It was this question I was recently challenged to answer in a presentation at this year’s Semi Permanent. I must admit I was at first humbled to have been asked to share my opinions at New Zealand’s leading creative and design conference. But as the MD of an agency currently tasked with content creation for some of NZ’s most prestigious brands, addressing this question was both a timely one and an opportunity too good to miss.
My response? There are three key themes that emerge when you think about the future of content – content must deliver value, content must have a purpose, and lastly the convergence of content and code.
But before I elaborate on each, it’s worth remembering that content marketing is nothing new. As far back as 1895, John Deere launched a magazine titled ‘The Furrow’ to help farmers become more profitable; it’s still in publication. So if the idea of content has been around for ages, why is it such a hot topic now? Several reasons. The relentless rise of technology has made the job of advertisers much harder. Platforms like Video On Demand and AdBlocking along with an increasingly fragmented media landscape have made the traditional advertising approach much less effective. With some people opting out of advertising altogether, content marketing is one strategy that encourages people to re-engage. But not just any old content will achieve that, which leads us back to my first theme – content must deliver value.
The key point to bear in mind here is that to get any value you first must give it.
Take the aforementioned ‘The Furrow’ as an example. It’s not a series of ads selling farming equipment, but rather a practical guide to helping farmers do what they do better. It was something people could choose to engage with irrespective of whether they were John Deere customers or not. We should think of the content we’re producing today in a similar way. How does it help someone? Does it make a person’s life easier? Is it entertaining? Does my brand have an authority (in the eyes of the market) to create and promote that sort of content? Content that fails to properly answer these sorts of questions is unlikely to be effective nor appreciated.
The second theme is content and its purpose.
One way to think about content’s purpose is to ask, “what do I want someone to know or do after they’ve seen it?” To answer that you need to know more than a little bit about who you’re talking to. Who are they? What’s their relationship with your brand? What do we want them to know or do next? And how does this particular piece of content relate to anything else we’re creating? Defining purpose and developing a robust content plan are critical factors if you want your brand to remain relevant and coherent (and be valued) over time and in the future.
The third and final theme is content and code.
The interactivity of digital media confers us a significant advantage should we choose to embrace it. We can see what’s working. What’s not. When people are engaging with content, and where they’re dropping off. And we can do that in real time. This means we can adapt our content executions and media weightings while a piece of content is live. Some say code is the enemy of creative. Headlines abound about how analytics and programmatic are killing creativity. But I see things differently. Code and the data it produces helps us create richer and more relevant experiences. And if used the right way, this information can help us make braver creative decisions with greater confidence.
So, what’s the future of your band’s content?
Well, in truth, that depends on you. It’s worth remembering that when you’re creating your content, you’re not just competing with other advertisers. If your content is showing up in people’s social feeds, you’re actually competition for attention with their entire life, along with every other brand. In that sort of environment, if you want your content to have a future then you absolutely must deliver value to encourage people to ‘lean in’. Your content needs a purpose and be executed as part of a broader plan or strategy to achieve your longterm objectives. And you need to be harvesting as much data through code as you can to help you optimise and eek out every last bit of effectiveness.
Do those things and I think your content has a bright future indeed.