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2018 was a year when we heard a lot of conversations around purpose-driven brand building, meaningful brands, consumer-first, new media, the power of storytelling, brand advocacy and much more. One thing common to these conversations was content marketing.

Brands, marketers and media houses, all realise that content marketing holds the key for future growth. But they still aren't getting it right and are failing to clear the clutter. While 2018 made the impact of content marketing to all industry stakeholders very clear, 2019 will be the year where brands, platforms and agencies will find their mojo and content marketing will leapfrog all predictions to establish itself as a prominent part of the media plan.

According to industry estimates, the spend on content marketing is likely to see a 50% growth next year. 

Content saw a phenomenal growth across platforms in 2018 as both new-age and traditional brands realised the power content held to kick-start the purchase journey of consumers.

This article discusses how marketers can get content marketing right and the growth potential 2019 holds for it.

Content marketing is like the first date

According to David Beebe, known as the powerhouse of content marketing worldwide, “Content marketing is really like a first date. If all you do is talk about yourself, there won’t be a second date”.

The first best conversation happens when you don’t talk about yourself and are interested in listening to what the other person has to say. The same rule applies to content marketing. It’s difficult but true that the best pieces of content marketing are the ones where the brand talks less about themselves and more about their consumers.

It’s heartening to see not just the smaller brands but bigger ones are also embracing the content marketing space not just on digital but TV, radio and print. The only annoying thing is that brands are being adamant to get too much noticed in content they are associated with.

Well, content marketing is a game of patience, wise storytelling and gaining consumers’ affection by listening to them and their stories. A lot of marketers think they understand content marketing well but end up doing mostly long-form ads, brand placement in content or even bad content, which consumers do not connect with.

Single video film, write-up and social media conversation is also not content marketing

Although more and more marketers tried their hands on content in 2018, for many it was a short-term play. They need to understand the fact that content creation and content marketing are two different things. One can’t expect a piece of content to work wonders for the brand. Marketers need to chalk out an elaborate plan around content creation, editorial calendar and be patient for results. A single piece of content can impress the consumers for once but content marketing done right can win their hearts forever.

Behind every piece of bad content is a marketer who asked for it

It’s been a tough game for content creators, platforms and agencies to persuade clients to undertake the content route to reach out to the consumers. A lot of content creators shared that brands need to expand the horizon of their thinking and come out of the mindset of pure advertising while doing content marketing. A content piece goes wrong when the content brief objective is similar to an expectation from an ad campaign. It is definitely risky to spend money and not talk much about oneself in content, but it is worth a shot!

Branded content is not content marketing

There is a huge lack of understanding around branded content and content marketing. Dispelling the misunderstanding in a sentence, content marketing is a strategy to attract an audience to experience, and branded content is just ‘content’. The first part of this strategy is to create branded content. It includes selecting what information to communicate in what format. Up to here, it is more or less like branded content; however, the second part of a content marketing strategy is what makes all the difference: content distribution.

Most of the Indian marketers have become great branded content marketers, but it’s a long journey of knowledge building that will help them understand the power of content marketing. To my surprise, while interacting with a lot of marketers, I also heard marketers saying that every content initiative is branded content. Nevertheless, I am hopeful for the future!

News publishers need to transform the approach towards content marketing

With brands seeking a certain degree of authenticity through content, the platforms play a big role in adding further credibility. But, news platforms are apprehensive about their own credibility in this process. Some even call content marketing and branded content another form of paid news.

They look satisfied with the way their advertising inventories are filled but they are missing the point that the yields are not growing as they should. Advertising rates are either stagnant or not increasing in the proportion of their reach as brands seek more delivery in terms of engagement rather than just reach. Brands are more interested in trying out newer ways to reach out to their consumers rather than plain vanilla advertising.

Marketers understand the concerns of news publishers and accept that their credibility should not be diluted but at the same time brands are continuously asking for more than advertising from publishers. Publishers too somewhere realise that they will have to change their mindset with time.

While some publishers are already offering their entertainment and event-led content for brand integration and successfully contributing to content marketing, some are carrying branded content under the ‘sponsored’ tag. Global news agencies and platforms like Reuters, Financial Times and BBC have their content marketing arms contributing to their revenue streams. Indian news publishers need to learn from their global counterparts how they have developed clear distinction between news content and branded content while keeping their credibility intact.

The way advertising industry is shaping up, all news publishers will have to find a way to ride on the sun in the season sooner or later.

The rise of branded content on TV, radio, podcasts and OTT

2018 was a massive success for content platforms and creators like TVF, Pocket Aces, MissMalini, PopXO, Momspresso, Glamrs and others. Seeing the pattern of the marketers' money flowing towards the digital content creators and platforms, TV, radio, print and OTT platforms also pulled up their socks and came out with better content integration offers beyond sponsorships, AFPs and brand placements. We saw these mediums setting up separate units for the marketers’ content needs. OTT was able to lure the brands with interesting formats of content available at the marketers' disposal. More and more brands also experimenting with the podcast.

Therefore, 2019 will be a year with marketers having a better understanding of content marketing, branded content, content creators and platforms will come up with better ideas and understand brands’ requirements well. With data proliferation, brands will invest hugely on OTT platforms and podcasts.