Our style of digital marketing is to tell the brand stories that help customers connect on a more meaningful, valuable and emotional level. In 2016, this way of thinking really takes off as companies seek strategies that dig deeper into their audience needs.

To whom it may concern:

How’s things with you? I trust you had a good week. Awful weather out, isn’t it? Looks like it’s going to get colder before it gets hotter. Anyway, I digress.

While it might appear that I’ve slumped into that overly British thing of littering communiqués with pleasantries in lieu of any semblance of a point, I am actually trying to make one. It turns out we polite Poms may have been inadvertently on to something there. This is, in a manner of speaking, the shape of things to come.

Word on the street is 2016 is the year of the customer experience and, importantly, the customer relationship. The digital marketing community is evolving. Think of it as Digital Pleasantries 2.0. Where before we were looking to test out the effectiveness of different types of content, now we’re looking at what kind of emotional reaction that content can provoke.

Content marketing is set to become a $300 billion industry

Data that deepens relationships

According to ClickZ’s recent 2016 Digital Trends Report, content marketing is set to become a $300 billion industry by 2019. It’s also number one on the list of digital priorities for brands right now.

How does the industry achieve this growth? By taking all that data and know-how and using it to make a better experience for the user. Rather than wondering which piece of content gets the vanity metrics, the industry is now fully focused on how the customer feels about it all. It’s focused on the data that deepens relationships.

The strive to personalise one’s messaging is of course no new thing, it’s just that until recently, the technology pipeline hasn’t quite caught up with our pipe dreams. People are still imposed upon by display advertising and possess inboxes of mainly spam. The ‘Internet of Things’ is on the horizon and it’s something that most marketers see as a future opportunity, but it’s not something that’s causing them to lose any sleep at this exact moment.

But as ever in this industry, the times they are a-changing. Things are moving forward. The need to make a customer experience as wondrous as possible, using data (enthralling as that sounds), is already taking some major steps forward this year. Empathy is the key word here; you only have to look at the current success of things like Netflix’s How to Make A Murderer, for example, to see how online content is trying to connect with its consumers on a much deeper level. Or simply look at the future potential of virtual reality. It’s feelings.

To exemplify the point, I refer you back to my initial line of enquiry. If there’s one area where we see big data having a direct and tangible effect on everyone’s mood, it’s in the weather.

Hence, late last year, digital giant IBM acquired The Weather Company (parent company to The Weather Channel) and its B2B, mobile and web-based properties in a deal reported by the Wall Street Journal to be worth $2 billion. The deal, which follows on from a strategic partnership between the two, sees The Weather Company licensing IBM’s weather forecast data and related analytics, and the two parties sharing data platforms.

In other words, IBM taps into a high volume and highly emotive form of big data, as well as The Weather Company’s hugely popular app, to help arm its clients with far deeper audience insights.

This is a high value example of big data intertwined with human emotion. But what about emotive marketing measured in real-time?

Using tools that measure the emotional reaction of users


Global ad buyer MediaCom, with whom we’ve shared some projects in the past, recently partnered with Realeyes, a developer of emotional performance technology, to use its tools to measure the emotional reaction of users to its video content. Viewers’ reactions to video content are recorded via webcam and the information received can be used to develop that content into something that actually strikes an emotional chord.

The BBC’s The Science of Engagement meanwhile recently reported on its research involving facial-coding analysis technology from CrowdEmotion, a company which develops smart sensor-based devices and software that detects and analyses human emotion, linking it to user behaviour. A panel of 20 experts from the worlds of media, advertising and academia analysed results from over 5,000 global users that were consuming international news-based content. The technology codes facial expressions into six emotions: sadness, puzzlement, happiness, fear, rejection, surprise.

Respondents were happy to read branded content marketing

The research found that badly-labelled, brand-influenced content that did not associate with relevant advertising was rejected. In contrast, well-labelled branded content was received well; 64% of respondents were happy to read branded content marketing as long as they were under no doubt as to where it came from. After exposure, there was a 14% increase in ‘implicit positivity’ about content marketing, and exposure to this sort of content led to a 32% increase in positive reaction towards the brand.

In other words, transparency and quality of content resonate with users and consumers more than anything. Users are happy – as in, actually happy – to receive and consume content marketing as long as it subscribes to a high standard.

We are already seeing the green shoots of all this. In our experience with recruitment content marketing – and indeed from what we’ve gleaned from our own research, which you can download free here, as brands jostle in the ‘war for talent’ – is that the choosy Millennial generation want to hear about the meaningful impact of their jobs and what they do daily. They’re saying to their potential employers, “I want to feel like I’m making a difference” and woe betide the employer that doesn’t craft recruitment content marketing that reflects that deeply-held emotional need.

“I want to feel like I’m making a difference”

Future-mindful brand storytelling

What this all means for the future is that it seems unlikely we will be measuring marketing by the metrics we’ve relied on thus far. Instead, marketers will look for an emotional quota, based on previously quantified and anecdotal evidence. Those ‘classic’ metrics will still be able to give us an indication of what content works for whom on a superficial level, but brands and companies will look to connect more meaningfully, and their ability to do so will be their distinguishing feature – their USP. That’s how the market is evolving and you need people at the helm of your campaigns that can adapt to the ebb and flow of this new way of thinking.

The brands that really do care will think deeply about the true impact of their marketing

Basing this on actual human emotion means the customer experience is genuine, not forced; it means the future holds enormous potential for brand storytelling as the go-to practice, doing away with pushy sales; and it means that the brands that really do care will think deeply about the true impact of their marketing. The customer-brand relationship is turning into something altogether more wholesome and, to my mind, that’s a win-win for all.

How’s things with me, you ask? I’m great. Optimistic, even, how about you?