook communities. I’m especially interested to know how Direct Advice for Dads, the community and content site of 60,000+ new and expecting dads that we have developed with Health Insurer HBF, will be affected by the changes. The latest algorithm update will deprioritise the content of brand pages and publishers in order to help people have more “meaningful social interactions on the platform”. Although Facebook has been warning us about this for quite some time and it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, for some brands and publishers who depend on the platform for distribution, engagement, customer service and monetisation, it’s going to cause some challenges. While it isn’t possible to predict the full impact of this change, we see this as a great opportunity to explore new and innovative content distribution strategies. It is now more important than ever for brands to create genuine connections with their audience on their owned channels by creating journalistic-led content. Giuseppe taking home Gold at The International Content Marketing Awards for Direct Advice for Dads We then decide to write the first draft of an article to explain these changes and suggestions to our clients and close community. The rest of my day is a combination of meetings and video calls with our strategy, editorial, creative and video teams. We’re working on a big pitch at the moment and putting finishing touches to the presentation deck. I also have a separate call to discuss a shoot and campaign we’re running next week for a large education provider. I make some edits to the pitch deck and double check all the figures meticulously. Then I send/respond to some more emails and before I know it, it’s nearly 6pm. I leave work and get home just before 7pm, walk Alfred and then head out to dinner with my wife. Tonight we’re eating at our friend’s new restaurant, Darwin in Clapham. The food is amazing. We’re home by 10pm and it’s time to go on one last quick walk around the block with Alfred. I then pack my bag and lay out my PE kit for tomorrow morning’s workout. I end my day relaxing in the living room with Netflix series Black Mirror in the background while speaking with my colleagues on Slack before I hit the hay around 11pm. Read more Bentley Motors appoints Archant Dialogue to revamp customer magazine from 2018 Bentley Motors has announced an overhaul of its international customer publication Bentley Magazine, appointing content agency Archant Dialogue after a competitive tender in 2017. It confirms the brand’s commitment to using high-end printed assets as part of its communications suite, while also generating content for use across digital channels. Bentley Magazine was first created in 2003 to inform and excite existing and prospective customers of the iconic motoring marque. It is distributed worldwide, with versions in English, German and Chinese. One of the goals of the tender was to explore the evolution of the magazine so it can engage both existing and prospective customers and represent the brand’s quality and aspirational values. Published quarterly, Bentley Magazine contains news and in-depth coverage of the world-famous motor car range, as well as associated content that reflects the interests of its high net worth audience. Dialogue proved to be the ideal partner to move the magazine forward with a luxury portfolio that already includes brands such as Royal Ascot, Harley-Davidson, Porsche Club GB and the private jet specialists Air Charter Service, and the agency’s expertise in multilingual content production, international publishing and project management were all specific requirements of the procurement team at Bentley. The contract includes management of all aspects of Bentley Magazine’s production, including concept ideation, story generation, commissioning, copy editing, competitions, design and photography, and working with Bentley’s in-house editorial team. Associated digital assets, including video, will also be created for use on the Bentley website and social media channels. Dialogue is also introducing a new advertising model for Bentley Magazine which will excite brands that want to reach Bentley’s distinctive and affluent audience and be part of this new era for the publication. Welcoming the appointment, Dialogue’s Agency Director Zoë Francis-Cox said. ”We are very excited to be working with Bentley Motors on this premium publication, and especially so since the competition for the contract was so strong. Dialogue is a recognised leader in content that appeals to luxury communities and it is clear that Bentley Motors shares our belief that aspirational and visually arresting content is a key component in customer engagement, delivering retention, advocacy and converting new buyers.” Dialogue’s Executive Director Craig Nayman added: “We are delighted to have been selected as content partners by such an iconic brand as Bentley, especially as it heads towards its 100th anniversary in 2019. Dialogue’s parent company Archant is similarly steeped in heritage, with more than 170 years’ of driving community experiences in its own right, and we look forward to working with Bentley Motors to develop and enrich its unique, international and highly discerning brand community.” You can download Dialogue’s latest research-driven customer communities report: The Benefits of Brand Communities free of charge, here. Read more Is it time to look again at your Facebook strategy? At first it seemed like some odd kind of experiment. Stung by accusations that its algorithm had been manipulated by political groups and countries to influence elections Facebook began to make plans. In late 2017 it chose to alter people’s news feeds so that they favoured family and friends’ stories over everything else. Though bizarrely it only chose to implement this in a seemingly random list of six countries. Fairly quickly reports came in from Slovakia, Bolivia and Guatemala and other places that brands and media companies were seeing a serious drop in the traffic they were receiving from Facebook. Surely, many companies thought, Facebook wouldn’t roll this out globally? Nevertheless on January 11th in a post on Facebook’s blog Mark Zuckerberg wrote “I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions. The first changes you’ll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media.” The driver for this change is to get people to spend more time on Facebook engaging with the posts they see. There is an argument that as the news feed has become a parade of messages from brands, publishers and more, so users spend more time passively browsing. The key word for the new Facebook news feed then is engagement and it sounds as if the platform is doing its utmost to ensure that users comment and like the posts they see. Options for brands So where does this leave brands and publishers who may have ploughed significant amounts of money, time and human resources in Facebook over the years? There are a number of options. The first is to simply deprioritise the platform. This has been going on organically for a while as Facebook has for many years become a pay to play platform. In other words the money invested in it yields better paid for and organic results. The net result is that brands have looked elsewhere to reach audiences – through their own sites and platforms and other social media too. Instagram, which boasts very high levels of engagement per post, (though there are issues here about how deep that engagement is) is a very popular option. If this isn’t an option as a brand has invested heavily and wants to maintain a vibrant community then the answer is clearly to keep investing. Spending money on ads will at least ensure outreach on the platform for the foreseeable future, although some pundits are already warning that the price of those adverts is set to rise. It doesn’t necessarily have to be either or though. One option is to optimise the output to reflect the changes that Facebook is making to the algorithm. This means focusing on creating content that receives likes and comments. As Mark Zuckerberg said “Pages making posts that people generally don’t react to or comment on could see the biggest decreases in distribution. Pages whose posts prompt conversations between friends will see less of an effect.” So this would entail asking questions, being provocative and more. However it is worth adding that being too clickbaity might see brands penalised too – there is a fine balance to be struck. Videos and groups Focusing on video is another option. Facebook is still hugely keen on increasing the amount of video content. Video generally gets higher engagement than words and images and it benefits from autoplay which Facebook introduced last year. In fact there is a very strong argument that brands should focus on live video content as this generally gets the highest amount of engamengemt. Finally another option is to invest in groups. It is easy for brands to set up groups that cater for their most enthusiastic followers and these tend to do very well in terms of engagement. Now could be a good time to consider this as an option. Ultimately what the changes will bring is a new emphasis on engagement. In some ways it could be good news for brands. They may end up posting less and focusing more on higher quality, better thought out posts. Facebook isn’t going anywhere and it is likely to be an important platform for brands for many years to come. If you haven’t looked at your Facebook strategy recently now would seem to be a very good time to do it. Ashley Norris, Consultant Editor, The CMA   Read more Why CES 2018 will be remembered for all the wrong reasons It seems likely that the 2018 CES, held in Las Vegas, will go down in history for all the wrong reasons. Rather than innovative products or key breakthroughs it is likely to be recalled as the CES where the electronics went down. Yes, for several hours on the Tuesday large areas of the main conference hall were without power meaning that it was impossible for exhibitors to display their products. To make matters worse the conference might also be remembered as the one in which delegates had to wade through huge very un-Vegas like puddles after 48 hours worth of torrential rain soaked the city. And Vegas is of course in the desert… And as for the products CES 2018 was what many pundits would say was a transitional show. There were few big announcements, but plenty of emerging tech. And in many instances the products on display were early prototypes which won’t be seen for a few years yet. Autonomous cars What excited most delegates was the ubiquity of autonomous, or driverless cars. Pretty much every big manufacturer from Ford through to Mercedes Benz sported prototypes or made announcements. Even more excitingly car sharing company Lyft were offering rides in a driverless car up and down the Strip. Needless to say the offer was massively over subscribed. From a marketing perspective driverless cars represent a huge opportunity. If people aren’t focusing on driving what are they going to do while in the car? If you want a glimpse of what the dashboard of the future might look like this prototype from Harman may offer a few clues Voice control Another big trend was the emergence of voice activation and control on many new products. Among those I saw was a voice controlled pair of smart glasses from Vuzix  which will be hugely pricey, but could be a real game changer. Interestingly it was Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant which dominated the show with Microsoft’s Cortana and Apple’s Siri nowhere to be seen. Though Samsung did unveil a variety of products with its Bixby voice control systems built in such as a TV and a smart refrigerator. The growth of voice controlled smart speakers poses many interesting questions for marketers. On one level it could mean a recalibration of traditional search with smart speakers only offering limited answers as opposed to the many pages people currently see when searching online. It is also likely to ignite demand for more audio content, and especially  more podcasts. Robots and VR You could not travel far in CES without being accosted by a robot or two. To be fair most were not especially useful and at early stages of development, there’s a list here, but the one that seemed to generate the most interest was the revamped version of Sony’s dog the Aibo, which was last seen in 2006. If the tail end of 2017 has been all about Augmented Reality, CES 2018 saw Virtual Reality strike back a little with two new high-profile products. The Vive Pro is an upgrade of HTC’s PC VR headset, while the Lenovo Mirage is the first Google Daydream mobile VR device that doesn’t require a phone. Possibly the most interesting part of the show though was Eureka Park which houses startups from across the globe. Here passionate entrepreneurs pitched their products, spoke optimistically about crowdfunding campaigns and generally injected CES with an energy that was lacking in some of the bigger halls. Among the many products that caught our eye was a revamped version of the drone Zano, 3G connected fitness headphones from Vinci and a smart ring from Orii. Ashley Norris, Consultant Editor, The CMA Read more Native Advertising – Key Trends for 2018 If 2016 was the year in which native advertising broke into the mainstream, then 2017 was a year of consolidation. More and more brands experimented with the format, and high profile media sites found ever more ingenious ways of incorporating branded content into their offerings. Much of the momentum was fueled by predictions like this from The Economist, which suggested that traditional online display advertising would disappear within a decade. Other media companies also reported a decline in display advertising revenues and looked to native to make up some of that shortfall. Just to underline that the online advertising world is as complex as ever BuzzFeed, which had done much help establish native and was one of its biggest champions, acknowledged its limitations and for the first time began accepting traditional display ads. The move, however, didn’t prevent the company from missing its revenue targets. So, which direction is native likely to go in 2018? Here are a few trends which I think will influence how it will develop. Don’t forget to book for the CMA Digital Breakfast on February 14th which will look at native advertising in greater depth. Facebook’s changing news feed As brands entered 2018 one of the biggest topics of conversation among marketers was what to do about Facebook? The changing nature of the news feed has meant that algorithms now promote stories from family and friends over pretty much everything else. For a few years now brands have found organic growth on the platforms difficult without an ad spend. There is a school of thought among some marketers that Facebook might not be worth the effort full stop. If that is the case the brands are going to need other sources to promote their content, and these could range from working with media companies on native stories, through to promotions via content recommendation systems like Outbrain and Taboola. Of course Facebook clearly needs advertising revenue to continue to thrive, and it is highly likely that we will see interesting innovations from the platform this year to re-calibrate that relationship with brands. It could be though that brands – and media companies too – may have decided that their money is better invested elsewhere. Growth of programmatic native On one level the growth of  native has been fueled by notions of quality – placing high ticket branded editorial against appropriate content. Yet in order to make up for the shortfall of traditional display brands need to be able to scale this – hence the rise of programmatic native advertising. The key advantage for brands here is that it allows marketers to place advertisements in a way that seems intuitive to consumers. In other words it makes life a lot easier for both brands and agencies. Surprisingly then programmatic native advertising has grown at a slower rate than some experts had predicted. Perhaps this is because of a reticence on behalf of media companies to work with programmatic native feeling that that it might in some ways cannibalise the revenue they are receiving from their in-house branded content studios. Scaling native in this way also places heavy, and perhaps unwelcome, content demands on brands and agencies. Bigger players are now getting involved in  programmatic – Doubleclick started to offer programmatic native ads in mid 2017 – and platforms like Pinterest and Twitter have opened up to programmatic native in addition to the higher profile publishers who have already adopted it. So perhaps 2018 will see it continue to emerge with media companies working out ways in which they can differentiate it from their higher ticket branded content. Ecommerce and native A third way that native advertising could evolve in 2018 is to see more of an emphasis on ecommerce. Mainstream media has become increasingly interested in ecommerce over the last few years and we have seen interesting innovations such as Business Insider’s Insiders Picks. Ecommerce is likely to become more important from a native advertising perspective as we will see more content promoting products which can be bought directly from the page. Some of the content will be created by media companies, some by brands and agencies and intriguingly some might be as a result of a partnership between the two. Look out too for ecommerce based native advertising startups like Bringhub which harnesses machine learning and the company’s own  technology to analyse content and serve ecommerce ads based on contextual matching. StackCommerce and Criteo are also working in a similar way and are well worth keeping an eye on. Ashley Norris, Consultant Editor, The CMA Read more Predictions for content marketing in 2018 So we are into the second week of January 2018, and while your New Year’s Eve hangover ought to be a distant memory the resolutions you probably now regret making should just about still be intact. Now then is as good a time as any to look forward to what 2018 is likely to bring to the content marketing world. As technology lovers will know this week sees Las Vegas host the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the biggest showcase of gadgets, goodies and general tech on the planet. So we will look in more depth about how technology will change content in the coming year after that event. For now though here are ten predictions as to how things will evolve in the coming twelve months. 1. Diversification of content channels I think 2018 could see brands become more experimental in the platforms they use. Questions about the future of Facebook and the effectiveness of Snapchat could spark forays into Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, and a reconsideration of the merits of audio content sparked by the growth of the smart speaker market. 2. Brands as content companies This has been a process which has been ongoing for several years now with the likes of Red Bull becoming known as much for the videos they produce and their content-driven relationships, as for their core products. I think 2018 will see some brands take up the slack possibly caused by the retrenchment of brands like BuzzFeed and Vice Media –  both of whom have undergone difficult times recently – and we may even see some companies develop content portals that become profit centres. 3. Diversification of content teams I think that 2018 will see brands take another look at their content teams. Many are at the start of their journey having employed a few journalists, bloggers and social media experts. This year could see more Chief Content Officers arriving at UK brands, along with specialists in video and image creatives to help fulfill the twin key requirements of strategy and visual content. 4. Closer relationships with ecommerce This is already happening in the wider publishing world with companies like Dennis Publishing developing car sales as a key part of its content offering, and Business Insider creating Insider Picks as an innovative way of attracting affiliate revenue. I have a feeling brands won’t be immune to this trend, and we will see more brands experimenting with using content as the handmaiden of ecommerce. 5. Social issues come to the fore Last year several brands begin to incorporate social issues in to the content and the advertising they produced. Some did this in a very cliched and cack handed way, like Pepsi, but others have been more subtle in championing gender equality and sexual rights issues. I think we will see progressive brands look to differentiate themselves from their rivals by becoming more vocal about social issues in 2018. 6. Changing relationships with Facebook Facebook’s exec team is currently under a lot of pressure as they seek to address criticism ranging from political manipulation through to online bullying and abuse. In a handful of countries the company is splitting feeds so that a person’s friends posts appear on the main feed and posts from other organisations appear in another. It is difficult to know quite which direction Facebook will head in 2018, but I wonder if the uncertainty will inspire some brands to look to alternative ways of communicating those message via content. 7. Concerns about legislation In May the EU will introduce the General Data Protection Regulation better known as GDPR which will impact on the way that brands harvest and manage data about their customers. That’s not be the end of the story as also being considered are ePrivacy changes which if enacted  could change the processing of any kind of tracking (e.g. cookies) in all digital businesses drastically. It could be a game changer for the global digital ad industry and the way that brands interact with consumers. 8. Quality of content is going to be central I think 2018 could be the year in which the quality of the content that brands produce becomes their key priority rather than the quantity. The standard of the winners at the CMA awards reflects this, and in a world where so much content is competing for consumer eyeballs, this is set to continue into 2018 and beyond. It may mean less content and instead a concentration on higher ticket more immersive editorial like longer posts, extended video and podcasts. 9. ICOs will come to content marketing Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) are the big new thing in startup finance and I think that content marketers will become familiar with them in 2018 for two reasons. Firstly, one of the key ways that ICOs are successful is that companies that are attempting to raise money in this way require quality content. And in the same way that great content powers crowdfunded campaigns, so they will with ICOs. Secondly, we will see some content  startups use ICOs to rise money, perhaps changing the way that media companies and agencies begin and develop. 10. Personalisation of content The jury is still out on the role of bots in content marketing, but 2018 is bound to see more companies experiment with them, and also harness Artificial Intelligence to predict reader responses and serve them with appropriate content. Ashley Norris, Consultant Editor, The CMA Read more ‘Alexa…get me some content, please’ Voice Activation is sure to be one of the big issues of 2018. But what else? CMA consultant editor Dominic Mills looks at trends in the wider world of marketing communications and tech through the lens of content marketing. How many families took ownership of an Amazon Echo, Google Home or other voice device this Christmas? The Radiocentre predicts UK Echo penetration will hit 40pc sometime this year, but with prices dropping to stocking-filler levels, my guess is that’s an under-estimate. Indeed, it’s possible to imagine a world in which households have multiple devices – living room, kitchen and one in each bedroom. But voice isn’t the only issue marketers will have to grapple with this year. There are plenty of others bubbling under, many – but not all – driven by tech. How will the platforms – Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest, Amazon – develop? Is this the year of VR or, like mobile, is its arrival always delayed? Everybody’s talking about personalisation at scale. But what does it mean for content? And how does GDPR – going live in May 2018 – affect that? Outside of tech, is ‘brand purpose’ still relevant, or a busted flush? And with the likes of P&G eschewing narrow targeting in favour of the brand fame approach, where does content fit in? There’s lots to think about. Sit tight then while the CMA gives you its potted guide to the stuff every content marketer needs to focus on. #1. ‘Alexa…get me some content, please’ When you can just speak to your voice device to order your shopping, renew your car insurance or offer holiday inspiration, the balance of power for brands hangs in the balance. As the gatekeepers that assist us with the menial, everyday tasks, power resides with the device, and that brands that succeed will those that occupy the default position on Alexa and its peers. This places a premium, first on brand presence, and second on utility or helpfulness. Content is a key driver of utility, whether it’s recipes, cocktail suggestions (check out Diageo’s Virtual Bar) or the ability to answer questions.  Brands with existing content can adapt it to audio. Everybody else needs to get started. Alexa Skills is the place to start. But don’t forget to get the tone of voice – literally and figuratively – spot on. Content-driven copywriting for audio will be at a premium. Content opportunity: 9/10 #2. Amazon – get a strategy As Amazon drives forward – not just in voice, but as a retailer in its own right too – brands need to figure out how to deal/live with the giant. Part of this will involve co-operation and partnership, part competition. The key is in thinking of it as a platform. Just as brands optimise their presence on YouTube, Facebook and Pinterest, so they will need to do the same on Amazon. In terms of advertising offerings, it’s behind the other platforms, but catching up fast. The lesson: get familiar with its various offerings and figure out where content fits in. Content opportunity: 6/10 #3. Personalisation at scale – how relevant is it? One of the buzz-phrases for 2018 is ‘personalisation at scale’, maximising the promise of tech to deliver millions of individually personalised messages. For marketers, it looks like nirvana. That’s the theory, but I’m not sure the reality stacks up. GDPR – see #4 – is a threat. And does it really mean absolute personalisation, or does it mean micro-segmentation? Either way, this trend places a premium on content that can be repurposed many times or the ability to find multiple messaging or multiple ways of saying the same thing. Content opportunity: 6/10 #4. GDPR Punitive sanctions for breaches of the tough new EU rules on privacy (and personalisation without express and specific consumer permission) mean many brands, publishers and intermediaries are running scared of GDPR. What happens if I break the rules? What happens if I can’t get the right permissions from existing or target customers? The upside is that GDPR should clear out the bad actors. As organisations clean up their practices, so it is likely that trust between brands and consumers – ad blocking as one consequence, for example – can be restored. In a nutshell, GDPR means that if you want to use personal information, you need consumer permission. In fact, trusted brands are in a strong position to get those permissions. What builds trust? If you see content as a way of bringing a brand promise to life or driving an engagement that consumers find rewarding – actions, not just words – then it can play a key role in any GDPR strategy. Content opportunity: 8/10 #5. Brands: ‘purpose’ versus ‘positioning’ After blowback on Pepsi/Kendall Jenner and Heineken’s efforts last year to claim a higher purpose, some are rethinking the idea of purpose as a meaningful differentiator. Diageo, for example, has toned down the female empowerment line it adopted for Bailey’s (‘Be a Woman for Life’) in favour of recreational enjoyment (‘The Pursuit of Pleasure’). But trust in brands is still low, with a Havas study showing consumers have little interest in most brands. Meanwhile millennials claim they prefer brands that try to achieve some societal good – environmentalism isn’t going out of favour any time soon. Many brands therefore will stick with the idea that purpose is worth pursuing. That being so, they will need to recognise purpose isn’t just an end line but requires a commitment to powerful and ongoing storytelling – i.e. content. Content opportunity: 7/10 #6.  Brand fame vs targeting As brands chase top-line growth – i.e. selling more things to more consumers at better margins generates faster growth than just selling more to your existing consumers – so the Byron Sharp school of brand fame is gaining ground. This posits that brands can only grow by recruiting new consumers, and the best way do that is by achieving fame so that, when they enter the purchase funnel, your brand has saliency. On the other side of the argument – and life is perhaps not quite as binary as the protagonists make out – sit the targeters, often with a digital bias, who believe laser-like precision is the way forward.  One expression of this is loyalty – see #7. TV remains the simplest, quickest way to achieve fame. But certainly not exclusively, and at any rate, with media budgets under pressure, no brand can achieve long-standing fame by TV alone. The case for content marketing, to build on and amplify, TV is therefore strong, especially if brands adopt an always-on approach to content. Think of the best-known brands in just about any category – BMW, BA, Dove, John Lewis, Johnny Walker – and chances are they are underpinned by content. Content opportunity: 8/10 #7. Loyalty – another side of the fame coin Rewarding loyal consumers with content – all those supermarket or bank magazines, for example – has long been a traditional marketing practice. But thanks to the egregious and under-hand tactics of some brands – think of utilities and insurers who reward new customers more than existing ones, or Vodafone’s nasty trick of adding an unseen £1 to bills – the concept of loyalty has become inverted. My thanks to Nicky Bullard, chair of MRM Meteorite, for pointing out that it is brands that should be leading the charge, rather than penalising loyal customers in favour of luring the promiscuous. Reciprocal loyalty is what we need, she says. The argument therefore that content – allied to proper incentives, of course – can be the vehicle through which loyalty is driven, a point also made by the Havas survey. Content opportunity: 9/10 #8. Virtual Reality – it’s time might be now Ok, here’s the wild card (with the caveat that it’s absolutely not relevant or financially worthwhile for all brands): VR. Yes, that’s virtual reality, as in the next big thing that’s been coming for the last five years. What’s different this time? VR is now verging on the mainstream. The proof is this Argos page, which lists 21 different VR headsets priced from £3.49 (ok, ridiculously cheap, but mid-range headsets are around from £70-£90.00). Will consumers want to watch branded or brand-produced VR? Quite possibly, because not every media owner has the resources to produce the stuff or can do it without ad support. But VR is nothing without good content. And why can’t content agencies fill that gap? Content opportunity: 10/10 Dominic Mills, Consultant Editor, The CMA Read more 19 New CMA Members in 2017! 2017 was a very exciting year here at The CMA. We welcomed a new MD Catherine Maskell, launched new events such as The Digital Breakfast on Tour, Future Content Sessions, as well as running various training days. On top of all of this we welcomed 19 new members! CMA members fit into 6 different categories; Content Agencies, Media Agencies, Brands, Overseas, Affiliates and Start Ups. This means we are now able to facilitate smaller agencies who are in the content space and would like to learn from the industry leaders whilst contributing to the content conversation. “I am absolutely delighted that our membership grew by 50% last year. We welcomed some large industry names alongside some regional stars. At the CMA we pride ourselves on offering unique benefits to our members whilst promoting their work throughout our channels. 2018 looks like it has the potential to be one of our biggest year’s yet and I am excited to continue working with both our loyal long-standing members as well as our new recruits!” – Catherine Maskell, MD, The CMA New CMA Members Brands TSB – TSB Bank plc is a retail and commercial bank in the United Kingdom, which is a subsidiary of the Sabadell Group. TSB Bank operates a nationwide network of 550[5]branches across England, Scotland and Wales. Agencies BrandContent – is an award-winning content marketing and PR agency. Experts in full-service content marketing, cumulatively, they’ve racked up over 50 years’ experience building content and PR strategies for some of the UK’s biggest brands in the financial services, technology and healthcare arenas.They are proud to say, we’ve truly enabled these brands to stand-out in extremely competitive markets for all the right reasons. Their results-driven, creative and multi-channel approach brings their clients closer to their customers through content and conversations. Brickwall – Brickwall was started in 2005 by Jon Brichto and Alex Walker who decided to combine their film-making and marketing backgrounds to create a company that was as focussed on client outcomes as it was on creativity. After a lengthy and heated argument over a pint (or three) over what to call their new baby, they simply decided to combine their two surnames and Brickwall was born! Bridge Studios, News UK – Bridge Studio put the power of emotion at the heart of their planning process – they ensure they make campaigns for their clients that not only connect with valuable audiences, but also change how they feel about each brand. Business Reporter – Business Reporter thrives at communicating with the C-suite they do this  ‘day in, day out’ for the likes of Google, IBM, Barclays , SIEMENS , Boots, KPMG, Deloitte, & Grant Thornton to name a few. infogr8 – A strategic content specialist rooted in data to bring clarity to a complex World. They make meaningful content & digital tools, from strategy through to creation for leading brands. JBH – A boutique content agency working with clients of all sizes and verticals to create high-impact content and bespoke digital experiences. Launched in 2013, JBH is the brainchild of three friends and former colleagues with a shared love of high-impact content. Mediaplanet – Mediaplanet is now the world’s biggest media house specialising in niche-topic content campaigns. Born in Sweden, they now serve 16 countries, from 15 offices worldwide. Their print and digital marketing helps companies to become thought-leaders and conversation-starters in their field. They take care of everything – from concept to production, to distribution and analytics – and collaborate with the most impactful influencers to reach the clients’ desired audience. Simpatico – Simpatico is a business PR agency that joins the dots between media, content and technology. Their senior consultants work directly with clients and journalists, providing consistent support, intelligent analysis and strategic planning expertise. Simpatico is rich in journalistic expertise. Many of their team members are former business journalists with a huge scope of knowledge. It means they are brilliant at translating ideas into content. Speak Media – Speak Media is an award-winning, agile content agency that seeks to become an extension of your own business and an integral part of your content culture. The founding partners lead all client relationships and business strategy, so you’ll always have the best people on the job – and access to their handpicked network of experts in individual areas, markets and channels. The Story Lab – Their mission is to become the most innovative global investor, producer and distributor of premium entertainment content that attracts audiences, media owners and advertisers.   Start Ups Bold Content – Bold Content is a London based video production company. They offer an in-house team of film specialists who can manage the video production process from concept through to completion. Everything Different – Different Story is a new breed of ‘performance-content’ agency, bringing the three specialisms  of optimisation, content and digital together to transform every touch-point on the entire customer journey; connecting  brands with customers. They are obsessive about marrying hero and primary content with optimised digital performance and experience; all the way from awareness-through consideration-to conversion . Freya – is a content marketing agency with full service profile in online & offline communication. They have over 10 years experience in communication and branding in Czech republic. They publish clients & lifestyle magazines, create the content marketing strategies and PR strategies for our clients, also we have a special designers hub. They build social media strategies and performance driven projects for brands. They specialise in fashion industry & luxury goods (especially swiss watches), healthcare, IT and special B2B projects. They worked for example with: Google, Microsoft, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Hublot, Mont Blanc, Volvo etc. Mahlab – Mahlab believe that done right, content has the power to achieve business objectives, hit your marketing KPI’s & win you critical acclaim. Your content should be seen, heard, discussed, loved and shared by your audience. It should be entertaining, powerful, purposeful, meaningful, have an impact, make a difference and be useful. Running Ed – The Running Ed is a multi-media content & communications consultancy working with endurance brands to create inspiring, far-reaching campaigns both on and off-line. They specialise in content marketing, influencer marketing and PR that nurtures your brand story and engages the community you want to talk to. Overseas  Maxposure – One of the largest content marketing companies in the world offering brands seamless omnichannel solutions. Founded in 2006 in Coral Gables, Florida, today, it has operations in USA, Singapore, Bangladesh, India, UAE, and Bahrain. VERB – VERB’s Social and Content Marketing team is home to 30 talented copywriters, analysts, SEO strategists, paid social strategists, and social media marketers. And we’re supported by User Experience, Creative Design and Development teams. All in we’ve got about 102 employees who live, create, write, and code Travel and Hospitality all day, every day. Affiliate CKN – They have been providing printing solutions since 2002 and now employ some 36 staff. The three founding directors all play key roles in the business giving continuity to the high level of service and advice we offer. They are proud to produce quality results time and time again; the reason for such loyalty from our customers. This is backed by our many quality accreditations such as ISO 9001 (quality), ISO 14001 (environmental) and ISO 18001 ( Health and Safety). Customers enjoy their flexible approach that ensures they get their jobs when CKN promise them and at competitive prices. Use of a continental shift pattern allows for 24/7 operation. Read more Read More News Articles »
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