A Brief History Of B2C & B2B Content Marketing

From creating content for search engines today we are in the age of original content in all forms across platforms and screens

This is the age of content creators for multiple screens. Content is finally finding its way forward with marketers coming to terms with original content being the cream. But, this has also given a sudden rise to storytellers who are trying to create interesting content that not only connects with the brand communication but also fetches the decided goal.

What is quality content? The short answer in today’s day is creating valuable original content while providing a desired experience. Gone are the days when ‘x’ number of words decided its fate or the recent belief that short snacky content appeals to consumers. The truth is that in this mobile-driven age, long form reading is showing signs of growth.

According to a latest report by Pew Research Center conducted in association with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, that addresses this question from the angle of time spent with long- versus short-form news, the analysis finds that despite the small screen space and multitasking often associated with cellphones, consumers do spend more time on average with long-form news articles than with short-form. Indeed, the total engaged time with articles 1,000 words or longer averages about twice that of the engaged time with short-form stories: 123 seconds compared with 57.

But content and its marketing over half a decade has drastically changed. From stuffing keywords, today brands are ready to go behind and let the story be the hero. We no more look for stuffing keywords but drive value to a consumer’s time on the Internet. Rand Fishkin, Founder of Moz, one of the marketing world’s fastest growing software companies, last year talked about 10x scale.

If you can’t consistently say, “We’re the best result that a searcher could find in the search results,” well then, guess what? You’re not going to have an opportunity to rank. It’s much, much harder to get into those top 10 positions, page 1, page 2 positions than it was in the past because there are so many ranking signals that so many of these websites have already built up over the last 5, 10, 15 years that you need to go above and beyond.

Today to create 10x quality content you need to answer all these questions: What questions are being asked, user experience, the details of the information being actually provided, use of visuals and then the quality of writing. Finally the right question to ask, according to Rand, is “What’s missing?” “This is the way that I can be 10 times better than the best results in there.”

Content marketing is a serious business today. According to Content Marketing Institute’s latest B2B enterprise content marketing report, 74 percent of the content marketers surveyed said they have a content marketing strategy in place, but only 22 percent rated their content marketing efforts effective.

The seriousness in this field has also scaled up the staffing trends. Some 43% of companies say they plan to increase the number of staff working on content marketing this year, according to recent research from Curata.

Conducted in March 2016 of 1,030 marketers and executives, the survey states 87% of company has a content marketing team. 68% of companies have a team size of between 1 and 3 people.

Interestingly, 41% of respondents say the most important skill-set missing from their content marketing team is content creation, followed by content marketing lead (21%).

But the seriousness has evolved with time. Gone are the days when marketers used to get high by simply posting a TVC on YouTube. Today they are creating original content to appeal to their audience while working with content creators. Content today is not looked as a product promotion tool but it is about showing a reason while providing an experience.

The beginning of content marketing

Many cite the 1895 launch of John Deere’s The Furrow as the first example of content marketing, making the strategy 120 years old.

Five years ago content was just about ‘keywords stuffing’ in the first two paragraphs. Content was equated to keywords. The idea was to just answer a user query and gain trust from Google. This led to the growth of all kinds of cryptic practices that made sure a lot of useless content standing out there confidently in Google’s first page. This also led to the growth of SEO businesses that offered such deals - “We can rank your site on Google’s first page in a month.” (and I’m being way lenient when I say 30 days!)

The age of content creation for search engines was finally challenged by the emergence of social media. Content was no more for keywords but slowly emerged into solving real consumer problems. Google evolved and so did its algorithm, which started giving preference and relevance to sites that invested in creating original and useful content.

Speaking to LinkedIn, Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs informs that we’re long past the days when creating content for search engines is an effective practice.

“It used to be that publishing regularly was enough to boost you in search rankings and customers would find their way to you. We’re beyond that now. You need to be creating content that has real empathy for the audience you are trying to reach.”

In 2015, everybody from the US to India everyone had boarded the content bandwagon. In a September 2015 study by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProfs, 76% of B2B marketers in North America said they expect to create more content in 2016 than they did in 2015.

2015 - Emergence of real time content marketing

2015 was the defining year for Indian brands who started talking content marketing seriously. Though the greed of going viral almost with every content kept agencies chasing new boundaries, we saw - for the first time - a rise in brands in India impressing us with their timely content, raking in likes, retweets and shares in the process. (Read: The Coolest Real-Time Content Marketing Examples Of 2015)

When Ninetendo founder, Satoru Iwata passed away, Flipkart had paid a fitting tribute to the founder.

When Earth 2.0 – a planet similar to Earth was discovered, a couple of brands got really carried away, calling it as Big Brother and Lost cousin. Housing.com, had come up with an interesting visual for our long ‘lost cousin’.

2016 - GIFs and GIFs

2016 has raised the bar of real time content creating in many folds with the crazy use of GIFs. It was 2015 that saw the real emergence of gifs by brands, what was made popular by the listicles from the likes of Buzzfeed and 9GAG, became a regular on brand social media properties. Be it in sectors like auto or insurance, FMCG or technology, mostly every brand was indulging in gifs.

Kingfisher – the king of good times – wanted to redefine the category by claiming to be ‘the original social network‘ last year. The beer brand had rolled out a series of interesting gifs to demonstrate how it was the ‘original social network’. (Read: How Gifs Help Brands Tell Stories One Frame At A Time)

When Netflix, the world’s top video streaming service came to India, it became the talk of the town. The beer brand Fosters that associates with chill had to say this:

Not to forget that brands have increased their creative investments for all kind of days. From Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Science Day, Reading, Sports, among others, brands are celebrating all kinds of days with creative and appealing visuals. (Read: Brands sharing creative visuals on occasions.)

Other than specific occasion based campaigns, 2015 witnessed 360 degree campaigns with content being the core. When Philips had introduced its innovative kitchen appliance named Air Fryer in 2012, little did the consumer know about its health benefits or its usage. The product allowed one to cook chicken wings, French fries, aloo tikkis and other deep fried foods with 80% less oil, but was faced with a low awareness level among cooking enthusiasts. Also, content on the internet especially YouTube focused only on international recipes that can be cooked with the Airfryer. The lack of Indian recipes with the Airfryer hindered its growth in India.

The brand cooked up an influencer led awareness campaign to tackle relevant content, in tandem with paid media. Instead of launching and creating its own YouTube cookery channel from scratch, Philips leveraged and roped in India’s biggest YouTube influencer (in the cookery domain) named Sanjay Thumma.

By the end of the year: Average monthly search volume for keyword ‘Philips Airfryer’ jumped by 129%. The brand witnessed 266% sales jump that was influenced heavily by digital along with other forms of marketing. (Read: Seven Successful B2C Content Marketing Campaigns Every Marketer Could Learn From)

DBS bank has a strong brand presence across Asia but in India it has quite a low awareness. In a bid to build brand awareness, the bank had created a film called Chilli Paneer based on the love story of a Mumbai girl and a Singaporean boy. The campaign led to healthy engagement on social media.

And then it played on with the next installment called Chilli Paneer 2 that brought in interactivity and more content channels. Now the story had 8 different endings and was hosted on a microsite. With the added layer of interactivity built in, the idea was to let the consumer control and co-create the story of Ken and Asha with DBS playing a key role in each of the eight possibilities.

In addition to the film communicating through social media channels, the chief protagonists – Ken & Asha were active on social media and people could interact with them. Ken’s food blog and Ken & Asha’s Twitter handles provided people an opportunity to interact with the protagonists.

Food bloggers and blogger meet ups further added to the brand awareness exercise. The strategy led to healthy microsite traffic with time spent on video page averaging to 5.38 minutes. (Free Download: 43 Best Indian Digital Marketing Case Studies Of 2015)

Mid last year in a bid to promote its 2-in-1 (laptop and tablet) and other computer products to youngsters, Dell embarked on a documentary series that showcases teen achievers in the fields of fashion, science and technology. A total of four 90-second videos were created with young experts. Here in this video Taylor Wilson who built a fusion reactor when he was 14, shares about how he still is finding new ways for technology to help our world. He talks about the achievement and how science always fascinated him since childhood.

In fact in 2013, when Dell India launched the new Inspiron 15R laptop, the brand launched ‘Achieve with Dell’ where you had to share your inspirational story and stand a chance to win a Dell Inspiron laptop. The brand also featured the story of Priya who connects to life through Yoga. She manages to reach out to her blog readers with the help of the HD webcam on her Inspiron.

In 2014, we witnessed HP India going the same route to appeal millennials. The tech giant’s #BendTheRules campaign that was launched in 2013 with actress Deepika Padukone had a makeover in 2014. Out goes Bollywood from the brand and in comes a the young startup guy in the latest ad. The ad features the HP Pavilion x360, calling it as made for ‘a generation that works differently’. (Read: HP India’s #BendTheRules TVC Salutes Gen Y For Its ‘New Approach’ To Life)

On YouTube, the brand brought forth real life stories of ‘new approach for every soch’. Here’s a video story of Nitin Saluja and Raghav Verma of Chaayos who take us through their journey of starting up, along with the various kinds of ‘soch’ they had to deal with.

2016 – a blast of video content marketing

2016 – the year of Video. From social networks to brands to publishers everyone is talking about creating videos. From Facebook exclusive videos, to long form videos to documentary videos, everyone is dreaming to go viral.

Again the growth of video began from last year, which has exploded this year. Even with infrastructure challenges, consumption of online video content is up from 49 to 66 percent over the last year.

Mobile has boosted video consumption which has led to an increase in mobile advertisement spends, which in turn has reflected a significant growth. Mobile data traffic grew 50 percent in 2015, driven by 85 percent surge in 3G data traffic. This growth is largely on the back of surging consumption of videos, with approximately 40 percent of mobile data traffic being driven by video and audio consumption.

This year we have seen the rampant launch of video on demand services topped by interesting and original content. While these new platforms continue to grow and stabilize, YouTube (the grandfather of video social network) is taking the lion’s share of video advertising in India. YouTube continues to lead with maximum share of the online video viewership and online video advertising revenues, while other OTT platforms currently occupy only a small portion of this pie. (Read: Consumption, Content & Challenges: 3 C’s That Will Decide The Fate Of Indian OTT Video Services)

Marketers are also putting money into the growing segment. Video drove the major digital investments after search in 2015.

India_Digital_Segment_Advertising_2015From posting TV ads on YouTube, brands went digital first and then rolled out exclusive video content for digital. Festival celebration on digital is now overpowered by launching digital videos along with visual content.

This Mother’s Day Bajaj Electricals ran a short film with a long impact on the mind. (Read: The 20 Best Mother’s Day Videos Of 2016 By Indian Brands)

On Women’s Day, Uber India decided to bring forth stories of real women who’ve been driving change. A video took us through the life journey of four women – Shaheen Mistri, CEO Teach for India; Lavanya Hariharan, Founder & CEO Pamperazi.com; Megha Mandloi, Uber Partner and Jyoti Patil, Uber Driver-Partner, while juxtaposing it with their everyday family lives. (Read: 10 Inspiring Women’s Day Videos Of 2016 By Indian Brands)

2016 - Influencers driving content marketing

2016 has also seen continuous belief in content driving extensive marketing campaigns. However the trend so far has been that brands are going to well known digital content creators to create interesting content and then tying up with publishers to promote it.

The mobile telecom company, Vodafone recently rolled out ‘U’ ‘a first-of-its-kind lifestyle proposition’, targeted at the socially active young generation. To create an impact on the socially active young generation, the brand rolled out a six-and-a-half minute-long digital video #FunWithU. For this, it has collaborated with Indian stand-up comedian and YouTube content creator Kanan Gill, the online digital entertainment channel The Viral Fever, (popularly known as TVF), and rapper Dilin Nair, better known by his stage name Raftaar.

To promote the Yoga 900 and Tab 3 PRO on digital, Lenovo India went full-out on videos decoding cool with the help of stand-up comedian Sahil Shah. This isn’t the first time Lenovo is roping influencers for their campaigns. Lenovo #GoodWeird was one of the memorable influencer campaigns from 2015, where a series of films chose to go the creative storytelling path rather than the usual documentary approach. (Read: 15 Memorable Influencer Marketing Campaigns Of 2015)

Content marketing driving B2B Campaigns

Not just B2C, content marketing is going to drive B2B digital marketing in 2016. The Association of National Advertisers informed that ‘Content Marketing’ was the word of the year.

A major role has been played by brands in aggressively adopting video storytelling. Volvo Trucks has mastered the art with their Live Test Series. Last year, Volvo came up with another innovative ad that featured 4-year-old Sophie driving a full size truck with a remote control. The result is an amazing ‘Look who’s driving’ film that shows how the Volvo truck can withstand almost anything. Sophie is having the time of her life ramming the giant truck right onto swinging boxes and concrete buildings.

‘To show what the truck can do, we want to give it a real challenge. What test driver is more reckless than an unpredictable four-year-old?’ said Ricard Fritz, Vice President Volvo Trucks. The video not only succeeded in demonstrating the toughness of the new Volvo FMX, but also made for a memorable watch.

Back home, Century Ply, a synonymous name with plyboards decided to take up it’s 2014 initiative of rewarding carpenters. Last year the brand decided to recognize the work of carpenters. It appealed to 200 pujo pandals through ‘Smoke Free Pujo’ to nominate one of their carpenters for the campaign. Three extraordinary carpenters among these 200 nominations were chosen to be honoured as ‘CenturyPly Heroes 2015’.

So far Facebook as a network has played a small role but B2B marketers are re-looking the network. “Benefits for Facebook – 90 percent say increased exposure, 77 percent citing increased traffic as a plus. Additionally, 68 percent agreed that Facebook provided marketplace insight with 65 percent saying it generated leads and improved search rankings,” informed the Social Media Examiner report 2015. (Read more: Content Marketing Will Drive B2B Digital Marketing In 2016)

Challenges for content marketing

There are challenges too – the biggest one being Adblocking which has hit marketers real bad. Adblocking (the use of apps to remove unwanted ads that kill the user experience) is a problem created by advertisers themselves. B2B is not going to be spared and mobile will only make the landscape more challenging in the coming years.

Ad blocking software is set to cost digital publishers almost £19 billion by 2020, a new report from Juniper Research reveals, with global ad block users rising 41 per cent year-on-year. According to a latest report by PageFair, at least 419 million people are blocking ads on smartphones. The report further goes on to say that 22% of the world’s 1.9 billion smartphone users are blocking ads on the mobile web.

Emerging markets which have seen a proliferation of smartphones are the growing hunting grounds of ad blocking market. 36% of smartphone users in Asia-Pac are blocking ads on the mobile web. (Read: Why Indian Publishers Should Be Very Worried About Mobile Ad Blocking)

In addition to this, the biggest content related challenge has been aligning content creation with audience preference.

Finally, having a clear purpose will yield better results for your content marketing initiatives. This would also mean that you are not hunting for your ROI.

“Your content marketing team is no doubt great at churning out content, but that content needs to connect meaningfully with your target audience and to have a significant, quantifiable impact on your customers. To ensure your content marketing team is consistently hitting home runs, you need to connect your content production goals with the strategic goals of the organization,” writes Mike Templeman,founder of Foxtail Marketing.