At the end of last year we wrote about the content marketing trends we expect for 2020. What we couldn’t have expected—what nobody could have expected—was a global pandemic that would upend the lives of billions of people around the world. 

At the end of every year, we release our State of Content Marketing Report that offers data-driven insights into new trends and developments in the content marketing arena. But given how much has changed in such a short time, this year we thought it was appropriate to take a step back and look at the 2020 state of content marketing at the midway point of the year.

The result is the Knotch State of Content Marketing Volume 4. This comprehensive report is loaded with insights into how COVID-19, the economic recession, anti-discrimination protests, and the current political climate have caused fundamental changes to the content marketing world—and how marketers can plan accordingly. 

Here’s a taste of some of the key findings from our state of content marketing 2020 report.

Download the free 35-page report.

Good Content Isn’t a Luxury

Historically, recessions have meant smaller budgets and layoffs—especially in the marketing department. But this time around, many businesses responded by doubling down on their marketing efforts—particularly when it came to content.

Through conversations with marketing leaders, we ascertained that many organizations felt COVID-19 made it more important than ever to talk with their customers. Through the creation of helpful, emotionally resonant content, brands thought they could maintain a relationship with customers during a time when they weren’t necessarily looking to make a transaction.

This shift in content utility has shown marketing leaders that content marketing can no longer be a luxury for marketing organizations looking to find a new acquisition channel. In our conversations, many have told us that they feel recent events have proven the value of investing in content marketing over the long term.

What we’ve seen is a fundamental shift in social norms and behavior,” Michael Mendenhall, CMO of TriNet, told us. “Companies have adapted accordingly by prioritizing authenticity and transparency. Our brand has shifted from a commercial message to protecting our customer base.”

If there was ever a time to reorient your marketing strategy around content, it’s now.

Walk the Walk

In the fantasy series “A Game of Thrones,” characters often repeat the aphorism “words are wind.” The meaning behind it is that saying something doesn’t necessarily mean anything, whereas actually doing something does.

I’ve found myself thinking about that phrase recently in light of the virtue signaling performed by brands in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd and subsequent nationwide anti-discrimination protests. Lots of brands put out content condoning police brutality and systemic racism. 

But words are wind.

Consumers were quick to out the brands signaling support for the Black Lives Matter movement while maintaining a culture within their own organization where minorities are underrepresented. A good example of consumers holding brands accountable was the Instagram account @PullUpForChange.

What this means for content marketers and marketing organizations in general is that you can’t talk the talk without walking the walk. Consumers are more ready than ever to disassociate with brands that don’t align with their personal values. That’s why it’s important for your brand to stand up for something, and back up those beliefs with substantive action.

The market now demands it. And if you don’t, you risk alienating yourself from your customers.

Social Media Marketing Controversy

There are lots of ways to take a principled stand as a brand. One such recent example is the widespread boycotting of major social media networks like Facebook and Twitter.

The boycott was organized by Stop Hate for Profit, a campaign created by the Anti-Defamation League, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and other social justice organizations. The campaign is calling for brands to cease advertising on Facebook for the month of July as a way to express displeasure with what the campaign sees as the promotion of hate, bigotry, racism, antisemitism, and violence for profit. Stop Hate for Profit has also asked for Facebook to appoint a C-level executive with expertise in civil rights, and to remove Facebook groups devoted to subjects like Holocaust denialism.

“We are asking all businesses to stand in solidarity with our most deeply held American values of freedom, equality and justice and not advertise on Facebook's services in July,” it reads on the Stop Hate for Profit website.

Over 1,000 brands have already joined the boycott, including Coca-Cola, Hershey’s, Honda, Patagonia, Starbucks, Unilever, and Verizon. 

This boycott represents the most serious pushback the $70 billion dollar advertising giant has ever received. Facebook has been at the center of controversy for years now, and the boycott signals that consumers (and therefore brands) may have reached a tipping point.

The lasting impact of the boycott is yet to be determined, although Facebook has taken measures recently to address some of the concerns raised by Stop Hate for Profit.

Social media has been a primary marketing channel for years. But for the first time ever, it’s long term viability is in question. It’s efficacy will be something to play close attention to over the coming months.

Go Deeper With Knotch’s State of Content Marketing 2020

These are just a few of the topics we discuss in greater detail in our state of content marketing 2020 report. If you’re ready to dive in, download the free 35-page report.