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30 January 2017

Content Marketing: from Don Draper to Data Driven

Written by: Jules Delay, Junior Writer at Edelman

Innovation, Media, Technology

Content marketing is a fluctuating field, but one where evidence and research is an increasingly scrutinised pillar. Indeed, while some may argue that marketing has been typified in the past only by a pithy line or idea worthy of Don Draper, it is undeniable that data-driven creativity is becoming increasingly essential for modern marketers.

First and foremost, and much like other marketing disciplines, a successful content marketing strategy requires a clear understanding of the consumer. What motivates them? Who do they listen to? What do they want to read, watch or spend their time on? And crucially, how do they go about finding it?

That’s where data comes in. By offering tangible, measurable insights to consumer behaviour, especially around their use of search engines and other aggregation platforms, data can help brands create targeted, effective content strategies. In other words, it can help them get their stuff in front of the right people, in the right place, at the right time. And while there will always be a crucial balance to be struck between data-led insight and human instinct, the ongoing challenge for brands, is how they create tailored approaches for clients that consider both of these factors.

Many leading brands and agencies now consider data analysis to be the starting point for creating content: after all, it allows us to fundamentally understand what audiences are searching for and talking about. Understanding and addressing an audience’s real needs and questions gives marketing solutions a clear purpose and direction.

There are several ways of doing this, each offering a different insight to the target audience and another lens with which to create a marketing strategy. These include:

  • Keyword research to identify the most popular search terms around a topic
  • Social listening that helps us understand the questions and conversations people have on social platforms
  • Qualitative and Quantitative data analysis giving an insight into audiences’ behaviour
  • Consumer research to help provide an understanding of an audiences’ needs or views

It’s important to note here that content marketers are still trying to perfect this approach whilst providing a balance between creativity and data. Interestingly, 76% of B2C marketers employ content marketing, yet only 37% say their strategy is effective. As an industry, we are beginning to recognise the importance of data analysis and data-driven content, but we are also still honing exactly how to successfully integrate this blend of creativity, instinct and data into brand strategies.

At Edelman, we know that data-driven content enhances our work, but also recognise the vital importance of brilliant creativity and an intuitive understanding of different audiences. Our methodology is therefore versatile – in a rapidly evolving communications landscape it simply has to be – but it is also based around one core belief. Namely that when it comes to solving our clients’ business challenges, the most effective solutions are founded in insight and data, but solved with creativity.

As for what this means for brands, perhaps the best way to think about it is this: the best content marketing strategies are no longer about the heart or the head. They’re about both working seamlessly together.

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