Has content marketing become the new Kool-Aid?

Has content marketing become the new Kool-Aid?
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There’s no denying content marketing was one of 2013’s biggest buzz words. Everyone seemed to be talking about content, whether it works, how can it be done and how much should we be spending on it.

Before you knew it everyone seemed to be jumping on the content bandwagon. Large brands and agencies rebadged themselves as content marketers and new thought leaders came forward espousing the benefits of this so-called ‘new’ trend.   

But despite all the hype, we haven’t heard or seen the end of content marketing. Because of media fragmentation many brands are finding the traditional approaches like mass advertising no longer get the same results they used to in terms of brand building and stimulating demand.

What’s driving the switch to content marketing is the desire to establish more direct relationships with customers. However this discipline is competitive and challenging and plenty of money has been wasted to date.

For some time we’ve seen large brands bypass traditional media and create their own assets, media and content. By doing this they can control the message, tell their own stories and have direct access to the client.

For years companies like Telstra, Foxtel and Woolworths have been producing custom magazines, one of the original forms of content marketing. What’s changed is rapid advances digital technology and channels have greatly reduced the cost and ease of reaching audiences, allowing companies of every size to produce and share their content.

So what’s next?

Businesses will need to revisit their brands to work out whether it’s geared for content marketing and the new era of brand journalism. The will need to start developing the proof points, causes, opinions and content pillars that will allow them into the conversation.

Just like when social media marketing was gaining its early momentum, there was lots of talk about how great it could be and what it could achieve but there was limited understanding of the how. It took years for real discipline and strategic thinking to be applied and for agencies to show real, tangible results.

It’s the same with content marketing. We’ve got loads pf people talking about how great it is but very few leading the way and actually achieving anything worth talking about.

This year we’ll see the content conversation swing from the one dimensional buzz words of engagement and amplification, to real discussions on strategy and an exploration into the ‘how’. We’ll also see content gain bigger budgets and marketing planning switch to a content-first mindset.

A big shift to expect is businesses navigating the organisational change required for a successful content marketing strategy. They will need to work out the optimal operating model between themselves and their agencies as well as the technical investment required to run ‘always on’ multi-platform distributed content.

Content marketing is here to stay and in 2014 it will stop being an up-and-coming trend and become business as usual. Phrases like content planning, content strategies and content auditing will become part of the day-to-day marketing landscape.

Fergus Stoddart is a director at Edge. 

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