Well it’s that time of year again. It’s time for content prognosticators and marketing futurists to get out their crystal balls and start predicting the biggest trends for content marketing for 2016. I have done my own predictions post every year as well. While I have been right about as much as wrong, I think I’ve done a decent job of identifying future trends.
But as a futurist and bet-maker? I think I’ll keep my day job. Most of these predictions were much slower to come to pass than I thought. Here’s a quick review:
My Previous Marketing Predictions
In my top marketing predictions for 2011, I correctly saw that marketing automation would become a required part of the marketing technology stack, I was dead wrong that marketing attribution would become a hot topic. I’m still waiting for that one to really take hold. I predicted that advertisers would throw good money after bad and that display media would make big budget gains. I also thought that we would stop asking about social media ROI (not so right) and that we would start to see a shift to content marketing (slow start but right.)
My 2012 Marketing predictions included the challenge of CMOs struggling with talent, a hope that marketing would increase their focus on supporting sales (dead wrong). I thought augmented reality marketing might become a reality (boy was that wrong.) I also predicted a rise in video content marketing from brands which I think saw a strong increase on a low base.
For my 2013 Marketing Predictions post, I included bets that content marketing conversations would mature. I thought branded content hubs would start to proliferate as paid budgets shifted to owned media. I also predicted the need for content strategists, social sales leaders and data scientists. I think I hit the right trends for change agents and forward-thinking leaders in marketing. But these trends did not become main stream in 2013, or even 2014.
In 2014, my marketing predictions were all about content, data and culture. I bet correctly that we would see more investment in content marketing, big data and marketing technology in general. I also predicted that HR would become the marketer of the “employer brand” which is a long term trend that I still believe in.
For 2015, I predicted that content would be seen as a strategic asset across the enterprise. I thought Content marketing would take a seat at the marketing leadership table, with budget and authority placed on a senior content marketer to drive strategic content marketing programs. I felt strongly that video and visual content would dominate the consumer landscape as brands focused more on entertaining and informing their customers through visual storytelling.
Last year, I also hoped CMOs would begin to instill a culture focused on customers and that budgets would shift away from paid promotion and into brand content that their audiences actually want to consume. This would require marketing organizations to move away from silos based on channel or functional ownership and see Branding, Advertising, PR, Demand Generation all begin to dissolve into three areas: data, technology, and content.
Well those last bits didn’t really happen. But I’m still very hopeful and optimistic for the future of marketing!
My Main Content Marketing Prediction For 2016?: A Correction In The Advertising Market
The leading marketing trend of 2016 will be the maturing of the age of ad blocking. I think we’ll see a massive correction in the advertising market as more and more consumers download ad blockers on their computers and cell phones, opt-out of telemarketing lists, and cut their cable subscription cords, marketers will start to see the futility of spending so much of their budgets on ads no one wants. Ads we are willing to pay an ad blocker to avoid. This will drive an increase in content marketing budgets. It will force more marketers to consider how to create and publish content their customers actually want, and it will require content marketers to get pretty damn good at showing ROI.
But what about our friends in advertising? I think we’re starting to figure out the age of no ads. What does that look like? Who will pay for all this content being created? What about all the advertising talent? Agencies?
I don’t think ads are evil. They are just unwanted and self-serving. I also don’t think advertising agencies or advertising people are bad. Their talent in storytelling will be put to much better use telling actual stories instead of trying to interrupt the ones we want to pay for. I don’t think we will know how this shakes out in 2016. But I might spend some time researching it and writing a book about it. What do you think?
Other Content Marketing Trends For 2016
Marketing ROI: I talked above about the hope of marketing attribution to help us understand which marketing works and which marketing programs don’t, and how the age of ad blocking will drive bigger budgets for (and expectations of) content marketing. So ask yourself: do you know the ROI of your marketing efforts overall? In order for us to see the correction in the ad market that I predict, and the increased investment in content marketing, we are going to need to see a real commitment to understanding the ROI of marketing overall. From there, it’s an easy path to see the ROI of content marketing.
Targeting and Personalization: We will continue to see the effectiveness of serving the right content to the right person at the right time. Technology will help this. But the real trick is making sure you have all the answers to your buyers’ questions, at each stage of their journey. That is a content problem most brands face.
Entertaining and Funny Content: Just check out my favorite new example of content marketing, mattress company Casper’s VanWinkles.com. This is a content brand from a company that understands a very tight niche of their market that was under-served. They use an amazing design, fresh content (literally), and a strong call-to-action (subscribe) to generate a list of consumers who might be interested to buy their stuff at some point. Check them out!
One of the top content marketing predictions always comes from Jayson DeMers who predicted these content marketing trends for 2016:
- Algorithms will threaten freelancers
- Long form become more important
- Direct to social offers new publishing options
- Content marketing becomes more visual
- Interactive content will emerge
- Competition will skyrocket
- Aside from the visual and long form predictions, (which I’ve mentioned for a few years) I’m not really sure I get what he’s saying…
- “Moments” is nothing new as Buzzfeed and HuffPo and many others have been aggregating for years. I left a content aggregator that I co-founded more than two years ago because I thought this was really old news.
- Robots replacing real writers? Don’t even get me started! Not gonna happen at scale.
- Direct to social is interesting. But I’ve been re-posting my content on Linkedin for over a year with some great results.
- Interactive content is interesting too, and I’d like to see more of that happen. But look back at my 2012 prediction. I’m not sure we’re ready to see a big shift to augmented reality, Oculus Rift, “Minority Report”-style ads.
- Increasing Competition? I think I put that dog to bed last year. There has always been a battle for customer attention online since something like 1999.
The question is: are you answering your customers’ questions better than your competition? Or, how much money do you waste on content no one wants? Answer those two questions, then talk to me about increased competition.
For a great predictions post (even though it is from April) check out my friend Dan Newman’s take on the most important trends in the Future of Marketing.
Ready for 2016 and end of quarter reporting? Download our free report on how to effectively calculate your Content Marketing ROI.
Michael Brenner is the Head of Strategy for the leading content marketing platform, NewsCred. He is also the author of B2B Marketing Insider, a contributor to Forbes and a frequent speaker at industry events covering topics such as marketing strategy, social business, content marketing, digital marketing, social media and personal branding. Follow Michael on Twitter (@BrennerMichael), LinkedIn, and Google+. This article originally appeared on B2B Marketing Insider.