There were a lot of digital marketing changes in 2014.
Companies got serious about content marketing, brands and publishers embraced native advertising, millennials were pushed into the spotlight, and big data made it possible for content creators to figure out exactly whom they were targeting. More than ever, marketers focused on providing valuable content to their consumers, and making it accessible on every platform, including mobile. With companies globally spending an estimated $135 billion on content marketing in 2014, staying ahead of the curve and seeing down the road isn’t only wise creatively — it’s essential financially and strategically. So what will content look and act like in the near future? We asked our favorite marketing thought-leaders to tell us what they see in store for 2015.
What are your digital marketing predictions for 2015?
1. Companies will get their content acts together, and make content a key component of culture. Rebecca Lieb (@lieblink) of the Altimeter Group calls this “developing an enterprise-wide culture of content.” Content creation shouldn’t just be a task for the marketing team — it behooves excellent external and internal communications to get input from all teams. User-generated content won’t only be relegated to the realm of social media.
2. There will be an enormous, brand-led shift in media ownership. “Soon, many of the top media sites in the world will be brand-owned,” says Doug Kessler (@dougkessler), Creative Director and Co-Founder of B2B agency Velocity. As the percentage of media sites owned by brands increases, so too will marketing budgets for content, leading to continuously higher quality. That’s something we can all get excited about.
3. …And this will lead to a strong response from non-brand-owned sites. As Kessler predicts, “indy media that doesn’t take native ads will rise again.” Much like the current independent publishing revolution is a response to big publishing houses controlling the market, content sites that don’t accept native will eventually strike out, likely gaining enormous followings and alternative ad revenue for themselves in the process.
4. Storytelling will topple other marketing silos, emerging as the ultimate audience-reaching tactic. As Michael Brenner (@BrennerMichael) says, “Existing marketing silos will fall apart as content, data and technology emerge as the only way for brands to reach consumers through storytelling.
5. Funny will win the day. Brenner’s advice? “Be funny or die! Brands will need to tap into their human nature and tell funny, engaging, and emotional stories if they want to survive.” That’s good news for consumers and content marketers alike — there are fewer things worse than lifeless content.
6. It’s all about convergence. Daniel Burstein, director of editorial content at MECLABS, says, “In the same way that marketing automation, email marketing, analytics, software, etc. are all converging into one end-to-end marketing platform (usually in the cloud), companies and content creators will converge as well. More brands will become publishers, more publishers will become marketing agencies, and more marketing agencies will become brands.”
7. Focus on your people and communities. According to Neil Patel, co-founder of KISSmetrics, community is going to be a big focus of marketing in 2015. “Companies are going to realize there is much more value in a community,” he says. “Right now everyone knows there’s Instagram, Facebook, etc., but not every company is building their own.”
8. We’ll see clearer definitions and get a better understanding of social native ads, native display, and custom sponsorships. Tom Channick, head of communications at Sharethrough, says: “The fastest growing ‘native advertising’ cross-section is ‘native display.’ Those are the in-feed ads you see outside of social platforms on sites like PEOPLE, Forbes, Real Simple, and on apps like Flixster. They have become the marketing channel for the fastest growing categories of advertisers: branded content, e-commerce, and app developers. As open web publishers continue to optimize their mobile websites and apps, these ads will become the primary monetization strategy by year’s end.”
9. Brands will stop creating stale blog posts and produce richer content experiences instead.According to Hanna Andrzejewska, marketing manager at GetResponse, future content will: “evoke emotions, express deeper empathy for each customer persona, and tell great stories with less emphasis on aggressive selling. Driving these campaigns will be the rush of data that is being made available to marketers that not only help to determine raw metrics such as conversion rates and engagement, but gain deeper insight into customer behavior to develop smarter campaigns and more targeted offers.”
10. Mobile-first thinking becomes a priority. According to Andrzejewska, mobile will take the lead. “Considering the fact that over 60% of emails are opened on mobile devices first and conversion rates are still in the single digit percentage ranges, there’s still massive potential for marketers to gain a deeper understanding of the mobile user’s behavior. As mobile usage continues to grow and dominate, brands will need to dig deeper to understand exactly what devices consumers are using.”
11. In 2015, companies must fully integrate digital into their entire operation. Murray Newlands, founder of Influence People, says that to keep up: “Having a great digital strategy is no longer something that can happen in isolation. The whole company has to undergo a digital transformation. In many cases that means mobile, [but] it also means major structural changes to the company far beyond the marketing team such as changing response times, products, and services, as well as things like opening hours.”
12. Brands that create content for mobile will be a hit among consumers. According to Steve Farnsworth, chief marketing officer at The Steveology Group, “2015 is when marketers start to grasp Flex-Media and its necessity to take advantage of ‘content in your pocket.’ That is, content that goes everywhere the user goes. As content consumption via mobile device swells, envisioning your content marketing assets from a mobile user’s perceptive first is mandatory to win big.”
13. Content will be more tied into sales starting at the very beginning of the creation process, says Farnsworth. “Before creating an editorial calendar for your content marketing, [you’ll be] analyzing who is involved in the buying process of your product. What titles, pressures, and job responsibilities do the users, bosses, and influencers that buy your product have? By understanding that, you can then map out their informational pain points as they relate to your subject matter expertise. When you fully understand those needs, topics that target those informational pain points are usually obvious. Content marketers are discovering that digital assets designed specifically for those topics are rocket fuel for driving inbound sales leads.”
14. Customers now choose the brands, not the other way around. Digital Marketing Strategist Jasmine Sandler says, “What is dying, certainly in digital marketing, is forcing the customer to approve a brand. Brands, agencies and marketers will need to develop and implement strategies that support organic relationship development across the board.” Farnsworth also says that repurposing existing marketing and corporate communications is on its way out. “The majority of content that’s laying around tends to be old market dreck. Worse, it’s usually created by marketers from their point of view, and focuses on what they sell, not on what they know. People are learning this is content marketing poison. While repurposing content sounds good, more often it is like using rotted wood to build a boat.”
15. May you rest in peace, link building. Entrepreneur and investor John Rampton says this, along with “SEO as a title is dying and will be dead in 2015. It will evolve into something bigger and much more important that encompasses everything marketing and analytics.”
16. Cooperative content will come about in 2015, and you’ll find it in employees and customers. Marketing Speaker and Coach Jay Baer says: “Companies want to create more and more content, but how can they do so efficiently (and affordably)? Increasingly, the answer will be found in their customers and their employees. 2015 will bring decentralized content creation programs with participants across the company (not just marketing), as well as content initiatives that rely on user-generated content in expanded and highly strategic ways. The best source of content in most companies may be right under your nose: your employees and customers.”
17. Customer experiences will define content creation. Melissa Breker, co-founder of Content Strategy Inc., says, “We will see content as an experience. We need to think past silo-based content and use customer journeys to determine how content can create different experiences. What we’re looking to do is create a great experience across all content touch points.”