Half of the year has gone by, seemingly in a flash. And for better or for worse, the same can be said of customer trends, preferences, and tastes. Part of the primary goals of every marketer and content creator should be to understand customers better, and thus design and deliver the correct initiatives that drive growth.

With customer trends in a constant state of flux — thanks to social media, as well as the growing and better ease of access to information — content marketers should be constantly on their toes. That means looking at how trends are moving and evolving, developing a plan of action in response. A misstep or a misunderstanding of how customers behave can spell disaster for a brand, so it really is essential to have a content marketing plan that is current, relevant, and accurate. And as we wrote about before, every road trip SHOULD have a set itinerary (a.k.a marketing goals) before anyone sets out.

A Hubspot article hits the nail on the head quite nicely: “Changes in the marketing world happen because consumers change the way they shop, research, and spend their time and money … and changes in consumer behavior and priorities directly influence how they respond to marketing and advertising efforts.cStaying up-to-date on (and ahead of) trends helps your company save precious time and money and ensures you’re marketing to the right people who are in your target audience … and ready to buy.” This is why it is important to take stock of the most current and relevant content marketing trends so that you have the ability to draw up the most appropriate strategies and implement the right initiatives that will help drive revenue, continued relevance, and growth for your particular brand. 

Content marketing trends to consider and study

Here, we’ve compiled a number of content marketing trends that you can take a look at and see if it’s a good fit for you and your message. Not every trend can be utilized and maximized any company — factors like the brand’s culture, image and message affect how it develops initiatives to get that message across. But there are always lessons, important pointers, and marketing insights that can be gleaned from current content marketing trends that can help and inspire marketing teams and content managers and creators. 

1. Influencer strategy

We know what you’re going to say: “Influencer strategy is dead in the water.” With boo-boos like Payless’ “Palessi” spoof, the way “followers” can be bought and engineered, to the downright criminal failure of the Fyre Festival, it is not hard to see why many now view the use of influencers with a critical and skeptical eye. However, the influencer strategy is not without its merits. A BBC story on the Fyre Festival talked to Rohan Midha, managing director of the PMYB influencer agency. He said that while the event failed, the marketing behind it only demonstrated the power of influencers. He added that if done right, “Influencers can reproduce the largest return on investment… across the board.”

And he’s right. With still so many customers still massive consumers of content on social media, the use of influencers makes sense. Getting the right endorser to talk about your service or product can create a more intimate relationship between the brand and its customers / target market. Especially when it comes to creating brand awareness, genuine influencers can significantly lift up a product or service’s visibility. While the Fyre Festival did fail in the end, it also spoke to the immense power influencers have over their audience.

The key to creating a good influencer strategy is to find the RIGHT influencers. That means tapping people who have a genuine following and who really will put themselves behind the product or service that they’re endorsing. These people are called micro-influencers, and typically have a smaller following that their bigger celebrity counterparts.

It’s important for brands to realize that a change in mindset is needed when selecting influencers, in the sense that followers don’t matter as much as engagement — the latter being something micro-influencers have a lot of.

One example of a micro-influencer would be Alexandra Lerner. Besides her following on Instagram, she’s an author (with published work) and a blogger — the majority of her content touches on topics like yoga and health and wellness, and as a result, she has partnered with like-minded companies such as Spiritual Gangster, a yoga-inspired clothing and swimwear brand. Brands would do well to partner and engage with micro-influencers who share the same niche and target market and as a result, increase their visibility and legitimacy within that market.

Micro-influencers, besides costing way less to tap than typical celebrity endorsers, value the trust they have with their followers, and are thus less likely to hard-sell and will instead be more concerned with telling their own stories about that brand’s product or service. And that kind of endorsement is more sincere, which resonates positively with customers.

To sum things up, it’s important that while influencer strategy is still relevant, important and effective, brands also need to be constantly aware of the pitfalls and mistakes made by others in the past. 

2. Riding the culture of “hype”

Skateboarding and streetwear brand Supreme is currently valued at around $1 billion. That in itself isn’t remarkable — many other casual clothing brands share the same valuation — but consider that Supreme only has 11 stores to its name. It doesn’t sell millions of items every year. In fact, its sales model is the opposite of the conventional retail model — Supreme thrives on ultra-limited releases or “drops” that are consistently sold out every time.

Hundreds of people line up every release, some even camping outside the store for several days just to make sure they get the items they want. What’s more, those don’t manage to buy (due to an overwhelming but intentional lack of supply) willingly turn to the resale market, usually paying a significantly higher than retail, for items they want.

The same goes for another streetwear brand, Anti Social Social Club. The brand itself has no physical store, and only releases a few times every year. One might even hazard to say that the designs aren’t something to write home about. But despite this, along with a reputation for horrible shipping (a typical no-no for many consumers in the United States), the releases are always sold out.

Creating and capitalizing on “hype” generates value proposition in the sense that it makes customers want them more; in a society that continues to put a premium on individualism and making a statement, limited edition clothing gives buyers the impression that “not everyone’s wearing what I’m wearing.” Add that to the FOMO (fear of missing out) mentality, even people outside a brand’s target market become interested solely because of the release’s limited nature. These includes celebrities, who inadvertently become volunteer brand ambassadors of a sort as they’d want to be at the forefront of what’s currently “in” at the moment. Case in point, NBA superstar J.R. Smith, who was even proud to state that he wasn’t paid a cent to get his much-talked-about Supreme tattoo.

Another example of a brand that benefitted from hype is Adidas. Only a few years ago, the brand was struggling to play catch up with rival Nike. But thanks to its collaboration with controversial rapper Kanye West, not only was Adidas’ Yeezy line with West (and continues to be) a smashing success, but it also allowed the brand to showcase its Boost technology, which in turn created a strong demand for shoes that utilized the said technology. Sales became so good that Adidas overtook Nike’s Jordan sub-brand as the second most successful sports footwear brand in North America in 2017 and 2018

3. Using multiple content formats

Content marketers need to develop content planning and content strategy that engages consumers on multiple fronts. This includes videos, podcasts, blog posts, and the like.

Research from Animoto found that “64% of consumers said that a marketing video they watched on Facebook in the past month influenced a purchase decision,” with 52% and 31% of viewers on Youtube and Instagram, respectively, saying the same thing. Another study by the Aberdeen Group supports this, showing that marketers that utilize video can increase their revenue by as much as 49% more than marketers who skip on video. These statistics are made even more significant and urgent when you consider the projection that video is poised to comprise as much as 82% of global internet traffic by 2021 (according to a study by Cisco).

In same vein, quality written content is much more important now, seeing how Google’s algorithms rely on content to better understand pages, incorporating the data it collects into how it ranks and makes pages visible in users’ search results.

Readers are also much more keen on finding and consuming quality content, sharing articles and posts they find interesting. Longer articles and posts are also generally preferred, as they display and connote a brand’s authority on a particular subject. A study by BuzzSumo covering 100 million articles showed that longer content tended to be shared, as opposed to short-form content.

4. AI, big data, and machine learning

One might say that all of these things are peas in a pod. AI, machine learning and big data complement each other, and content marketers would be foolish to pass on the opportunity to harness their collective power. While many aspects of these technologies still have ways to go, the efficacy of their current applications and even their potential cannot be denied. Research giant Gartner predicts that by 2020, as much as 85% of customers’ relationship with the enterprise will be managed without human interaction.

Marketers can utilize all these three things to sort, study and analyze customer data and create more personalized services, as well as make operations and product / service delivery much more efficient, which benefits both customers and the company alike.

Amazon is the perfect example of a company that utilizes technology on a massive scale, making it the leader and trend-setter in online shopping. It’s recent announcement of more one-day shipping capabilities for orders by its Prime members was quickly adopted by competitors like Walmart. What’s more, advanced technologies also spur stronger digital security as well as boost innovation, things that are strong selling points for customers. 

You can read more about how AI is already present in online marketing here. 

Closing thoughts on content marketing trends

Content planning is of paramount importance for companies that want to continue to grow and remain relevant to customers. It’s important that content marketers, content managers and content creators set the right goals and develop the right content strategy in order to gain the clarity a company needs in order to move things forward. Utilizing and tapping current marketing trends and insights is a surefire way to keep yourself in the loop and making sure that you keep in touch with what the customer of TODAY wants. And with customers wielding more and more power in a highly-competitive and dynamic consumerist global market, having that edge is the key to continued success for your brand.

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