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Let’s just say it: Most branded content isn’t very good.
I should know. I worked for years as a content strategist. I’ve spent the last decade researching and reporting on the content marketing industry. I even wrote a book about it. Along the way, I’ve probably consumed more pieces of branded content than anyone else.
While I’ve been truly inspired by many of the content-savvy marketers I’ve gotten to work with at brands like Dell, Marriott, Saatva, Chase, and Cardinal Health, the truth is that when you take a macro view, most companies are putting out content that’s middling. Mediocre. A detrimental representation of their brand.
Consider this: Organic search content drives two-thirds of traffic to brand sites, according to a study of customers using Contently analytics. Content is the primary way that consumers have that crucial first impression with your brand.
Overall, the average executive buyer will consume five pieces of content before they raise their hand and talk to sales, according to SiriusDecisions, and over the course of the sales cycle, they’ll consume 17 pieces of content in all.
If that content is good and speaks to your prospect’s needs, they’re likely want to talk to your sales team and buy something. If the first impression is mediocre, there’s a good chance your sales team will never even know that prospect existed.
Content is the #1 representation of your brand today, and while most CMOs give lip-service to its importance, that’s usually not reflected in the attention or resources they allocate to it. Content teams often sit two or three levels below the CMO. Their work doesn’t receive the same love as a splashy experiential campaign or new 30-second ad.
Those splashy advertising efforts get undermined when brands publish a handful of safe, boring blog posts, devoid of storytelling or new ideas, written by marketers without editorial chops. That’s also true when they publish PDF reports that look like they were designed by a 10th grader in 1998, or post a video that a 10th grader in 2020 could tell you is about 10 minutes too long.
In a surprising amount of cases, CMOs haven’t even created a space for their brand’s content to live. In a recent study, we found that two-thirds of Fortune 1000 Healthcare companies had a limited content presence—like a news section in the footer filled with press releases—or no content presence at all.
As our head of content strategy Deanna Cioppa pointed out to me recently, CMOs spend millions on sentiment tracking, customer experience tracking, and brand studies, but then put out mediocre content—the thing that would improve those metrics the most.
They’re worshipping at the altar of big data, but often failing to invest in the kind of day-to-day content that would change the way consumers feel about them. This is something that Gartner predicted in 2018, when they wrote that by 2020, content—not data— would be the primary bottleneck in creating personalized experiences for customers, and the “primary point of failure.”
So why hasn’t there been more attention and investment in content?
One reason is that creating good content is hard. It’s not something you can just outsource to agencies, which aren’t built for day-to-day editorial work. You need to develop a strong content strategy and point of view in the market. You need a content technology stack that’ll bring teams together across the company and allow them to create and distribute content on all the channels where your audience lives. You need to tap into top-flight editorial talent that doesn’t already exist on many in-house enterprise marketing teams.
But when CMOs embrace another way—hiring a strong editorial point person, and then giving them the strategy, technology, and talent resources they need to scale their efforts—the results are powerful. They build deeper relationships with their audience, dominate search, and see compounding ROI as their engagement and audience grows.
When they treat content as just another box to check, they find themselves on the defensive, having to spend more on paid to get the same results.
It’s time for things to change. If CMOs want to survive and thrive, tolerating mediocre content is no longer an option.
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