The role of performance KPIs in content marketing's $313 billion promise

Content marketing has traditionally been used as a brand building tool but with display advertising facing questions, is there another role for content to play in marketing strategy?

e4m by Abhinn Shreshtha
Published: Sep 1, 2017 7:38 AM  | 4 min read

Content marketing is arguably the hottest buzzword in marketing these days even though the definition of what exactly falls under the umbrella of content marketing remain hazy. Despite this, forecasts seem bright for the content industry. 


For example, Forrester estimates that nearly $10 billion was spent on content in 2016 in the US and around $40 billion in global marketing content spend in 2016. Another research report released by PQ Media this month says that global content marketing revenues grew at an accelerated 14.3 per cent in 2016 to $28.1 billion, fuelled by double digit growth in branded mobile content, digital videos, branded games and social media content. The report further stated that content marketing revenues would continue to grow at 14 per cent in 2017. An earlier report by PQ Media pegged the content marketing industry to be worth $313 billion by 2019.


Content marketing is an important part of a marketer’s arsenal but what role does it actually play and is there a possibility for brands to do more with their content marketing strategy? Branded content or sponsored content has long been seen as a more strategic medium for creating brand affinity. But with display advertising being questioned in all quarters and customers becoming increasingly disdainful of other forms of advertising, perhaps there is an opportunity here for content marketing to take on a more performance-led role.


“Content marketing has of course, largely been used as a brand marketing tool. However, used well, it can also lead to specific performance in terms of driving results. Especially when combined in dynamic content optimisation, in say a programmatic media world, what we are able to do is to nudge the consumer forward in his path to purchase with specific content based answers to his immediate questions and in reference to his purchase journey,” opined Sanjay Mehta, CEO of Mirum India.



Sandeep Naug, National Sales Head (Native, Social and Video Machine), Culture Machine, said, “Content makes it easier to serve the product proposal in the most native manner. Multiple formats can be used generate revenue, right from contest to web-campaigns to in-video purchase. The important thing to consider is that the consumer always thinks what is in store for them and how they will be gratified.”


For Gurmit Singh, VP & MD (India) at Oath, the new content subdivision of Verizon formed from the acquisitions of AOL and Yahoo, the ultimate goal of the brand is to create “Return on Inspiration” and not RoI, which will follow the former. “Content marketing campaign has to find ways of being relevant and useful to the consumer. If done right, content marketing translates into purchase, builds brands loyalty and grows the consumer base since it gets shared among more and more users,” he told us.


However, there is always the fear that focusing too much on content advertising rather than content marketing might lead to the same problems that brands face with display advertising today. For example, there are already some questions being raised about how much value native advertising brings and how much do they actually end up deceiving audiences (Only about 8 per cent respondents could differentiate between native ads and editorial content according to a 2015 study).


“We always urge our brands to not to look at digital as just another advertisement platform. If you want your prospects to drive action then you have to keep their interest as utmost priority. Content marketing is the voice and image of the brand. Text, display and rich media ads offer more ways to involve an audience with an ad,” agreed Naug.


Then of course there is the question of tracking the right metrics. For a brand to move towards a more performance-based KPI, it needs to ensure that it has identified and is tracking the right metrics. As one marketer pointed out to us, many brands, especially FMCG, have never included call-to-action as part of their campaigns and have seldom measured RoI on even TV advertising. 


Deepali Naair, Chief Marketing & Digital Officer of IIFL Investment Managers was of the opinion that a Marketing team should be smart enough to realize that sometimes performance campaigns on digital may be expensive. If it's content marketing, they deliver long term visibility as well as brand engagement.


“The measurement variables have become a factor of what historical data points the brand has . If the organisation has only been measuring impressions (reach surrogate) then it is difficult for that organisation to build a culture of performance variables measurement such as cost per sale or cost per visit especially when it comes to content marketing,” she told us.


Naug also agreed that measurement metrics for performance marketing as compared to brand campaign are very different and serve different objectives. “We need better analytics and tools to emphasise the impact of pure brand campaign and not dilute the efficacy of it by only driving performance,” he noted.

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