Brands are producing content by the bucket load. Too much, some might say. Because, as content teams get bigger, their creative impact appears to be lessening. There’s a tonne of content simply being thrown into the ether (that 65% of branded content goes unused is an oft-cited figure). And if your carefully crafted materials aren’t landing on the metaphorical doorsteps of your intended audience, they just add to a thickening fog that’s becoming harder to shine a light through.

It’d be easy to assume that everybody knows what they are doing in digital marketing by now. There’s been a lot of talk of companies reaching ‘digital maturity’, and the world of creative content is feeling more structured and disciplined. But are we facing new challenges in terms of how to make your brand stand out?

Well, yes and no. Things indeed have changed, in that brands understand the importance and value of content. But many organisations are distributing out content without understanding exactly who they are trying to reach and why.

Are we facing new challenges in terms of how to make your brand stand out?

Old school traits

The best content is designed to provide an answer or solution to a consumer or client need, but producing content for the sake of it is more akin to old school advertising. It’s pushing out a message that a large proportion of people don’t necessarily want to hear, instead of pulling in audiences and allowing them to explore high-value material at their own pace. At best this is a waste of the time and effort while, and at worst, it could tarnish your brand’s reputation through its intrusiveness and lack of relevance.

A new report by Curata, which surveyed just over 1,000 marketers and executives from B2B, B2C and non-profit organisations, reveals that:

  • 87% of respondents have a content marketing team in place
  • 43% plan to increase the staff on their content teams
  • 41% say the most important skill-set missing from their team is content creation

So, four out of ten firms face the challenge of content creation, while just as many are set to increase the number of people on their teams. Seems like a better use of money might be to hire people with the right strategic and creative skills, and invest in technology that can accurately assess the impact of that content.

Techniques versus methodology

With all that in mind, what invariably separates the so-so from the go-go-go is how you target your content. It’s the difference between being aware of the basics of content marketing technique and implementing an effective content methodology. To give a culinary analogy, it’s a couple of nice bites versus a fully balanced meal.

Software developer Contently recently published a report titled Content Methodology: A New Model for Content Marketing, a best practice guide based on broad case studies, which extols the need to see content marketing as a two-way thing. It’s not enough to just create and broadcast content, however well targeted or high quality you believe it to be. You also need to know how who’s received it, what sort of impact it’s had according to your KPIs, and how you can use that knowledge to adapt and improve.

I’m going to blow our trumpet a little here; to be honest this ‘new model’ is a methodology that we’ve promoted since year dot. Nevertheless, an astonishing two-thirds of marketers still create content without any documented strategy, adding to the internet noise.

It’s not enough to just create and broadcast content, however well targeted or high quality you believe it to be.

The new challenge of content

It’s widely accepted that to stand out you need to have a direct impact – to resonate deeply with specific sections of your audience. The next phase is that that resonance needs to be personalised. Call it Impact 2.0: gauging the degree of interaction and making personalisation a measurable KPI is the next big challenge for content marketing.

A recent report by US-based online video software developer Rapt Media reveals that 84% of respondents say developing content that’s personalised at the right level is their biggest challenge. The report suggests too many content creators rely on pushing their message out to a broad audience, further fuelling the notion that they’re applying advertising techniques to market content.

The question is to what degree is personalisation an achievable goal? After all, it’s not feasible to recreate your website multiple times over to suit a plethora of different personas. Where, then, is the opportunity to stand out?

It’s about the user experience you create. You don’t dictate the experience; you let the user develop it – personalise it – for themselves.

Personalisation can be achieved by creating an online environment that allows users to explore and find the content they want. Designing your content to be interactive in this way means that your visitors make a stronger connection with your brand through the physical act of making deeper, more relevant connections with your content.

It’s about the user experience you create. You don’t dictate the experience; you let the user develop it.

With the onslaught of online content comes deeper challenges to make your brand stand out. In amongst the melee, the temptation is to revert to the old ways of advertising, rather than marketing content in a targeted and strategic way. But, as with anything, a challenge is an opportunity. Instead of simply creating great content, create the possibility of interacting with that content in different ways and at different times. Assess which of those journeys are most effective, then enhance, adapt and improve. Users demand a personal experience, so let them create that for themselves.