Going into 2019, content marketing seems to be all the buzz, but it isn’t exactly a new concept.

One of the earliest forms dates to the 1930’s when one company would sponsor program slots, and that business controlled all the ads. So when P&G sponsored a number of early dramas across radio and television, shows began to get associated with the advertiser. And hence, originated the word we know today as ‘Soap Operas’. In a way, it was a precursor to both modern advertising and modern content marketing. Sure, (most) content marketing today is not as blatant as some old shows, but the theory is the same: a brand creates – or pays for the creation of – content to build a relationship with its audience. However, what has changed is the where, when, what and how of content consumption. Content is being consumed at various points in the day and across multiple devices.

As per Zenith’s Media Consumption Forecasts 2018, an average person would spend up to eight hours per day listening to, watching, reading and generally interacting with media; and for the first time, more time would be spent using the internet than watching TV. People in APAC will spend an average of 164 minutes a day on the internet, more than the 152 minutes they’re expected to spend watching TV. And there are no signs of online video consumption slowing down. Broadband Internet has become more widely available, the cost of connecting is decreasing, more devices are being created with Wi-Fi capabilities and sensors built into them, technology costs are going down, and smartphone penetration is sky-rocketing. Content marketing is now critical for a marketer, and here are some trends to help in those efforts.

Transmedia Storytelling – A new role for marketers

Storytelling has been a part of ancient cultures, which has tackled so many domains. A good story grabs us, takes us in and allows us to live vicariously through the storyteller. Over the years, filmmakers, authors, leaders and even brands have used this technique to get an audience’s attention. Interesting, relevant stories are a critical element of any content marketing strategy and as more brands start to become publishers, a marketer’s role has effectively turned into one of a storyteller. But now, with the number of platforms, with the multitude of content and the many brands that choose to pay to promote content, it is becoming an increasingly crowded and noisy environment to reach an audience.

Marketers should take a few learnings from publishers and media companies that have been in the content business. For example, successful movie franchises have used Transmedia storytelling, a technique of having a single narrative across multiple platforms and formats using current digital technologies. Each media piece – whether it’s a comic, novels, video games, mobile apps, or a film – functions as a standalone story experience – complete and satisfying. Like a giant puzzle, each piece also contributes to a larger narrative. The unfolding story design creates the motivation to engage with other participants, seek out other parts of the story, and contribute to the narrative by adding content. With consumers fragmented across multiple devices and platforms, but still connected, marketers will need to effectively build their narrative using different formats and platforms. The power of a good photo, article, video or campaign will stand out from the crowd, but if connected, could paint a bigger more fulfilling picture.

Digital First – Experiment with partners & formats

Sixty-four per cent of connected consumers across APAC are watching online video content daily, across multiple devices and platforms. With ease of access to content, consumers are spoilt for choice and to a certain extent, overserved. To cut through the clutter, the audience will choose reliable sources to fill their content needs. Traditionally, marketers have worked with their trusted creative agencies and production partners to create great hero content, and while that shouldn’t change, with the need for more output, it would help marketers to explore brand alliances with content companies that offer credibility as well as an audience. These partners may vary across platforms with varied production styles, thus allowing brands to experiment with different formats.

It’s increasingly important for marketers to cater their message to the medium through which they are reaching their consumers. The audience consumes and engages with content differently across platforms, so there is no reason why the same creative would be equally effective. We have already seen marketers in the region repurpose their TV creatives for Facebook, Instagram, WeChat and YouTube, beginning with simple changes to video dimensions and the use of animation and subtitles to existing content. In the coming year, we should see more mobile first initiatives and experimentation with digital originals. The way video content is being produced and the partners marketers are presently working with will have to fundamentally change.

Data & AI – deliver a personalised message

According to Appier, 55 per cent of companies in APAC have implemented, or are currently expanding or upgrading AI in their businesses. But AI applications for content marketing in the region are still in their infancy. Publishers use machine learning for audience segmentation and targeting, and various predictive tools to improve conversion rates, but now there are tools to even create the right content, the entire customer acquisition process can be automated. AI is enabling customer experience to be more personalised than ever before. Organisations can use artificial intelligence to create videos, social media posts, personalised emails and web content tailored specifically to meet the unique requirements of the customer.

Furthermore, this personalised consumer experience can cost significantly less than money spent on traditionally high-dollar campaigns. These benefits can help overcome some of the challenges that are unique to regional advertisers in APAC. Just as there are multiple languages and cultures across Asia Pacific, certain countries prefer certain platforms. Marketers need to start using AI to create scalable programs that can be localised and personalised, thus creating economies of scale. Based on segmentation, marketers need to customise content based on collaborative grouping to ensure that the content that they are serving to their audience is relevant and personalised. However, the success of these tools depends on the right data sets that need to be input manually with a good deal of bespoke integration.

Internet of Things – talk to the connected consumer

The Internet of Things (IoT), a vast network of smart objects which work together in collecting and analyzing data, is a promising concept of the technology industry for the coming years. IoT will grow to about $520 billion in 2021, more than double the $234 billion spent in 2017. Smart speakers continue to be the world’s fastest growing consumer technology segment. As consumers in the region move towards voice activated devices, wearable watches and smart TV’s, marketers will follow. While the adoption to these new technologies may vary across markets, 2019 may still be early days for this to be a marketing priority in the region, but marketers could begin to cleverly use connected devices and interesting experiments in the space to help amplify a brand campaign and cut through the clutter.

New Metrics – create content that drives customer value 

With the maturity of content marketing, metrics to measure successful content programs will need to evolve and go beyond awareness and engagement metrics. Marketeers will need to ensure that content marketing is not just brand focused but also customer-centric. This means content developed not only for the category, for brand building purposes but importantly for the right customers (through segmentation, not all customers are the same). Brands will therefore have to create content that gets consumers to want to discover them, drive value for them in meaningful ways, get them to not only engage but also share the content across their networks. Marketeers will benefit from integrating all their content activities with their analytics and CRM efforts. With a customer centric approach metrics such as customer acquisition, conversion and retention will be key to define the success of a marketing program.

This piece was  written by Co-chairs of IAB Southeast Asia and India (IAB SEA+India) Content Committee Rika Sharma, Managing Director of Digitas Singapore and Rushit Jhaveri to Vice President, Advertising Sales of A+E Networks. This article was was originally published on Digital Market Asia.