We recently connected with Jessica Jensen, Global Director of Marketing at Qualcomm, to talk about the changes content marketing will see in 2020 and beyond. Jessica walks us through what turns she thinks the future of content marketing will take, the persistent challenge of trust, and why we shouldn’t give up on printed newspapers just yet.

How has content marketing changed in the past 5 years?

Content marketing is such a broad term used in many different ways today. It is often used as a synonym for digital marketing or storytelling. But like all marketing, you should begin with the end in mind. Start with your audience, and then reverse engineer the messaging and the way you package your product or service based on what's most meaningful to that group. In my career, this has been the biggest shift we've seen in marketing — it's no longer about us, it's about the customer. Rather than a brand pushing out content, telling customers what they should want or need, no question, it's now customers leading the charge. Our job, as marketers, is to listen. Only then can we create relevant content that’s helpful to that audience in their chosen environment.

Voice and audio are ramping rapidly as well. Podcasts have evolved from a niche channel to a mainstream, viable component in any content/digital strategy. Podcasts have been around for quite some time, but have accelerated in the last few years due to faster connectivity/streaming on our devices and robust platforms like Spotify and Stitcher. Smart home devices and audio-based search are further expanding into our lives with estimates of 15% of US households containing at least one. These are territories to explore, experiment and incorporate into the mix in 2020. 

What is the biggest challenge facing content marketing today and how can we combat that?

By far, the biggest challenge is trust. The digital platforms where we access content marketing are becoming less trustworthy. Most people are realizing that they have to take things with a grain of salt, but it’s getting harder to know what’s real. Even before the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018, there was an awareness of the algorithmic component of digital/social marketing which of course curates my results. This also bleeds into search as well.

Combine algorithmic curation with the blatant trust issues stemming from the election, fake news, and image/video editing — it’s an interesting time to be a marketer. Honestly, it's hard to know where to get your news. I have a coworker who still reads a lot of physical newspapers and, while I tease her, I wonder if she’s onto something. Maybe we need to go back to printed newspapers so, at minimum, I know that what I’m reading is the same as my neighbor.

What are some of the ways that Qualcomm hopes to succeed with content in 2020?

At Qualcomm, content creation is spread across multiple teams. My team creates content as do our brand and product marketing teams. Ancillary teams like our government affairs group and employee communications team also create content for their specific audiences. Content is such a broad, all-encompassing term these days that it more so begs the question- what isn’t content marketing?

Our CMO, Penny Baldwin, kicked off an initiative to unify Qualcomm’s voice. Penny and our corporate marketing team have been focused on building a consistent brand voice, regardless of where in the organization content is created or on which platform it is consumed. It doesn't matter to our customers how we're organized; they just deserve a clean brand experience that's cohesive across the company. I’m excited about this focus on a consolidated approach for Qualcomm.

How do you position Qualcomm as a thought leader and how are you planning to use content to further your mission?

Qualcomm is in B2B tech, and we're not as well known as other consumer-facing tech brands. I like to think of us as the Wizard of Oz. We’re inventing things that few know we’re working on and are years in the making, but result in huge implications and impact for the tech industry and beyond. That said, we work closely with our customers and partners to make the magic come to life in the devices we use every day.

Content becomes really important for a brand like ours because what we do is relatively complex. You can't go buy a box of Qualcomm on the shelf. We’re not a consumable brand that’s simple to understand. Qualcomm needs some explanation and requires more nuance.

Approaches common in the practice of digital/content marketing are helpful for a company like Qualcomm because they can be used to explain these technical topics, bring our employees to life and humanize the brand — things that you can’t always do in a 30 second TV spot. We need more time with our customers to drive a more complex message home. Content marketing is a blessing for a brand like Qualcomm.

What do you predict will be the single biggest change to content marketing in the next five years?

Again, I think the issue of trust is a major one. I'm curious to see if our federal government begins to step in and regulate the tech industry and the way content is created, vetted and distributed in the next five years. It’s great that we’re seeing things around privacy start to bubble up, but historically it hasn't moved quite as fast as the tech industry can create new products and platforms. Privacy measures need to be woven into our platforms from the beginning, not bolted on as an afterthought. 

If we can get a step ahead of how we validate and vet whether content is factual, real, and true, we can eliminate this growing worry about artificiality. This could go a long way to maintain interest in all these different platforms and perhaps rebuild the trust that's been lost the last few years. We need this authentication capability that we’ve been missing. But it’s complex — I recognize that.

I think another change will stem from the five senses, and using those fully. You can look at beautiful pictures or watch beautiful videos, but I think the audio component in content marketing is really nascent. I'm interested to see how smart home devices start to work in a more, well, smart way. I still have a hard time getting Alexa or Google to understand me half the time in my house!

I understand this could wade into Big Brother territory. On the positive side, if we can get these smart home devices to anticipate our needs, they can begin to understand the content we want and filter out the stuff we’ve already consumed on another device. This begins to truly solve problems and reduce friction. And again, there’s the promise that podcasting brings. We haven't really tapped into audio in marketing and I'm excited to see where that goes in the next few years.