The Group incorporates many household names in publishing so they can talk about common industry issues. With its latest research it finds that -- exactly as you would imagine -- advertisers want to engage people through content. That is why we have a growing content marketing channel, which more that four in five agencies believe will keep on growing this year.
When it comes to advertisers' agencies, the reason is clear: 60% select brand engagement as the main achievement they are pursuing. In fact, 60% of advertisers pick out brand engagement as the main reason they partake in content marketing campaigns.
The talking point is how they measure the success of campaigns. Brand awareness and brand perception metrics were top two measures, cited by just over and just under one in four, respectively. Interestingly, considering that engagement is the motivator for campaigns, time spent consuming branded content comes in at number three.
For me, however, I'm not so sure there is an issue here. In fact, I think the research shows the complete reverse of a disconnect.
Marketers aren't confused by content and they are not measuring the wrong thing -- they are simply applying an appropriate measure to what is not a sales channel, but one which should improve brand awareness, consideration and favourability.
The killer stat for me in the research is that the top criteria for an advertiser picking a content campaign partner is that the publisher offers a credible editorial environment. It was picked out by 71% of advertisers, just ahead of quality of engagement and picking a site with a quality audience.
In other words, brands totally get content. They realise it's all about reaching the right people with compelling stories. This means that most of the time, the content can't just be about the company and its products and services. Who would want to actively engage with that? That's what websites are for, right?
Instead content marketing is all about getting people to connect with a brand, to see it as a thought leader, or perhaps as a good corporate citizen. Sure, engagement metrics are useful for knowing how long someone had a page open, but you never know -- they may have popped off to make a cup of tea.
The harder job is finding out how the content made someone feel, what it did for their perception of a brand, how it might have influenced the likelihood the brand is more likely to be well-favoured when it comes to future purchases.
So, I look at this research and suggest there isn't a disconnect at all between engagement aspirations and brand metrics. By focussing on the latter, brands are showing us they understand that content is not a sales channel and the proof of its worth is not in how long it was consumed but how it changed perceptions.
Far from a disconnect, I think this research shows a clear connection between marketers' understanding of content and their measurement of how well it has worked.