Outside Insight: The CMA’s ambition for 2016 - make content part of every CMO's checklist


The Content Marketing Association’s Clare Hill explains how, by putting content at the forefront of every industry conversation about the future of marketing strategy, she aims to make it part of the CMO’s checklist.

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Here at the Content Marketing Association (CMA) we don’t really do things by halves.

By every measure, we had a fantastic 2015: new members, event attendance, client-side interest, thought leadership, and awards entries.

All this put the CMA on the map. We generated over 15 million opportunities to see information about the CMA, its work promoting best practice in content marketing, and the services and capabilities of its members, through nearly 70 articles in UK and international business media.

Now we want to build on that profile by ensuring that content is part of all the big marketing conversations. And there are plenty of those going on, as CMOs wrestle with a complicated set of challenges – everything from mobile and social to combating ad-blocking, and driving engagement and customer-centric strategies via personalisation and storytelling.

How will I know we’re doing this? When every CMO asks their team ‘where does content fit into our marketing plan for this campaign?’ And if they don’t get the answer they want, then they should be asking ‘why not?’ or ‘what are we doing to fix this?’

Connections and content

Part of our strategy involves ramping up the core activities which served us so well in 2015.

Let’s start with the idea of making connections across the industry. Take membership as an example. Early in the year, we set out to make the CMA the hub for best practice, building membership across three spokes: specialist agencies, media agencies, and brand owners.

The success of this reflects the dynamic, changing nature of content marketing.

The diversity of our membership shows this. New members included media agencies; SEO specialists like Branded3 and Blueglass; video experts like Red Bee and ITN Productions (the latter also reflecting greater media-owner interest in the CMA); and brand owners like Zurich, Reed Global and the Prince’s Trust. As associate members, we welcomed the content recommendation platform Taboola and Roth Observatory, one of the world’s leading client-agency intermediaries.

What this shows to me is that, like content marketing itself, we are both platform and format-agnostic. Content is a giant space in which all kinds of specialists can play, from SEO to social to video and mobile.

We produced two special reports: one on data intelligence; and one on the use of social. There was huge interest in these, and together they recorded over 2,000 downloads from 50 countries, and a third of which were by brand owners, including names like Mars, Bank of America, TalkTalk, Toyota and Liberty.

So in 2016, we’ll be doing more. Already, we’ve commissioned one on video; other subjects could include effectiveness measurement and mobile.

They are clearly having an impact. One side effect has been the number of brands and brand owners asking the CMA for advice on briefs and pitches. I expect much more of this in 2016.

Owning the conversations

You can cut it a number of ways, but essentially the big conversations around marketing for 2016 will revolve around a core of issues.

What’s particularly interesting about these is that none is a discrete entity in its own right. They’re all interlinked, and what brands do in one area has a relation to the others.

  • Growing use of mobile, whether for location-based or in-the-moment marketing
  • Personalisation, to give each customer a relevant and timely message that makes them feel they are in control
  • Storytelling and sequencing, so that you reach the customer at the right moment in their purchase journey with the right message
  • The role of video, first to engage or entertain, and second to drive engagement and sharing
  • Data to power cross-platform and sequential messaging
  • Image-based content: whether it’s video, Instagram or Snapchat, consumers are consuming more visual imagery – and sharing it too
  • Ad blocking: the ubiquity and intrusiveness of online advertising increasingly leaves consumers feeling violated. 

At the CMA, we believe that content is an effective tool that can help marketers deal with each and all of these issues. Take mobile, for example. We know that CTRs on mobile are so low as to be virtually worthless. But rich-media content, especially when it is served contextually, can change that.

Or take video. The chances of engagement – and sharing – are much higher with content that goes beyond the ad. Video that entertains or provides genuine utility – in other words content – will register and engage.

Content is a way to beat ad blocking, first to circumvent ad blocking software, and second by producing messages and formats that do not leave the user disenchanted or fed up.

And then there’s one more: effectiveness. Every CMO worries about effectiveness. It’s a subject the CMA believes in passionately – our awards, for example, are the only ones based solely on effectiveness.

So in October this year, we’ll be playing a major part in an industry-wide initiative designed to celebrate and drive best practice. More on that as the plans unfold.

If you want to find a discipline that glues all this together, and cuts across every issue, look no further than content.

That’s why I’m more confident than ever that content will sit right at the heart of marketing in 2016.

Let’s bring it on.

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