In order to define the condition of the sector, the Content Council, in cooperation with Advertising Age, asked the leaders in content marketing – CM agencies and brands that use CM as a communication tool – about their the work they do. The outcome is the report “Content Marketing – Growing and Transforming Customer Engagement”, comparing the current results with those from 2012, and presenting projections for 2017. But the most valuable piece of information in the report includes observation and the experience of experts from companies that use content marketing in a professional way.

“Customers ask for added value in what they get from companies and brands. At the same time, brands understand that the world of advertising is already saturated. They see their competitors improving their contact with customers through the use of content, which can increase traffic on their website and reduce sales costs. This is why the word 'content’ has become so trendy recently” says in the report John von Brachel, Senior VP-Director Content Marketing and Integration at Bank of America Global Wealth and Investment Management.

Many advertising and marketing managers, when asked about the role of content marketing in what they do, tend to rehearse well-known terms and definitions: storytelling, opinion leader, valuable and entertaining content… One of them, however, provides a short definition in the vein of previously quoted von Brachel: “Content marketing is a gradually more important source of generating traffic, loyalty and commitment.”
If so, marketers must not think about content marketing as a subsidiary thing. On the contrary – they should plan their strategy in order to give priority to this area in their marketing plans.

Research indeed reveal that many marketers are already more and more committed to the idea of content marketing. They were asked to put on a scale – from extremely weak to extremely strong – their or their customers’ involvement in content marketing. Only two years ago the percentage of those who said “the commitment to content marketing” was strong or very strong amounted to only 17.7%. This year the number jumped up to 39.7% , and 75.9% of the respondents project their commitment will be strong/very strong in the next two years.
Marketers’ words are not the only proof of that trend – it’s also proved by the growing budget (from 12,6% to the current 23,3% and projected 33.1%) and by the expansion of both internal structures and external cooperation, which will help bear the pressure on content.

Both the interest in content marketing and the budget grow also because customers have found a way to measure content marketing effectiveness: as many as 58% of the respondents use such indicants as website traffic, engagement data, sales, brand awareness and loyalty.

Representatives of the companies which have been using content marketing for 10 years on average, still have three most important goals ahead of them: to obtain new customers/company members, to increase engagement and to improve brand perception.

In order to achieve these goals one needs to use content marketing in various ways and on various scales. Linda Descano, Managing Director and Head of Content and Social at Citi Bank US, says: “My team deliberate on what is best for a given campaign or brand. Sometimes, content marketing and the social media make up the major part of our efforts, other times they play a supportive role e.g. for a new TV campaign. The main assumption is '360-degrees thinking’, which guarantees kind of a “spatial sound” in our marketing actions.
Katrina Craigwell, Director Global Content and Programming at General Electric, points out: “We discuss much about how to create an experience that people will remember. In some cases this can be a video on YouTube with millions of hits, in others – a presentation for ten people in a production plant. The key is to reach people in the right way through our partners.”

Talking about videos on YouTube: the respondents project the share of expenses on video will increase in expenses on content marketing up to 16.1% of the budget, and as a result – over the next two years YouTube is going to drive out Facebook from the position of the leading external channel for content distribution, right next to brands’ corporate websites and newsletters. Such a change would be a serious one: back in 2014 YouTube was used as a tool by 75% of marketers, while FB – by 90%.

“Content is not a campaign tool, not something you can switch on and off, but a way of communicating. And that is the way the customers of today want to be communicated with.” Craig Waller, president of Pace Communications

The authors of the report emphasize that content, which is becoming a more and more critical area of marketing, forces companies to change the way they organize work. David Brown, Executive Director  at Meredith Xcelerated Marketing, says: “The most interesting thing in the following stages of the content marketing growth will be how it fits the organizational structure of companies. Content hates to be put in secluded chambers. It won’t be strategic until it travels between different channels. Meanwhile, most of my clients still don’t treat it as a separate discipline.”
On the contrary, Keith Sedlak, CMO at McMURRY/TMG, who describes content marketing as 'social journalism’, says he sees gradually more companies create the position of a content marketing manager or director – a fact that proves the engagement in and understanding of the role of content marketing is growing.

One proof of that trend comes from already mentioned Citi. Citi started building its “content muscle” about a decade ago. “When content was specifically added to my title in 2012, it was a clear signal content has become an essential part of the system that we use to provide marketing messages. When you have someone in an elevated role, it brings a certain gravitas to the function,” says Linda Descano.
While many companies formalize content marketing operations in their internal structures, the respondents who are active in the sector simultaneously presume that in the next two years more than one third of the content marketing budget will be outsourced – growing needs require looking for external experts in that area.

Experts emphasize that along with the growing meaning of content marketing, sector representatives are going to expand their offer in order to face up to the higher results expected by brands. This is a path of many opportunities, but also just as many obstacles. While 30% of the respondents believe their company or customers adjust well their content marketing goals to the organization’s general goals, only 13% admitted the sector as a whole is good at it.