Well, folks, 2019 is over! What a year it was for (content) marketers! I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such profound changes since I founded Rock Content in 2013.
And 2019 was not the year of augmented reality, virtual reality, podcasts, algorithms, or any other brilliant cliché word that we marketers love so much. Blog, videos, and social networks are still the basic means to publish content on the internet, so there weren’t many changes in this direction.
And for 2020? We will have more companies creating podcasts and video content, but that is not what will define the future. And that’s not what excites me. What excites me is that 2020 is the year when Content Marketing begins its slow death. Which is great. So:
Prediction # 1: Content Marketing will start to die
Here it is. I said. And to explain, let me go back in time a little bit, to contextualize.
Content Marketing is a redundant but necessary term
Sorry, but I have to say: the creation of the term “Content Marketing” directly results from years of inefficient (or just bad) Marketing.
According to Wikipedia, we define content as:
“[Content is] the information and experiences that are directed toward an end-user or audience […] something that is to be expressed through some medium, as speech, writing, or any of various arts.”
This is very, very broad, but it tells us one thing: there is no Marketing without content.
Publicity? Content. An influencer and their brand? Content. A flyer? Content. Packing? Your clothes? Well, you got my point.
So, if (promotional) Marketing has always been, by definition, based on creating and delivering content, why was the term Content Marketing coined?
It all has to do with the value of the content and the fact that “the content itself is where users get value from” (Wikipedia).
Marketing departments and advertising agencies have been using the same strategies for years: show a positive image of your brand and your product to as many people as possible, and they will buy from you.
It worked, and everyone was happy — except for the public.
Business breaks, recurring sales, emails, unsolicited calls, etc.
This is all content, but for most people, it’s so out of context and generic that it provides no value.
So after many years, Marketing messages became so deprived of value that they became “worthless content.” An interruption that prevents us from enjoying the real content that we want to consume.
For a while, this was not a problem for marketers as the tried and true formulas still worked. But the internet came, and everything changed. The audience was in control of what they would consume, where, and when.
Bad news for interruption-based Marketing, right? It was then that Content Marketing started to appear as an essential part of any brand strategy.
And look how crazy that was: we had to put the content back into Marketing even if it was always there. The real difference has become “Marketing with valuable content vs. Marketing with worthless content.”
Things got so ugly that I believe it was necessary to emphasize the new strategy, to help it spread and be adopted.
But now is the time to kill it or, more precisely, to let it die.
It’s time to tear down the walls
One side effect of any new Marketing trend is that, for a time, they are the only and final solution to any problem we have.
And I am guilty of that. In the early days of my company, I was the true definition of a preacher: if you didn’t have a blog, your Marketing was about to fail.
PPC? That’s for people with money, who don’t understand their buyer personas.
Organic traffic will save us.
It’s 2020, and I know how ridiculous and naive it all sounds.
Now, I believe we’re finally ready to break down the wall that we’ve built between Traditional Marketing and Content Marketing.
Marketing is, above all, focused on bringing value to the customer. Valuable content is content that delivers what the customer wants at the right time and in the right context.
If it’s a targeted ad that offers a useful product to someone when they’re looking for a solution, it’s good content.
The same goes for a blog post, social media, podcast, or video, the traditional means of Content Marketing.
A good Marketing strategy will mix all tactics in one plan, focused on generating value for the customer through the entire buyer journey.
At the top of the funnel, ebooks and podcasts help your brand to be recognized and liked.
That generates interest from people in your product, which can be redirected with well-placed ads or email offers.
Soon, all Marketing plans will have content as their base, to the point that distinguishing what Content Marketing is will become irrelevant. It will just be Marketing.
And that is how the term Content Marketing will slowly die, in the same way that no one says “Web 2.0” today. It’s only Web now.
My prediction is that 2020 will be the crucial year for this change, even if it takes more than a year to happen.
One thing is certain: brands will need to create more content than ever, in a structured way, to attract their own audiences. It’s still a new world, and many things will change!
What will change? Here are my guesses:
(More) predictions for 2020.
# 2: The difference between Content Marketing and Inbound will finally become evident
While Content Marketing is broad and can have several objectives and strategies, Inbound has only one: to be a specific methodology, focused on attracting audiences, converting them into leads, and nurturing them.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a funnel or a flywheel.
It’s usually hard to differentiate these two concepts because they have both become widely used and discussed. But in a world where all Marketing is about (valuable) content, Inbound will still exist as one of the best and most specific strategies for generating leads and sales opportunities.
In a world where content is also used for many other reasons, it will be easier to understand how broad Content Marketing is.
Even speaking of the widespread uses of content, you can expect many of them to be directed towards branding strategies.
# 3: Branding will be sexy again
I remember 2013 when I started a series of whiteboard-style videos on YouTube. Something I learned to appreciate, but at that time, it always irritated me that I was unable to measure the ROI of each visit, view, or click.
Let’s move on to 2020, and I still can’t measure it as efficiently as our Inbound strategies, but boy, my mind has changed.
This happened as an afterthought as we created videos, online courses, and webinars to consolidate the brand that many people love. From the beginning, we were always focused on generating value for our audience, which is why it happened.
But, on the other hand, we only measure Inbound metrics. We didn’t have a single person really focused on our brand, and that was a big mistake.
Your brand is powerful; it brings people to your site, curious to know about you. Make people talk about you. For early-stage companies, Jason Lemkin created the definition of mini-brand:
“[A mini-brand is] when at least a handful of folks in your core, target customer audience begin to hear about you. Just some, just a few.”
Many professionals are noticing this. In a world where Google gets more and more clicks on your search page, and algorithms change all the time, your brand is what will make people look specifically at you.
So, for 2020, we will see more public relations and branding professionals being hired and working together with the growth teams.
# 4: Content will focus on creating and nurturing their own channels
The death of the Content Marketing team will set us free to finally understand that everything is content.
Brands will need to create more content than ever before. Generating value for the public will be the cornerstone of branding strategies.
For 2020, you can expect companies to create more podcasts, more blog posts, videos, etc. That’s what always happens (and it’s the reason why I hate when people say “this year is going to be the year of [insert a content format here]”).
What will change is that, as brands become publishers, they will invest in getting rid of mediators to reach the public.
That is the smart thing to do. You don’t want to be forever fighting an algorithm or being caught off guard in a new SERP change.
A Sparktoro survey revealed that less than 50% of all Google searches result in a click. So much work to bet all the chips on organic traffic.
Every day someone suffers at the hands of YouTube’s crazy content ID system.
Suddenly, a content platform on which you have created your entire audience decides they’re going to change how monetization works, and you are prevented from making money there.
That’s what happened earlier this year with Hacker Noon, a famous publication that left Medium to create its platform. It’s a great story that reinforces something I always tell people: don’t build your house on rented ground.
If you really want to succeed in Marketing, don’t build your home on rented ground. Focus on your own channels.
An essential part of the branding strategy will be using SEO, paid media, and social media to bring the audience to their channels. When someone subscribes to your newsletter or podcast, it means they like your brand and your content. This is powerful.
There is no algorithm to prevent this audience from getting the content they want from you.
In 2020, we’ll expand our content definitions and create more and more value for our audience in new channels and formats, but focus on building our channels.
Do this frequently and strategically, and you’ll be successful.