“It’s hard to imagine a world where advertising is perfectly targeted to know exactly how you feel and what you need or want,” writes John Scott, Co-Founder and Executive Vice-President at ShopLiftr. “If it were to happen, we may find it incredibly creepy and encroaching of our privacy as there’s a yin and yang about data we want to share. Still, people do share; their preferences are increasingly known; their behavior is teased out to lead them to act. Content marketing is the reason a lot of this is happening.” An increasing number of studies have concluded that younger generations (i.e., Generations Y and Z) don’t want to receive a pitch they want to be informed. Informing consumers as a method of advertising is the principle underlying content marketing.
Increasing Interest in Content Marketing
Pawan Deshpande (@TweetsFromPawan), Founder and CEO of Curata, reports, “A 2016 study conducted by Curata found that 75% of companies are increasing their investment in content marketing, and 43% are increasing staff levels.” Why the increasing interest in content marketing? “Let’s be clear,” Deshpande asserts, “content marketing works. It consists of non-egocentric (i.e., end-user-focused rather than product- or company-focused) content that helps buyers with their jobs and careers, along with the more traditional product-centric content vendors have historically created.” I realize it sounds counter-intuitive to base a marketing campaign on content not specifically aimed at selling; but, as Deshpande explains, “Marketers are seeing the positive impact of their content marketing across the entire buyer’s journey, from awareness-building to demand creation and sales enablement. The proof of the business case for content marketing is that 74% of marketers indicate that their company’s content marketing investment results in an increase in lead quality and quantity.”
Will Humphries (@JustCallMeWill), Head of Digital Marketing at Internal Results, observes, “Strategies and best practices constantly evolve as businesses evaluate what works best.” He notes that statement is just as true for content marketing as it is for other business activities. He identifies four current trends in this area he believes every marketer should understand. They are:
1. Keep Content Relevant. “It is imperative,” Humphries writes, “that the content you produce is relevant to your audience. … Your content should have purpose and intent. You must offer the reader a potential positive outcome in relation to what you are publishing. Publishing content for content’s sake is not the answer and won’t get you the results you desire.”
2. Make Content Creative and Interactive. “You have to get creative to meet expectations of both search engines and readers. Compelling visuals and infographics attract more attention than the simple written word. Use visuals to help enhance the quality of your message. Add interaction through polls, interactive quizzes and other tools that engage readers. Integrate video content, when applicable, to offer product demonstrations or testimonials.”
3. Personalize. “You must deliver personalised content that speaks to the interests, needs and preferences of targeted buyer personas. You need a deep understanding of the typical buyer in your primary target market so you can craft messages and stories that resonate, improve brand recall and drive conversions. Recognising the buyer stage of your targeted buyer is important to personalising your message as well.”
4. Leverage Influencers. “User-generated content, such as influencer marketing posts, are expected to grow in 2017. Brand influencers offer numerous advantages in communicating your messages relative to traditional advertising. As a result, companies want to get celebrities or vocal industry leaders to help spread the word through blog and social posts, and company or product testimonials. In many cases, you merely need to align your brands with people who have already made a name for themselves in online communities for interests related to your products.”
Marketers are obviously going to need a lot of data about members of the segment they are targeting as well as a good analytics platform to analyze that data.
Content Marketing and Cognitive Computing
Cognitive computing platforms are ideal for enhancing content marketing efforts. They can gather and analyze both structured and unstructured data and help identify the right message for a particular audience. They can be especially helpful if they can provide semantic reasoning. Ryan Skinner (@rskin11), a senior analyst at Forrester Research, calls this kind of analysis “content intelligence.” He explains:
“Content intelligence … is technology that helps content understand itself – what it’s about, how it speaks, how effective it is at accomplishing certain goals, what emotions it calls to mind, etc. That may sound funny. It is. But it’s not necessarily stranger than spellcheck in your word processor. Thanks to a built-in dictionary, the processor knows that ‘receive’ may not be right, and puts a little red line under it. Content intelligence goes a bit further, in that it’s continuously updating itself. Imagine a very smart dictionary that automatically absorbed neologisms and understood word choice given context (‘you might want to say “car” here instead of “automobile”‘). But the principle’s the same. And because content’s the coin of the digital realm for all things marketing these days, content intelligence delivers a real kick.”
Content intelligence can help keep content marketing on point with right message going to the right segment.
“The challenge with digital marketing, as it is with most advertising, has always been a lack of genuineness,” Scott writes. “Increasingly, and fortunately, ads are finally becoming more personal; rather than just putting the same ad in front of everyone, content marketing seeks to identify a need an individual has at a specific moment.” Cognitive computing platforms can help in this process. Scott concludes, “Online advertising gets a bad rap, but there is no reason to believe that people cannot be engaged if the ad speaks directly to them and what they need in that specific moment.” Deshpande adds, “The importance of higher-quality content is only increasing as the demand for content keeps rising. It’s hard enough to produce sufficient content; but standing out requires content on par with the highest-quality consumer publications (think Vanity Fair, Esquire, and Marie Claire).” The bottom line is that you want your brand to be the go-to place consumers seek out because they know they will be informed when they have questions.
 John Scott, “How content marketing is personalizing ads,” Vator, 6 April 2017.
 Pawan Deshpande, “The Chief Content Officer Is Dead; Long Live Content Marketing,” MarketingProfs, 15 March 2017.
 Will Humphries, “4 Content Marketing Trends You Need to Know About,” Business2Community, 17 December 2016.
 Ryan Skinner, “What is content intelligence?” Information Management, 11 April 2017.