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Over the past 24 months, content marketing has swept over the digital marketing world. Brands have been encouraged to think and act like media companies, pushing out content at a prodigious pace. Content marketing has become the new marketing paradigm, pushing aside former marketing favorites such as search engine optimization (SEO).
Understanding paradigm shifts in the marketing world
In many ways, the success of content marketing was based on it being able to prove that “inbound marketing” was better than “outbound marketing.” In other words, posting new blog content, creating new podcast content, and developing new video content was a more cost-effective way to attract potential customers than simply covering the Internet with ads.
Content marketing offered a fundamental choice of “pull” vs. “push.” Content marketers made the argument that it was more effective to “pull” a customer towards you than to “push” him or her into your arms with a bunch of ads.
But something interesting has been going on recently. We may be witnessing another paradigm shift. That’s because the type of content that marketers are creating has shifted almost exclusively to video. Check out what any of the big social media platforms are up to these days, and it almost always involves video. Check out what types of branded content is showing up in your social feeds these days, and it’s usually video content.
Of course, you could make the argument that this is still content marketing — it’s just that all the content is video content. From this perspective, it’s not so much that a new paradigm shift is going on, it’s more of an evolutionary step. Video content is better than visual content (i.e. photos), and visual content is better than text content (i.e. blog posts). In the Darwinian jungle of digital marketing, video marketing won the evolutionary battle for survival.
Ideas on what comes next for digital marketing
So which is it: Is content marketing and “inbound marketing” still relevant in today’s marketing world, or are there signs it is fading and changing in response to the new content environment in social media?
One possible answer is that the role of brands in today’s digital world is shifting and evolving in very profound ways. Take the phenomenal success of the Amazon Echo, which is a new way to interact with consumers. First of all, instead of using a keyboard or mobile phone keypad, you’re using your voice. That’s new, right? And secondly, brands are racing to create “skills” for the Amazon Echo, like the ability to order a pizza while watching a baseball game.
So maybe this is the new paradigm – brands are more like invisible tools that remain in the background of your daily digital life, waiting to be activated at the sound of your voice.
Or, here’s another idea: maybe brands are evolving into a way to enhance your everyday “reality” using virtual reality, augmented reality and other forms of mixed reality. All of the activity around augmented reality would seem to suggest that the most forward-looking brands should be looking for ways to help people live better in reality.
For example, shouldn’t big automakers be looking for ways to overlay augmented reality screens on windshields of cars? Shouldn’t big consumer brands be looking to create fun, mind-bending experiences using augmented or virtual reality? (Oh, look honey, there’s a big chocolate tree growing in our backyard! Let’s go buy some candy bars!)
One thing is certain – it’s important for digital marketers to keep at least one eye on new trends that are bubbling up in the technology sector. Nothing stays the same for long. Just as adopting a “mobile-first” mentality took some getting used to, so will whatever comes next in the digital marketing world.