If you were unfamiliar with content marketing a few years ago, you’re probably well acquainted with it now (and if you’re not, we can break it down for you). Many brands are allocating their budgets to their content marketing strategy, and discussing where it’s headed for 2020 and beyond. The highly-anticipated new decade of the 20s allows us to reflect on just how much the strategy has changed. What has been the evolution of content marketing, and why does it matter?

There’s no need for a crystal ball — we’ll take you through it.  

Growth in MarTech Vendors

There’s been an explosion in the past 10 years in the sheer number of vendors in the MarTech landscape. Scott Brinker’s infamous Martech 500 depicts this growth, with 150 vendors in 2011 to over 7,000 in 2019. And content marketing made its first appearance in 2014, becoming its own category and proving itself as a key pillar to any marketing strategy.

Credit: Chief Marketing Technologist

So what’s changed, and why the increase in MarTech vendors? When it comes to content marketing, we’ve gone digital, and brands are relying on these vendors to make their vision a reality. We’re connecting with our audiences in new ways outside of print, radio and TV, and expanding into personalized, curated, digital content experiences that create meaningful connections. 

The technology powering content marketing has also transformed, previously providing marketers simple quantitative metrics such as pageviews and time on page, but in time has grown to uncover deeper truths such as how audiences feel about what they’re reading. Content marketing analytics is now all about real-time metrics that encompass the whole content journey. These in turn can advise marketers if they’re on the right path to connecting with their consumers, and allow them to take their content intelligence strategy to the next level. 

Consumers Gaining More Control

Looking at the evolution of content marketing, not only has the strategy changed with the times, but we have too. Since 2010, marketing teams, and their purpose, have evolved. CMOs and their teams are now placing consumers at the top of the chain. Consumers call the shots, telling marketers what they want and how they want it. And it’s up to CMOs to make their journey as seamless as possible. To remain competitive, these leaders need to immerse themselves in the data. They’re wearing many hats, combining creativity with data to get the mixture just right.

The brands doing this well are also providing superior customer experiences. For example, Ally Financial has been lauded in Forbes’ 100 Of The Most Customer-Centric Companies, which showcases the brand’s commitment to a customer-first strategy.

Credit: Ally Do It Right

Wells Fargo made the list and got a nod for their dedication to supporting small businesses and helping them succeed.

Credit: Wells Fargo Stories

Last but not least, Discover also made the list, recognized for being on the cutting edge of technology.

Credit: Discover College Covered

Kicking Content Up a Notch

The trick now is for brands to find their groove, and create content that delivers true value for their consumers. Branded content isn’t just about paid, or sharing articles on your blog. Today, brands have to explore different channels, discover that perfect story, and also focus on owned content.

Content is everywhere, and because of that, brands will have to go above-and-beyond to stand out from the crowd. Moving forward, brands looking to up their game should consider the many opportunities that owned content brings. Not only does it house branded content all in one place, it can establish you as a credible thought leader and bring more traffic to your site. Audiences are also well-groomed to receive your message, since they’re already on your site for a specific reason and receptive to further content.

For the past 10 years, many began to take a swing at content marketing. In 2020 and beyond, brands need to continue maturing their content marketing programs. To see where your organization stands, check out the Gartner Maturity Model for Content Marketing.

Credit: Gartner Maturity Model for Content Marketing

Looking to the Future: Voice & Video

Moving through the next decade, we expect that brands will begin optimizing their content for voice search. According to OC&C Strategy Consultants, 55% of adults will own a smart speaker in 2022. And by 2020, half of all searches will be through voice technology. Alexa, Google Home, and other devices will help answer consumer questions and what starts as an inquiry could lead to your bottom line. 

The evolution of content marketing also includes the explosion of video. Combined with better analytics, video advertising is now crucial to any future online marketing plan. In 2018, brands spent over $90 billion on video ads, but in 2023, brands are predicted to spend $102.8 billion. And consumers are asking for it, with 56% of 25-34-year-olds and 54% of 35-44-year-olds desiring more video content from brands they support, according to a HubSpot survey.

Credit: HubSpot

Why This Matters

In 2019, we’re no stranger to content. It’s everywhere, and content marketing technology is a fundamental tool in every marketer’s toolkit. We’ve come a long way in 10 years, and rounding the bend to the new decade, brands are kicking it into high gear.

As marketers, we’re all about storytelling. We’re here to create deeper relationships with our consumers, and ideally make those relationships last a lifetime. We also need to balance that with ROI, and bottom-line results. With the evolution of content marketing, a decade can bring about many changes. As consumers evolve, our practices have to follow suit — or we risk becoming obsolete.