Matt Batten
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At first glance, the winning campaign for Best Content Marketing Strategy at the Mumbrella Awards seems a tad too ambitious to be considered a mere content marketing strategy. ‘Born This Way’, for car oil brand Nulon, comprised a series of 32 videos and was executed over an 18-month period. The man behind the project, Edge ECD Matt Batten, explains it was a decision made because car nuts tend to be ravenous for information. 

“Other campaigns talk about the benefit of the product,” he explains, “but we talked about the benefits of the brand. What it means to be a car nut – not ‘we love oil’. We were only supposed to do the launch film and three mini documentaries, but the videos got such good traction we kept going and it became 32 films when we turned the tap off in January.

“It wasn’t treated as we get in, we get out and then we do something else. This was the way we treat and speak to people.”

Really, it’s typical of the evolution the industry has gone through. Over the past few years, content marketing has progressed from a few cheaply-made blog posts and YouTube videos to encompass the entirety of the marketing spectrum. Today, the practice stretches across almost all mediums and has marked a shift away from interruptive, sales-led campaigns to something today’s apathetic, ad-blocking digital natives will actually consume. 

And while many marketers and agencies laud the discipline’s ability to build brand awareness and loyalty without pushing an aggressive product promotion, others have raised questions about its credibility and effect of the overall bottom line.

The marketing mix

Nevertheless, successfully competing for reach and engagement in an increasingly crowded social media sphere is far from an easy task for any brand. Not only are brands in heavy competition with publishers’, organic and friends’ posts, they are increasingly forced to rethink their amplification efforts in order to keep pace with Facebook and YouTubes’ algorithm tweaks.

For Batten though, the key to navigating the platforms’ idiosyncrasies is for brands to start building stronger content baselines. “Even though the algorithms may change, if the appetite is there, big organic reach is possible,” he argues. “There is a baseline in the algorithm that knows this audience likes this type of video. The other side of organic is when people seek it out. They know what they like and they know where to get it. The long-term play is where this succeeded.

“One of the things holding back content marketing is that many brands are using it as a bit of a proxy SEO play. They’re doing churn and burn, short-form, high click content, so they get higher click rates and better search rankings. But doing content properly should be something for the audience. A video that was nine minutes did really well because the story was right. The length should not matter if the story is there.

“Content is no longer a subset; it has to be part of the marketing mix. Like you can get your TV ad from the same agency that does your content, but it will not be the same film. Content marketing is not dead, but the previous way people have been treating it is.”