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Content MarketingFood for thought

What 2020 learned us about content marketing

By 28/12/2020April 8th, 2021No Comments9 min read

Content marketing in 2020

There are different ways to look at 2020.

Yes, 2020 was a strange year, a shitty year, a special year. One to never forget. 2020 has also been a year of contrasts and opportunities. We had to test the limits of what is permissible and that is how a person adapts. Companies and brands did not escape it either. And that resulted in interesting learnings, especially for content marketing!

content marketing 2020

1. Slowing down VS Acceleration

Just a few months after the start of the year 2020, the whole world suddenly went in lockdown. Our lives? We had to put those temporarily on hold (sigh). Streets were deserted, offices remained empty and shops closed. And we downshifted. For a brief moment the rat race came to a crashing halt. And honestly, as a human it felt pretty good. Morning walks with the dog, lunch breaks with the family, weekend agendas that went blank. We all took a covid-free breath and enjoyed some well-deserved time off. And what did we do with all that free time? We all spend it behind our screens. Our smartphones, laptops, iPads worked overtime. Not to mention our scroll thumb…. And digital agencies? They boomed like never before. Because suddenly, traditional brick and mortar stores had to adapt and reinvent themselves overnight to survive.

The eyeballs and the demand were there, so digitization had to be accelerated. Almost all services had to develop a digital version asap. And that while we as business leaders were out of our depths, because our classic business models were not crumbling, but collapsing. Digital transformation got a boost and we unleashed it on our customer journeys. And that resulted in the birth of a new digital consumer. One who likes to get an answer to his questions right here, right now. How else do you explain the increased popularity of WhatsApp? Or Facebook Shops and Instagram Shoppable posts that are received with open arms? With the tap of a button you can now buy whatever you want on social. Technology love it or hate it, it’s here to stay. More than ever, we have to be customer obsessed, because this provides more convenience for the consumer. For brands that couldn’t build their own e-commerce store, these online shopping tools open up new opportunities to effectively sell products online.

2. Distance VS up-close

Social distancing: it did not make it as the word of the year. Pity, because as a concept it has had a serious impact on us. Many meters and a half and cuddly contacts later, we now know that as humans we are social animals. We were not made to sit home alone all day. Preferably, we like to hug, kiss and touch our loved ones. No word is as appropriate in this corona era as “huid honger”. Suddenly the little things in life became very important again. And that mindset in turn led to the most beautiful and heart-warming initiatives.

Classic communication had to make way for empathetic content marketing. Brands tried to conquer the hearts of consumers and empathize (some for the first time) with their target audience. They saw that people were struggling, that they needed help, were bored and that they needed to be serviced in one way or another. Empathetic content became the social glue that held things together. Brands adjusted their tone of voice and reshuffled the marketing calendar. More importantly, they started to produce content that was thoughtful, valuable and in tune with the world around them. For content marketing, this is the evolution that I appreciate most in 2020. Content came before marketing and that is exactly what content marketing is all about.

3. Refocusing VS Transforming

We’ve all slidden up and down the Kübler-Ross change curve a few times. From shock and denial to acceptance, to then climb up and see how things should go on. As managing director of an agency in full growth, me and my partner were prepared for a year where we might break even at best. We initially focused on the essence of our company. And that is our relationship with our employees, customers and stakeholders. Health and humanity were our top priorities and that’s how we acted. We refocused and started to renew from our essence. We stuck to our purpose. Our why.

We refocused and started to renew from our essence. We stuck to our purpose. Our why. - 2020

And then we shifted our focus and tailored services to the needs of our employees and customers. First the why, then the what. That wasn’t only the case for MMBSY, but also for our clients. The what and the how were transformed, because we had to, because we could. But mainly because there is a belief that good companies and good brands can reinvent themselves based on a relevant mission and strong DNA.

A little Shakespeare, why not, I think it characterizes how we all face this crisis together. “Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them.”

4. Individual versus community

2020 will go down in history as the year where companies struggled to recoup lost sales. But it’s also the year where marketers turned to social media to achieve two major goals: delivering short-term ROI with targeted performance marketing tactics while building strong digital experiences that drive long-term loyalty. Community building, discovery, connection and client service are at the heart of this. And the latter movement goes deeper than individual utility and the exclusive pursuit of profit. The most sustainable solutions for society aren’t always the easiest. Look at the support of local entrepreneurship. But now new ecosystems are springing up like mushrooms. It not only creates value for the company, but also for the target audience and society. This learning could also be called ROI versus Lifetime Value. An insider tip? As a business manager, it is best to focus on both objectives.

5. Content consumption versus content creation

The pandemic forced new behaviour on pretty much everyone, including consumers. And for many of them this changed behaviour will persist. Together with us, our clients have upgraded their marketing and channel mix.

Hootsuite is already looking ahead to social media trends in 2021, with a survey of 11,189 marketers. These industry insights give us some much needed backbone. We see that inflow, client acquisition, is becoming the main goal for social marketers. Instagram remains the place to be. More than half of all businesses (60%) plan to increase their Instagram budget. And although the platform is leading the way, almost half of social marketers also declare that they will invest more in Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn.

What else did we see in 2020? That marketers experimented on TikTok. As a content creator, I find it particularly fascinating to follow social media’s next evolution. TikTok is the place to be for Gen Z. It is video driven, the algorithm starts from content (and the type of content you prefer) and it is a breeding ground for creativity. Research from McKinsey & Company shows that one of the most defining characteristics of Generation Z is self-expression. Broadly speaking  Millennials seem to prefer to consume content, while Generation Z prefers to create content themselves. Facebook and Instagram both emphasize vertical feeds for millennials, while TikTok (and Snapchat) highlights Gen Z’s creative self-expression. The next generation, is clearly socially aware, digitally critical, and different from previous ones. Fascinating!

6. Exclusive VS Inclusive

Diversity and inclusivity were more than just buzzwords in 2020. From the global Black Lives Matter movement to tinkering with traditional gender roles and a diverse representation of the LGBTQ + community. In addition to placing a magnifying glass on target groups, marketers started to broaden their perspective. Blinders and self-projections gave way to a real view of the diversity in today’s and tomorrow’s society. Consumers are looking for authenticity, for true representation, wanting to see more of themselves in advertisements and on social media.

Communicate with respect for differences and try to the connect with people. A proven method is the use various content creators and influencers. Get rid of stereotypes! Look for people from different backgrounds, various forms of expression and who have contrasting views on society. There is no such thing as one narrative. Looking at the same solution, the same product, the same service with kaleidoscopic glasses. And realize that it is not one-size-fits-all.

It’s not just a marketing campaign, it’s a change from within. A very visible example is Edward Enninful’s work for British Vogue. Since taking office, Edward, the son of a Ghanaian seamstress who grew up in West London, has been working on the media brand so that it “better reflects the modern world”. Much changed under his leadership. September’s issues, typical highs of fashion, are intertwined with activism and cultural change. Edward Enninful was recently promoted to Vogue’s European Editor-in-Chief. He will oversee editions in France, Italy, Germany and Spain. A change is coming …

Written by Mie Van der Auwera – Managing Partner at MMBSY

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