What content marketers should keep in mind in 2016

GroupM’s This Year Next Year report 2016 has projected that Digital Ad Ex will grow by 47.5 per cent in 2016. It has also strongly hinted at an upcoming trend where brands will get into movie and content production.

With disruption being the name of the game, traditional avenues of content marketing, yes, this breed of marketing did exist before the digital era, has gone through a major overhaul and marketers are already seeing some new trends emerging.

With a billion mobile phone connections and counting, bandwidth for internet consumption is soon to grow manifold, thanks to improved telecom infrastructure and 4G hitting urban and semi-urban markets. Advertisers well aware of this rapidly changing ecosystem must evolve, must adapt or perish. Hence, content marketing keeping the digital world in mind is advisable.

Industry experts share their inputs with about some factors that content marketers should keep in mind for 2016.

Know thy social media:

Stay ahead of the curve, it’s important to understand the digital eco-system well, including devices that make way for content marketing and the social media. “I feel a whole new generation is coming on to the mobile internet for the first time in India. Not just Delhi-Mumbai-Hyderabad-Bangalore, but also in the tier II cities like Jaipur, Kanpur and Allahabad,” says popular travel itinerary website's content marketing head Ashish Chopra.

“The moms and dads are coming online. They aren’t necessarily tech savvy on desktops but they are pretty active on mobile social media like WhatsApp and Facebook. The fact that more and more people are spending longer hours on the internet is important for a content marketer like me. It has become necessary that we keep mobile sensitivity when we create videos,” he adds.

To further substantiate his argument, Chopra proposes to make the content native to the user’s experience. “For example, if you copy and paste a YouTube video link on Facebook, it doesn’t get enough views. Two years ago, we launched a video and posted its YouTube link on Facebook.  It got around 300 views,” Chopra recalls from his personal experience. “The next day we uploaded it on Facebook as a native video and got 50,000 views on day one. So Facebook is killing the game right now. It wants good content, wants people to stick around longer on the platform. Content marketers must understand and capitalise on this, and see if it can be turned into a win-win for both the stakeholders,” he adds further.

Know thy consumer better:

With the nationwide penetration of internet in the rural and semi-urban markets, and advertisers taking increased interest in them to grow their markets, marketers are often heard asking if the strategy they have in place for their urban consumers will also work in these newer markets.

The looming question is whether content popular in metros and other urban market will resonate in the newer markets or ifmarketers need to have a different strategy for these.

“I look at content in a different light,” Chopra shares. “For every brand that invests in content marketing it's the consumer who decides what the flavour of the content will be. ixigo has many users who travel by train. So we focus on those people.”

What is important is that content marketers ask themselves if what they are creating is useful for their target audience, irrespective of the sensibility of urban, rural, tier I or tier II cities. “If it’s useful he or she is most likely to share it. One should keep an eye on topical content and inspirational stories that might relate to the audience. Then, with an insight into the lives of the consumers, come up with little things that touch their daily lives,” Chopra adds.

Be a storyteller, not advertiser:

Recognising the power of digital media and content to move  consumers, several brands are powering their marketing arms to become storytellers as well -- either through brand integration or through partnerships with content creators (branded content).

United Beverages’ alcohol-beverage brand Kingfisher is a fine example of a forward-looking brand that has done exceptionally well in tapping this potential.

“At the end of the day YouTube has a viewership of 75 million of our target group and is the fifth largest video channel so to speak. Only a few television channels are larger than it. One has to start looking at YouTube as mainstream media as well,” says United Beverages Limited, marketing SVP Samar Singh Sheikhawat, talking about content marketing and digital marketing in general.

With branded content being the buzzword, one mustn't confuse it with ads. “People have little patience for advertisements.”

“Earlier, say when there was only Doordarshan, people didn't have a choice but to sit through them. After multiple channels came in, people had a remote control in their hands, and would mostly switch channels to avoid ads," says Chopra.

“For the current, digital generation, when an ad comes on YouTube or Facebook, viewers have 10 tabs open. So we can’t make ‘ads’ for this generation. It has to be authentic content of real value to them, solves a problem, fascinates or is topical. And there has to be entertainment of some sort. Period,” Chopra firmly asserts.

And that is exactly what Kingfisher has done with the web-series Pitchers in partnership with The Viral Fever. “Kingfisher has already heavily and successfully invested in content marketing on the digital platform, their single most outstanding success being TVF’s Pitchers.

It was produced by TVF and funded by us, and after the success of its season one, we have decided to be part of season 2 this year. Kingfisher has been woven into the story and the views you see are organic. We are not claiming credits or marketing it,” shares Sheikhawat, admitting that the brand is looking to invest in several similar initiatives. “We have received feelers from the likes of Ronnie Screwvala's Arre, YRf’s new digital arm. So we are currently evaluating creating more content like pitchers,” Sheikhawat adds.

Be patient, it works:

The 120 Media Collective founder-CEO Roopak Saluja defines content marketing simply: “If advertising is telling the world you are a rock star, content marketing is showing you are one.”

In the current eco-system, Saluja observes that advertisers lack patience with content marketing and aim for an immediate result. According to his market observations, “Though wisdom remains in investing in a sustainable content property, for the most part, brands and advertisers investing in content marketing are not looking into larger properties.”

“From what the market looks like in early 2016, there will be brands that will be dipping their toes into content market to try it out. Rather than making a big investment, they might want to experiment at a small scale as an entry point into the field,” he elaborates. In other words, the adoption of the medium might be low intensity and not immediate.

In agreement with his peers, Saluja reiterates that the current trend of content marketing is based on the rapid growth of video content digital available. ”Whether its small video content or a large property, the way ahead is definitely video-driven.”

In content marketing, advertisers really see results in sustained strategy over getting content as a standalone initiative. Therefore advertisers making one-time small investments might not see the promised result from the medium and might go back to the traditional medium. This could be counterproductive for the medium. “It's hard to say how it will affect the medium currently. Whether it's five or 16 years later, traditional media will be deemed inefficient and all advertisers must be on board the content and digital bandwagon,” Saluja speculates.

When it comes to effectiveness, Sheikhawat, a pioneer in content marketing, agrees that it is too soon to talk of efficacy as more often than not brands are aiming at credibility and loyalty than at direct effect on sales.

Keeping Pitchers in mind Sheikhawat shares his experience on accountability of content marketing. “It is hard to tell in only one season, but it did get listed at position 21 on IMDB, rated next to shows like Game Of Thrones. It got over 10 million views for the five-episode web series. The target is to take it to 4 to 5 million unique viewers. That's a significant number, larger than many television channels in this country. Apart from viewership, it comes with credibility, which is organically built with this digital-savvy generation, the future consumer base for us. We will continue this for a couple of more seasons. Then we will be in a better position to evaluate.”

While the budget for content market is comparatively small for Kingfisher at the moment, it will only increase, says Sheikhawat. “Typically, digital advertising is 20 per cent of our marketing budget, out of which content creation will be close to half.”

The industry is also discussing if an episodic way of introducing a marketing campaign to viewers and consumers can also be a way to keep them loyal to and interested in the brand. While many are concerned that episodic branded content requires longer commitment, they are willing to place their bets on it.

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