The World Media Group, a strategic alliance of the world’s leading media brands, has released its annual report: What’s Next for Content-Led Marketing? The survey, which questioned key influencers across advertisers, agencies, media brands and consultancies, explored the impact of the pandemic on advertising and how brands will adapt their storytelling after a particularly challenging year.
Increased focus on Social Good
It appears the crises of 2020 have led brands to reconsider their approach to Social Good and how it fits into their creative strategy and content-led communication. Eighty four percent of all respondents believe that it is now more important and more effective for brands to align themselves with social issues and messaging. This is reflected in the fact that 80% of advertisers said their organisation is committed to working towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals and / or actively pursuing an ESG [Environmental-Social-Governance] focused strategy.
Almost two thirds (63%) of media owner, agency, and consultant respondents said they were seeing an increase in demand for creative solutions that communicate the client’s approach to meeting ESG goals. Fifty three percent of advertisers are leading with their ESG strategy in marketing communications to consumers, whilst 24% plan to. Seventy one percent of advertisers believe that brands which are able to lead with credible and authentic storytelling related to ESG issues have a competitive advantage.
However, respondents were quick to caveat that brand authenticity was essential when communicating around ESG issues, and that simply jumping on a hot topic or trend was no longer acceptable. Instead, ‘proof points of real-world actions’ are required to demonstrate that it is not just a marketing tactic.
An authoritative and trusted environment for storytelling
When sharing their opinions on how brands, media owners and agency teams can add impact and effectiveness to storytelling around these issues, over two thirds of all respondents (67%) believe that using the voice of experts is an important factor. Sixty two percent believe that storytelling should be positioned within an authoritative journalistic environment, and this number increases to 71% amongst media owners, agencies, and consultants.
When asked about the best platforms to invest in when sharing or amplifying brand storytelling in 2021, all respondents agreed that the three key areas for investment would be the brand’s own channels, trusted digital media channels and paid social media channels.
Commenting on the survey, Damian Douglas, President of the World Media Group and Managing Director, EMEA at TIME, said, “The pandemic has given us all the opportunity to consider what’s important and consumers are looking for brands that are aligned with their own values. When an organisation has a credible ESG story to tell, content-led communications in the right media environment can help influence genuine social change – but it has to be authentic. Consumers are no longer willing to accept empty gestures.”
Audio predicted to be a key content trend
When asked to predict the most exciting trends in content-led marketing over the next two years, the most frequently cited response was the continued growth of podcasts and audio formats. Respondents also expected the legacy of the pandemic to drive an increase in online brand activations. Finally, there was a divergence of opinion around “humanifying” marketing, with some respondents suggesting a need to make it more personal, while others favoured a trend towards AI-generated content.
About the research: The World Media Group carried out the online survey between 11 January and 19 February 2021 to advertisers, media owners, and agencies with international communication remits. 325 responses were received, with 80% of delegates having worked on content-led campaigns designed to target multiple countries and with global responsibility.