Digital Marketing

Content Marketing:
What's Next?

Major Points

The Pfeiffer Report speaks with Rebecca Lieb, analyst at the Altimeter group, and author of Content Marketing: Think Like a Publisher


Pfeiffer Consulting

Rebecca Lieb is one of the world's experts on content marketing, author of a bestselling book on the subject, and analyst at the Altimeter group. We asked her what about her take on some of the upcoming challenges and evolutions in the field.

Pfeiffer Report: Content marketing is the biggest game in creative industries these days. Everybody wants/needs/must produce content. That reminds me of the early days of the web, when having a website was not a must-have, but a competitive advantage. And then, suddenly, everybody had a website, websites all looked alike, and became boring. How soon do you think something like this will happen in content marketing, and what will the consequences be?

Rebecca Lieb: This question is framed in very jingoistic language. Certainly, "content marketing" has become an extraordinarily popular concept - and term - over the past couple of years. However unlike having a website, which is a very recent phenomenon, content has been around for a very, very long time, as has content marketing. Corporate newsletters were content marketing back when they were printed. So are baseball cards, and industrial films. Fast-forwarding, you can't launch a website without content, nor is there advertising without content (only there it's called "creative'). And of course, social media is a constant flow of content as well. Is there boring content? Sure there is, just like there are boring websites, and boring movies, and boring books. Often this is a matter of taste and aesthetics. But in terms of content marketing, bad content, boring content, ineffective content is the result of content marketing that's devoid of content strategy. Content strategy is the Why and How of content marketing: What are we doing? Where (in which channels)? For whom? And how will it be produced?

Sure, there will always be bad content, just like there's bad email, bad websites, bad ads, and bad everything else. But just as I take issue with your assertion that "all websites look alike," there's tons of great content out there. Websites, too! I could add that just by conducting this interview, we're collaborating on creating content for your blog, aren't we?

PR: When companies say "we want content" what they really mean is they want professionally produced content. Are we coming back to the recognition that professional content is different from what used to be called "user-generated content"? Are we entering a new recognition of the professional as being different from the motivated amateur, or are the boundaries increasingly blurred?

RL: I disagree that the need for content is automatically a need for professionally produced content. Some of the most effective content marketing campaigns out there, e.g. Blendtec's Will It Blend?, are bare-bones in their simplicity. Local plumbers have generated business on YouTube by uploading how to fix your toilet videos (and if you fail, call us). Increasingly there is a need for more skills in content production, particularly as content moves to mobile channels and is funneled into dedicated apps. Yet at the same time, there are dedicated content plays around community (I'm thinking vertical social networks like Spiceworks) or UGC (Yelp, Zagat) that indicate UGC will be with us for a long, long time. How professional, how user vs. agency vs. company produced, that's all dependent on strategy.

PR: What impact does content marketing have on the overall creative-tool-landscape? What are the emerging needs content marketing creates? Storytelling software is one trend. Will there be more, and which ones?

RL: I'm currently researching the content vendor and tool landscape and plan to publish findings in late March, so it's a bit premature for a detailed answer to this question. My hypothesis is that the landscape at present is incredibly fragmented. There are disparate toolsets for curation, aggregation, workflow, compliance, analytics, topic discovery, optimization, approvals, asset management, CMS, social, advertising, etc. Features often overlap. We believe there will be lots of M&A and consolidation in this sector. In fact, it's already begun. Integration must occur. I think we're going to see content stacks, much as we've witnessed the emergence of ad stacks. 

PR: Adobe has publicly committed to merging Creative Cloud and Marketing Cloud. What does this really mean, and how will the competition react? Does Adobe have a distinct advantage in digital marketing due to Creative Cloud? There isn't any good reason why Oracle, IBM, or Salesforce couldn't provide the same kind of integration with Creative Cloud Adobe can bring.

RL: We're undergoing a rapid convergence of paid, owned and earned media. Paid and earned media, i.e. advertising and social, have been linked  operationally and analytically for some time now through software suites such as Adobe's Marketing Cloud. The missing part of this equation has been the ability to easily and effectively manage and leverage content [owned media] and content assets throughout social, advertising and converged forms of media, such as native advertising (paid + owned). It's going to take time for Adobe to integrate their Creative and Marketing Clouds. Integration is hard - but Adobe, in having these two software suites, is ahead of the game. We are seeing their competitors pick up speed and play catch-up. Oracle, for example, recently acquired Compendium and is integrating it into the Oracle Marketing Cloud. Content is the atomic particle of all marketing - without it there is no social media, no advertising. The enterprise players realise this and are racing to create cloud solutions.

PR: Have individual tools become essentially just building blocks of a bigger set of creative capacities for content marketing and digital marketing? It is unlikely that any disruptions will come from the likes of Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign any more. What is the next iteration of creative software? Is there something like "aggregated creativity" in the cards?

RL: As stated above, we believe there will be enormous consolidation in the space. The applications you cite about are all related to workflow, which is just one of many content solutions. Holistically, marketers' needs vary, of course, but there's CMSs, DAMs, compliance, workflow, aggregation, curation, analytics, integration, and real-time capabilities - to name just a few. Stay tuned for my report publishing in the spring for deeper insights!

February  6, 2014