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Content marketing in 2020 has evolved from just being a blog post and editorial strategies to now become a holistic and cost-effective approach for brands in times of crisis.

As the brands were challenged in terms of resources and budgets during the Covid-19 lockdown, they found newer ways of curating content for multiple touch-points. But as we approach 2021, how much of these trends will survive and get carried forward to the next year? Also, how will these shape up the content marketing space for both creators and brands alike?

With audiences having lots of free time during the pandemic, home-grown content or content shot on a video phone became acceptable. Brands also woke up and suddenly realised that regular TV content was drying up and they needed to reach the audiences.

Shankar Iyer, Associate Director, Center Fresh, Mentos, Consumer Insights, Perfetti Van Melle, speaking at a session at BuzzInContent Conversations 2020, moderated by Madhura Ranade, Head Branded Content and Partnerships, Isobar India, said this year brands are going out of their way in trying to see which other touch-points exist in a consumer’s life, where they can be more relevant to them.

Even in terms of agility, brands came back with more and more pieces of content, which probably wasn’t there up till 2019.

Talking about the brand’s content strategy in order to be able to create more and more content, he added, “During this time, home productions or tapping into influencers really helped us to be agile. Because at the end of the day, people are looking at relatability, people are looking at having the right amount of trust. And that can come through the use of influencer marketing as well. And eventually agencies and companies adapted to producing content from home. Before 2020, we would not have even imagined this.”

Explaining how a creator like TVF was keeping up amid the pandemic with a big rise in content consumption and creators, Vijay Koshy, President, TVF, said it could actually not make new shows, so there was like a scarcity of new content. But at some stage, it could still manage to get out of it. From August onwards to now, it has managed to put out three shows in Hindi, one show in Telugu and Marathi each and has five shows on the floor right now.

“As brands slowly started getting back to regular activity, we have almost managed to put out four mini-series. Hopefully by next year, it will release four new web-series across various platforms,” he said.

Speaking how the radio industry stayed afloat, Sunil Kumaran, Country Head, Product, Marketing and Thwink Big, Big FM, said the Covid-19 phase actually had a silver lining for the radio industry.

“It not only helped move out-of-home listening to in-home, there was a huge surge in listenership. There was a ROI study done on listenership in six metros, and it kind of put the number at some 2.2 million in terms of listenership growth and some 23% increase in the in the time spent listening on radio. So it is a great reflection on the part of the medium in terms of its ability to be a companion, be credible, be topical, and be part of the jobs for that matter. It also has been a huge learning and very quick pivoting exercises for us from a content perspective as well since we now have to reach to an omni-channel consumer, which allowed us to go beyond the FM space and go into digital,” he said.

The company got into launching a Web Radio Platform called Big Radio Online and a lot of other things, which were actually in the pipeline and got accelerated. It got into podcast in a big way and gamification and smart speaker too. “The crisis really allowed us to reimagine our future in a better way,” he said.

Kumaran believes that the number of listenership in podcasts will see a surge in the next year. “It is a trend towards personal consumption. So consumers are making active choices of what they want to hear, where they want to hear and how they want to hear. It's still not as big in India, but the green shoots are visible. What is interestingly happening in this space is that it is getting cluttered with creators, so I think that's where the balance has to shift. It has to fall its own groove; currently it's kind of mayhem and everyone's rushing to the new kid on the block. But yeah, it will find its rhythm,” he added.

He suggested a smarter strategy which most brands can use on podcast — to present the podcast rather than integrating your brand into the content. Also, it might be perceived as a very English dominant medium but has been growing fastest in the regional space.

Apart from this, Jayen Mehta, Senior General Manager, Planning and Marketing, GCMMF (Amul), said content has a lot to do with the context, relatability, vernacular and topicality, and this will continue in the coming times as well.

“We brought back our 50 years old ad with agility during the pandemic on DD and managed to bring back the dose of nostalgia for the audience. With technology and the social media platforms, we are doing live shows, leveraging on the changing environment and technology and achieving the purpose. The Amul girl campaign, which otherwise goes strong on billboards and print, continued its presence during the pandemic by commenting on recent issues via digital,” he said.