With unpredictable circumstances being the premise of 2020, it’s important to look back on the challenges content marketing faced and learn from them.
It is no surprise that companies have had to invent new ways of marketing content to consumers during the pandemic. Overcoming unprecedented circumstances need adaptability, flexibility, and a greater understanding of how people receive and remember content.
As with many concerns, 2020 was a significant turning point in raising awareness of issues in content marketing. Companies had to do a complete overhaul of their branding to reach and relate to more consumers. With older consumers joining social media platforms, content marketing had to reflect consumers’ joined experiences of making sense of national lockdowns and restrictions.
When anticipating your next steps in content marketing, taking inspiration from the trends of 2020 will set you in great stead for 2021.
Both hours spent on social media usage and money spent on online advertising have followed an upward trend since 2020 and don’t seem to stop any time soon. Below are some of the ways 2020 transformed content marketing.
1. More Personable Video Content
Content became more about the consumer as a real person rather than as a client. That sleek, corporate feel was more off-putting and insensitive. Instead of professionalism and top-notch business etiquette, people sought comfort and hope in a brand’s campaign. Consumers weren’t just constantly carrying an increasing amount of content around, but also physically touching it. Developing a connection was a more important and challenging task.
Entering a cycle of never-ending scrolling through social media highlighted how people willingly consumed such a growing reel of content. Finding a distraction from the dystopian newsreel was a constant priority.
With people being urged to take as few trips to the shop as possible, supermarkets had to rebrand their content. Consumers were encouraged not only to buy their products but to also cook new recipes, as many novices took to the kitchen to hone their culinary skills. Tesco restarted their Food Love Stories ad campaign, originally launched in 2017, to demonstrate the power of cooking together. Their Easter advert featuring a grandma teaching her family on separate video calls how to make her famous and much-missed roast lamb really connected with friends and families unable to meet up during the Easter holidays and signified the power of both food and video simultaneously.
2. Online Content Marketing
Billboards and physical posters in public places were rendered useless. After all, who was to see them and how? With trade fairs, networking events and conferences being cancelled, companies had to move all of their marketing tactics online. And in many cases, companies were learning on the job, understanding and discovering trends, and becoming aware of what works for which demographics.
Companies have therefore invested in online marketing services to reach more clients and boost sales. Website design companies, such as Squarespace, have also used this sudden gap in the market to their advantage. Demonstrating a unique and creative approach to their advertising, featuring small and innovative businesses and witty slogans, it is understandable that large corporations as well as independent companies saw the appeal and reached out to experts in the field to revamp their branding.
3. Togetherness in Content Marketing
We all know that word of mouth is the most effective way to market content. People will always be asking those they can trust for advice on purchasing a particular service, so why not make use of this method in content marketing? Consumers have specific brands they know and love and will eagerly share their findings virtually, increasing a company’s trustworthiness. This sense of togetherness, especially with clients forming better relationships with brands, has been a huge development in content marketing.
People in ad campaigns bonding by actually sharing content online demonstrated a brand’s inclusivity by encompassing different demographics. Relating to as many members of the public as possible was key in keeping a brand’s message relevant. Virgin Media’s Stay In Love, Stay Connected advert hit home, as we saw relationships forming, using different age ranges and media. Bayer Health Men’s Health campaign and Smear 4 Smear used famous faces, sparking conversations to break taboos and contribute to increasingly significant discussions about our health.
4. Featuring Current Affairs in Video and Content Marketing
Statistics show that many advertising campaigns utilised the pandemic as an overarching theme in their content marketing. Tapping into the national mood and newly developed interests has been a really important grounding in relating to new audiences. Using current affairs for marketing purposes, although can seem bleak and repetitious, is a very clever way of involving the public and arguing a brand’s relevance.
The ad campaign for Women’s Aid was especially successful in this regard. Empty places, eerie streets, silence; these were all sights the public recognised but shed light on a completely different angle. Highlighting the concealment of domestic abuse emphasised this ongoing problem, reminding the public of such an inescapable situation.
Channel 4’s trailer for The Great British Bake Off ingeniously used a perplexing part of the pandemic. Reminding the public of the sudden flour crisis from the first lockdown was a humorous and artful marketing technique. With more novices taking up baking at an alarming rate, nobody could have foreseen a shortage in staple cupboard supplies. Recrafting this issue with the suspense of a TV drama was a cunning way of drawing in and entertaining viewers.
5. Adapting Content Marketing to Changing Lifestyles
Brands had to adapt to people’s changing lifestyles. Content had to relate to consumers on an empathetic level and to different daily routines. Showing how and why brands could be used from home meant targeted campaigns and more personalised at-home experiences.
Google’s Dear Local campaign targeted clients and business owners by inspiring customers to leave Google reviews. This promised to improve their favourite independent stores’ ratings. With many businesses forced to close, this campaign demonstrated the power all customers have in helping local shops and restaurants. Building a strong sense of community was crucial in such trying times, helping boost sales and spreading the word.
6. Messaging of Content Marketing
Seeking reassurance and an escape from a depressing news cycle has been imperative in the transformation of content marketing. Conveying a more hopeful and optimistic message has marketed the promise of a better future to comfort consumers. With co-operation, sympathy and friendliness being the main themes of their messages, brands introduced the faces behind their companies. The result? Developing a greater connection with current and prospective customers.
Banks especially have had to reach out with a more sensitive tone to attract clients. With many facing various money worries in a financial crisis, banks have had to adopt a much friendlier approach. Barclays recording virtual messages from their colleagues was an effective tactic in showing their support constantly available to current customers.
These adverts also filled in the social vacuum prevalent in people’s lockdown lives. Brands now have to constantly remember that they will always be dealing with real people going through real problems. A company is not just there to solve a problem, it is also there to help others.
7. Edu-tainment Video Content
There has been a higher demand for edu-tainment content. Combining education with entertainment, this type of content does what it says on the tin; teaching and amusing the consumer. People were able to virtually explore museums and galleries, while younger generations took an interest in YouTube and TikTok. Restrictions on hobbies led to an influx of scrolling through tutorial videos from revamping CVs to learning British Sign Language. As a result, people have been inspired to attain certificates in different interests they would not have considered pre-pandemic.
Brands teaching something new and exciting succeeded in increasing profits and finding new customers. Creative small businesses on Etsy and Not on the High Street sold art prints and promoted paint-by-numbers packs. The idea of “make your own” has increased client activity and developed a deeper connection with new and flexible brands. Offering both a hobby and a product understood the need for distraction and entertainment, providing an escape and a creative outlet.
8. Appealing Video Content to Older Generations
Gen Z and Millenials aren’t the only ones on social media any more. In the absence of physical meet-ups, older generations had to adopt the social lifestyle of their children and grandchildren to see and hear friends and family. And brands have seen a new marketing opportunity.
BritBox ramped up their sales by introducing and rebooting TV series recognised by older generations and marketing their content predominantly by Facebook and TV. Over-50s were one of the first generations to grow up with TV screens just becoming the norm of home entertainment, so branding content to target a particular demographic was key in attracting older consumers.
Even the formatting and style of an advert can evoke nostalgia, allowing viewers to reminisce on simpler times. B&Q used a series of sentimental 80s and 90s home videos, emphasising the power of family time, and recognising a renewed interest in DIY projects. The grainy video quality shows how people build their lives, both through construction and valuing time with loved ones.
9. Social Aspect of Content Marketing
A developing social vacuum in people’s lives has required content to act as a bridge to others. The closing of gyms sparked an increase in consumers searching for effective and flexible online workouts. Personal trainers have made excellent use of the pandemic to reach clients far and wide by hosting live workouts and posting consistently throughout the day about their exercise routines, timetables, and nutritional advice accordingly.
Body By Ciara is just one of the many online personal trainers to benefit from moving to a purely online presence. Seeing the founder of a company physically and enthusiastically participating in their own branding motivates and inspires consumers to willingly engage in a company’s message and even make that brand a new part of their lifestyle. It is also easier to encourage people to consume and share your content when the face behind the company is passionate and excited about the potential of their brand.
10. Shorter Video Content
Despite the uptake of hobbies and interests, people’s main distraction from a world verging on apocalypse, unsurprisingly, was the phenomenon of “doomscrolling”. Consistent, mundane scrolling through content became people’s go-to hobby – scrolling instead of twiddling their thumbs. Companies had to adapt to this shift in user activity – the 3-minute norm for videos was considered too long and had to be drastically shortened to a max of 15 seconds. Short, punchy content is required, otherwise, people swiftly lose interest, attention spans becoming significantly shorter in the hunt for finding engaging content.
TikTok really proved itself to be a valid social media platform for businesses to promote this type of addictive and consumable content. Short videos accompanied with snappy captions and memorable hashtags were a really eye-catching and effective way to engage with younger generations. Some brands even devised their own creative effects to bring an interactive component to their content marketing, further engaging with the younger audience. The #BeatsDaisyChallenge from Beats By Dr Dre created a series of challenges for consumers to produce their own content and inspire a new generation to explore their own creative flair.
From promoting more optimistic messages to encompassing greater age brackets, it is clear that content marketing changed dramatically in 2020, stripping back and simplifying ad campaigns and putting people at the heart of them. As restrictions in the UK are gradually eased, it is important to still keep these changes in mind when creating content this year. The effectiveness of marketing content online is now more prevalent than ever, so promoting engaging content is the recipe for success in content marketing.
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