My tips for brands using content in the mix in 2015

Clare Hill, managing director of the Content Marketing Association (CMA), offers her insights for brands using content marketing this year.

Clare Hill, managing director, CMA
Clare Hill, managing director, CMA

Content marketing already accounts for £1 in every £5 spent on marketing and rising. To make the most of the opportunity, it helps to be able to track how the space is developing. As leader of the UK's CMA here are some key trends I think are worth knowing.

Flagship content

Call it what you will – best-in-class, premium content, flagship content – quality matters. It always has, but sometimes in the rush to get ‘stuff out there’, brands have forgotten the importance of quality. As the volume of content increases exponentially, it’s more important now than ever to produce content that is memorable, useful, entertaining, relevant and of course, measureable.
And don’t forget, Google algorithm changes are designed to reward quality. If you want your content to be visible in the search rankings, impose a quality threshold.

Go visual

The world likes a picture and sometimes (but not always) a picture is worth 1,000 words. Consumer uptake of social media like Twitter (284m monthly users), Instagram (300m) and Pinterest (about 50m) exemplifies this, and they’re driving the requirement for more visual content. According to Hubspot, 44pc of users are more likely to engage with social media if it contains pictures. Animated giffs (go easy on the cats and babies, though) and infographics are a great way to drive that engagement.

Go mad for YouTube

YouTube is, after Google, the second biggest search engine. Broadcast on TV, Russell Brand’s Newsnight interview got 600,000 viewers: posted on YouTube it achieved 10m views.
Brands like Paddy Power and Jamie Oliver are becoming broadcasters in their own right, with Oliver’s Food Tube  now the second biggest food channel in less than a year.

Brands are catching on – video was the fastest-growing category at the CMA’s 2014s International Content Marketing Awards – but there’s plenty of room for growth. According to James Stafford, vice president for Europe of Stylehaul, of the 13.9bn YouTube views for fashion and beauty, only 3pc were for brand-produced content. 

YouTube is not only gives you a TV network, it gives you ways to monetise your content and offers ecommerce solutions.

Partnership before pride

‘Co-opetition’ is a portmanteau word that describes what happens when two competing institutions find opportunities to co-operate. IBM and Apple have come together under the tagline ‘partnership before pride’, and amongst the CMA members we are also seeing agencies form partnerships to work together with the same client.

"As a strategic content marketing agency, we partner with other CMA member agencies that complement our service offering, working collaboratively on projects to deliver superior content for our clients.  The result is that the client not only receives an innovative approach to their challenge but an agency partnership that delivers results."  Tom Chapman, Headstream.  

Science and Art

Matt Adams, chief media officer of iProspect and CMA member, told the CMA 2014 Summit: "We firmly believe brilliant advertising is only possible if you have an equal balance of art and science. Don’t start with data. Think about people. Who are they are? What is their intent? What stage of the journey are they at?"

Paid distribution will be critical

There’s no point creating great content if the consumer either doesn’t know it exists, or can’t find it. Unseen content is a waste.

As Jamie Toward, head of content for WPP-owned media agency MEC (which recently joined the CMA) says: "We can’t depend on organic distribution. Equally agencies of every stripe need to challenge back to clients when we receive these briefs and make sure that great creative work (and budget) isn’t dying on its ass in the desert of undiscovered ‘content’."

Real-time marketing

Real-time marketing is social’s kid brother. Also known as right-time marketing, it’s the business of using social media to produce immediate topical content such as Kit-Kat’s ‘bendgate’ tease of the iPhone 6 last year.

But real-time marketing demands content, and producing quality content with such rapid turnaround times isn’t easy. It demands absolute focus, a clear strategy, editorial expertise and an agile, reactive structure capable of signing off on work fast.

Chief content officer

So far in the UK, the idea of a chief content officer (CCO) has yet to really catch on. In the US, if not exactly a dime a dozen, large advertisers are going down this route, with Hasbro as the latest example.

As clients commit more money to content marketing, and as it becomes more complex, it needs the focus of one skilled individual.

The human touch

Content is not the same as an ad; it requires a different tone of voice…dare we say it, a more human one.

Celebrities are one route, but these days vloggers or social media stars offer an compelling alternative. Many, like Zoella, have unprecedented followings and like to work with brands. Check out Unilever’s All About Hair YouTube channel.

Blurring of Llnes between agencies

Following agencies used to be simple. Creative agencies made ads; media agencies planned and bought media; search agencies did search…and so on. In the last 18 months or so, however, there’s been a blurring of the lines – driven by the twin forces of digitisation and content.

To me, this diversity underlines the health of the content eco-system. It’s exciting, it’s progressive, and it makes for innovation. And of course, they can all find a home with the CMA, where we focus solely on content marketing.

Clare Hill, managing director of the Content Marketing Association (CMA)

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