The web has developed dramatically over the last couple of decades. And just as the Internet has evolved through the years, the ‘toolkit’ on offer to marketers and brands has also matured, meaning consumers are now in the hot-seat when it comes to the content they read. Speedier Internet connections and increasingly sophisticated techniques also mean that brands have more complex methods of creating and distributing content to their target users.
A website built 20 years ago can still contain some useful information, and aspects of the tools used by previous generations for content can still prove valuable today. However, they now have the newcomers to contend with.
These days, social media content, blog and email marketing strategies are typically built around engaging copy and images. This is a tactic that has stood the test of time; as far back as the start of the nineteenth century, all the way through to the Mad Men era, this has been the go-to, marriage-made-in-content-heaven combination – even when fibre-optic broadband was but a twinkle in the eye of Sir Tim Berners-Lee.
After this, came the second generation of video- and audio-based content: namely, YouTube channels and podcasts, amongst others. Brands have realised the power of global digital video traffic and have upped their game accordingly. Cisco estimates that IP video will signify a 79% proportion of all worldwide digital traffic by 2018; a figure that is up by 13% from 2013. As a result, interactive content is on the rise – a prime example being Burger King’s ‘Subservient Chicken’ campaign. The Subservient Chicken was made into a web page, where a man in costume would perform various actions based on a user’s input, with the tagline, “Get chicken just the way you like it”. The campaign is said to have evolved from a television idea into an interactive one, and was so successful that the character, Subservient Chicken, was used in numerous subsequent advertising campaigns.
Although brands continue to utilise images, text and video, content strategists now have even more tools in their box: time and location. Recently, brands have put their creative slant on content using these two elements – for example, Tate Britain’s ‘Welcome to London’ campaign, where the content changes depending on time of day, weather and speed of passing cars. British Airways’ #lookup billboard was also very successful, winning 2014’s Creative Out of Home Awards Grand Prix. The innovative campaign saw billboards update in real time; when a plane flew overhead, the video ad would feature a small boy pointing up to the sky with the slogan #lookup.
So what’s similar about these types of campaigns? The answer is that they are all based around and built on data. We now have access to more data than ever before, giving us insights into consumer habits and preferences. Brands can adapt their campaigns for a personalised approach, creating content based on location, social data (for example, if the user is set up with an account on Facebook’s FB Connect) and environmental information.
Familiarity and relationships form the basis for customer retention – and personalised content manages to improve both of these elements. By giving consumers a message that is predictive as opposed to reactive, brands can make sure their voice is heard over the hubbub of other marketing content.
‘Micropersonalisation’ looks to be the buzzword of the future when it comes to content, largely thanks to the data from the Internet of Things. Imagine logging onto a business’ website to be presented with a homepage tailored specifically for you, a big ‘hello (your name)’ at the top, with all the content you are searching for laid out in the way you like? This could happen sooner than you may realise.
Why does this personalised content work so well? Because it isn’t just one-size-fits all content that is ‘suitable’ for everyone. Suitable won’t do anymore. Instead, it represents a new way of thinking; it’s more relevant, more valuable, and therefore more engaging to consumers. On the other side of the coin, however, brands need to be careful; there’s a thin line between being helpful and being intrusive. Keeping data secure and private should still be of paramount importance.
A marketer’s toolbox is now full of clever technology that creates, discovers, disseminates, measures, publishes and manages all aspects of online content. In 2015, it’s about picking the right tools for the job at hand and using them creatively and effectively in order to capture and retain customers.
Brands that continue to churn out dull and ineffective content are falling to the wayside. There’s simply no excuse for it anymore; with this new content toolkit available, we have the opportunity to be more creative than ever before.