There’s a good reason why it’s said we consume content. Because content, like other treasured objects of consumption, can make you queasy if not served properly. Continuing our preview of 2019, today we’re examining the crucial content trends your brand needs to master heading into the new year. If you’re looking to overcome challenges, build a stronger employer brand, or disrupt your visual design, you can start there.
Authenticity Over Everything
Whenever we discuss how a brand expresses itself, we must always ground ourselves in embracing authenticity. Trust is the yardstick by which all other brand expressions are measured. If you can’t reasonably own what you’re saying or how you’re saying it, you probably shouldn’t be speaking at all.
Especially in our hyper-polarized era of fake news, people are seeking meaning and authenticity in every facet of their lives. Eighty-six percent of consumers say that authenticity is a key differentiator that leads to a purchasing decision, while 73% of consumers say they would pay more for a product if the company behind it promises transparency. Brands like Toms, Everlane, and Bombas already know and capitalize on this fact.
Whether it’s blogs, podcasts, or speaking engagements, authentic content is one of the best tools your brand has for earning trust, building your brand, generating traffic, and attracting qualified leads.
Content Is King (But Strategy Is Emperor)
We all know content is king — but a king is only as good as his strategy. Following a four-year growth spurt, the content marketing industry is set to be worth $412 billion by 2021. As the market continues to mature, brands are viewing their content less as a cure-all and more as a unique prescription. That means strategy is more important than ever.
Every brand is unique. Nike’s content strategy wouldn’t work for Allbirds, and vice versa. That being said, universal goals like lead generation, SEO, and thought leadership are great places to start. From there, brands can craft specific strategies for whatever is most important to them. And thanks to increased technological advances in content personalization and interactivity, brands can get very specific about exactly who they are trying to reach.
One-Size-Fits-All Is Dead
Today, people are totally in control of their own customer journeys. The proliferation of content marketing has shifted the challenge from, “How do I create interesting content?” to “How can I steer my content through the tidal wave of digital noise?” Brands must reach customers precisely where they consume content, in the way they want, and targeted directly to their needs.
As Michael Brenner, from Marketing Insider Group, says, “Attention has become the currency of the digital, social, and mobile web. And the only way to attract a customer’s attention today is through the production of high-quality content that is relevant and personalized to the reader.”
Seventy-eight percent of consumers say that personally-relevant content is a determining factor in their purchasing decisions. It’s something that leads to enhanced engagement, fosters an increased sense of credibility, and enables brands to differentiate themselves from their competitors. With the surplus of data available at our fingertips, there should be no such thing as a blanket email or a one-size-fits-all approach to communications.
Flip the Funnel
In the past, the sales funnel worked a little like this: accept any and everyone, filter through a qualification process, keep the gold, ditch the dirt, rinse and repeat. It was an aggressive and linear path, with companies treating customers as gate keepers to wallets rather than relationships to nurture.
When you have a library of high-quality and personalized content, the customer journey transforms into something much more forgiving for both parties. The funnel today is more like a flat circle — one that privileges continuous engagement over quick-fire, transactional relationships. Brands can use an individual’s data to serve up location-based results, related products, and experience-specific follow up emails. This shift in communication, especially post-sale, makes customers more likely to stay with you, buy again, or recommend you to a friend.
As Forbes contributer John Hall says, “To be honest, someone else in your space can almost always come in and undercut you on price. But when you continuously engage your clients, build lasting trust, and form genuine partnerships, you’ll have much greater staying power.”
Save Your One-Liners for Twitter
There was a minute there where the internet felt like it was thinning out. Almost all content seemed like it was in bullet points, list form, or screen-shots from social media. But contrary to popular belief, long-form content is still the bedrock of viral content.
A recent analysis by BuzzSumo of over 100 million articles revealed that long-form content tends to get more social shares than short-form content. Long-form content will continue to dominate next year, as search engines reward lengthier posts in results rankings, and readers are increasingly seeking more trustworthy sources.
Voice Search and Chatbots
As we’ve discussed before, the role of new technologies like voice search and chatbots will add new flavors to content production in the new year. A 2017 report by NPR and Edison Research revealed that 42% of Americans called vocal assistants “essential,” and their popularity is only continuing to rise. This year’s version of the same report concluded that 81% of smart speaker owners are open to experiencing new skills and audio features created by brands.
These tools are becoming ubiquitous to our daily lives, and with that shift comes dramatic changes to consumer behavior. Not only should brands tailor their SEO strategy to respond to voice search, but they should also explore how their offering could be accessed or streamlined through a vocal assistant.
In addition, improvements in machine learning and AI means that chatbot features are becoming, dare we say, more human? Nowadays, a quality chatbot can intelligently respond to open-ended questions and use natural language processing to locate the best answer. Unlike humans, however, chatbots maintain an impeccable level of customer service 24/7 when programmed correctly. As we enter the brave new world of 2019, brands should investigate which content or services can be automated through a chatbot.
Even More of the Same
2019 will double-down on all of the brand writing trends we have seen developing over the last few years: more content, more personalization, more ways to access information, and even more of a hunger for authenticity and continuous engagement.
To learn more about how your brand can utilize content in the new year, contact Founding Partner Tracy Lloyd at email@example.com.
Emotive Brand is a brand strategy and design firm in San Francisco.
Originally published at www.emotivebrand.com on December 18, 2018.