Content marketers have reason to look forward to the 2020s. Rapidly evolving technologies that once sounded like science fiction will open new doors. In an increasingly connected world, smart new approaches will put content front and center as consumers browse, search and shop.
Read on to discover why artificial intelligence will become a tool for more effective content creation, what’s happening with the new rules of search, and how top companies are engaging consumers with content that is relevant and moving (and targeted just for them).
AI is already transforming the online experience. You might have read news today about your local minor league baseball team and never realized it was written without human input—part of an ongoing trend from The Associated Press, Yahoo and other outlets to lean on an algorithm to craft a story. Chat bots are another example of AI-powered content in the wild. Companies use them to mimic conversation in Facebook Messenger, for example, or to offer immediate support on their websites. No online forms, email or (truly antiquated) phone calls necessary
The rise of AI is also poised to focus content marketers on successful content strategy by parsing data more quickly and effectively than any human could. These tools can deftly sort through a mountain of data—the types of content consumers enjoy, the platforms they use, what they want to know about your company—and allow marketers to assign consumers to specific content segments. With AI-generated profiles, marketers can focus their energies on creating what consumers want and increasingly expect: relevant content that feels customized to them.
The takeaway: Focused data means more effective content.
Search conducted by voice on smartphones and smart speakers is upending the old rules for Google-based search engine optimization. After all, Alexa and Siri give only one result—so being first is everything. Even more critically, the way that users query their smartphones and smart speakers with natural language is entirely different than the phrase-based searches they conduct when typing on a laptop or phone
Neither SEO nor voice search is going away—a quarter of U.S. households now boast smart speakers, and that number is only going to grow—so adapting content to both formats will be essential in the coming years. Some brands have had the foresight to optimize themselves into smart speaker functionality, developing skills for Amazon’s Alexa or changing site keywords to be more voice-search friendly. What’s important here is to understand if your audience is part of the smart speaker set already (are they early adopters with an Alexa in every room?) while also preparing for the long-term, inevitable rise of voice search for all of your audience.
The takeaway: Voice search optimization is poised to be a critical differentiator for marketers who haven’t jumped on this trend.
Conventional branded videos have evolved into short films that put the focus on the story, not the product. An emotional connection with the viewer takes the front seat. Take, for example, a recent series from the Foundry for Ram trucks, in which drivers try out a Ram truck for a day and leave their rival brand in the garage. Complete with a host and real-life truck owners putting Ram to the test, this series has the allure of a reality competition rather than the slickness of an ad.
Or take the short film by luggage company Tumi. Lenny and Zoë Kravitz take a father-daughter trip to the Bahamas to explore their heritage—with, naturally, luggage in tow. Beauty, adventure and a family connection combine to create a cinematic moment. The aim of such films and series is clear: to captivate an audience, give them an emotional experience and demonstrate a brand’s values—without saying a thing explicitly.
Perhaps most importantly, while trends like voice search are still developing, video is right now. Your customer is without a doubt watching video—after all, near total market saturation of smartphones means a video screen in the hands of just about every adult in the country. And surveys show that more than half of consumers want to see more video content from brands they follow or support.
The takeaway: Meet your audience wherever they are and utilize the emotional power of film to captivate and connect.
Brands that utilize experience marketing recognize that every touch point with a brand is valuable, and that experiences that move customers from digital to in-real-life experiences need to be part of the brand in an authentic way. They’re radically reimagining what content is—for example, Zappos’ summer-long “backyard party” campaign that brought pop-up stores to cities around the country. Suddenly, the web-only company became a company with a bricks-and-mortar store in your town—for at least a day
Or look at Netflix’s acquisition of the iconic Paris Theatre in Manhattan. Netflix is using the theater to showcase its own content and simultaneously make it more viable for awards. The theater expands the company’s domain, providing value to consumers, while seamlessly combining an IRL experience with what is at its core: a business built on your staying home on the couch. Plus, the move has preserved a cherished New York destination—a boon to the city’s movie lovers and visitors alike—proving that blending new and old ideas seamlessly is a smart move in the 2020s.
The takeaway: IRL contact with your customers is a formidable form of content marketing.