2016: Where is Content Marketing Headed?

While three out of four marketing professionals claim to be 'using' content marketing, way less than half of that number can vouch for the actual effectiveness of what it does for them. I suspect that one of the main reasons why content marketing does not work for quite a number of folks out there is because they really don't know where its headed and they don't have a strategy. And, add to that, they have no clue about their real target audience – and content audience is not always the same as a marketing/advertising target audience. First things first, though, one needs to know where content marketing stands today, and what we could or should expect to see in 2016.

The role of the brand as content generator or creator is a given. But how does that content stand out amongst the huge amount of content that is out there. With technology today, any one and every one is capable of creating broadcast quality content (at least technically, if not creatively). Apps and hardware-software combinations now lets the girl next door create tv or cinema quality content. So, brand created content needs to be top quality from a production point of view, first and foremost. More importantly, its vital that the storytelling – the real value of content – is one that is top notch. Not every one can tell a good story, and that's exactly where content in 2016 will need to excel – a good great story (one that resonates with the audience), told well (creative quality, production excellence) and delivered in context.

Add to this a new role for brands that want to stand out: brand as curator or aggregator, facilitator, connector of all stories great and small – around the brand, the customer, the context. 2016 will see audiences connect and engage with brands that not only tell their own beautiful stories, create their own great content, but also ones that curate and bring them the best out there from various sources. Call this what you will, but it's like the big move we've seen in music – from the pure artist to the dj, the producer. Imagine that then for 2016: the brand as mixer.

I've said this in 2014. And in 2015. And I am saying this again: this will be the year of visual content. And in that reference: video. Brands will be in video like never before, weaving in better video, higher quality streaming, video apps, and interactivity within video. But video. Cue in then: attention from both audio and moving images. Good old theory.  Cisco have already predicted that video will account for 69% of all consumer internet traffic by 2017.  And, I'm betting you'll see interesting video formats as well, the standard, the 16:9, the vertical, the square 640x640 and more.

Next big 2016 content buzzword? Mobile. It's almost repeat time again, just like video. But honestly, we'll really see a lot more focus on mobile content – not just mobile friendly, but mobile specific content. Brands and marketers are quietly slipping out of their 'digital first' corner towards the 'mobile first' one. And we'll see a lot of conversion driven mobile content being created to improve mobile engagement, and persuasion mechanics.

Because good content is inherently endearing, it somehow really glues itself to a concept of following, and in extension loyalty. I don't necessarily mean great loyalty to brand or product purchase, but more a sort of affinity towards the brand that brings good, relevant, useful, entertaining and sharable content.

Finally, 2016 will not just see an exponential increase in the volume and velocity of content, but also in a scale of variety. Yes, we'll see video, but we'll see video being brought to you across different platforms, different delivery mechanisms. You'll see clever content being built via video into apps. That's like content within content. Who would have thought of that?

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