4 Content Marketing Trends Dominating the U.K.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, 85 percent of marketing professionals in the United Kingdom now use content marketing, and 64 percent increased their spending in 2015. As these companies continue to experiment with social media, online video, custom magazines, and mobile, they’re finding innovative ways to strike that delicate balance between relaying a brand message and creating content that will resonate with customers.

The content marketing industry is moving fast, and U.K. brands aren’t just keeping up—they’re getting out ahead. Here’s how.

Custom print magazines

Even as brands spend on digital, they’re still keeping print alive, and for good reason. “I wouldn’t dismiss print,” Andrew Hirsch, CEO of John Brown Media, one of the world’s biggest branded content agencies, told Contently. “Don’t be surprised if, particularly in retail, you see it for a long time to come.”

Hirsch backed up his prediction with the story of British supermarket chain Waitrose, which has been publishing its print magazine, Waitrose Kitchen, for the past five years. Two years ago, Waitrose added an app that offers all the same content as the magazine, plus the added benefit of original video. It didn’t take long, however, for the chain’s 4 million customers who signed up for accounts to pick their favorite. While the print version “flies out of the store” to the tune of nearly 700,000 monthly readers, only 20,000 shoppers choose the app. Fittingly, the print readership for Waitrose Kitchen has increased by 65 percent year over year.


Hirsch believes print works best when the retailer has a ready-made distribution center in the form of a brick-and-mortar store. “Where brands are moving away from print is when they’re having to mail out a magazine through a possibly unreliable postal service and at a very great expense,” he said.

Agency acquisitions

In the fragmented publishing ecosystem where marketers have to compete for attention with all the noise on blogs and social media, selecting the right platform for your work is vitally important. As a result, producing a steady stream of content that fits on each channel is easier said than done.

When U.K. marketers were asked how often they publish fresh content, 63 percent told the Content Marketing Institute they do it daily or multiple times per week, but more than half of respondents said creating content that draws consumers is a challenge.

To keep up with the demand for quality content, agencies are bringing their talents into the fold to help companies scale. In 2015, digital agency Stickyeyes bought content marketing agency Zazzle Media to build the U.K.’s “largest digital content marketing offering.” Around the same time, Dentsu Aegis Network acquired John Brown Media as well.

“We wanted to articulate all the different levels and types of content to support brand activity within this atomizing market,” Nigel Morris, CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network Americas and EMEA, said of the deal. “The ability to generate high-quality content in real time with journalistic focus and skills is very important, and I think other agencies are definitely looking in this area.”

Mobile multimedia

The demand for video advertising among both marketers and consumers is likely telling of the future of content marketing, both in the U.K. and just about everywhere else. One survey of U.K. YouTube users found that 73 percent are willing to watch a video if it looks entertaining, even if it was created by a brand. Forty-seven percent of those polled also believe producing YouTube videos is a good way for brands to maintain communication with customers after a purchase has been made.

Bolstered by the potential for online video to connect with consumers, brands are increasingly turning to mobile when publishing multimedia. The IAB U.K. reports that mobile video ad spend has grown 142 percent since last year.

And across Europe, Snapchat is experiencing high usage rates among teens. Currently, 52 percent of teens in Ireland use Snapchat, along with 40 percent in Great Britain, both of which top Snapchat engagement in America for the same demographic.


Native advertising

In 2015, native ad spending in the U.K. reached £509 million, or 22 percent of all display advertising. And despite concerns that native placements are still risky bets compared to owned media properties, a 2015 survey commissioned by Adyoulike, a native platform, found that 64 percent of agencies believe native advertising could improve the quality of mobile ads.

“Transparency and credibility continue to be critical in terms of consumer trust,” said Anna Watkins, managing director of Guardian Labs, the Guardian‘s sponsored content studio. “Credibility will be paramount, and brands and publishers will need to ensure their content rings true and comes from a trusted and viable source.”

For example, with Happy for Life, a Guardian app sponsored by life insurance company Beagle Street, the content connected with readers by suggested activities designed to help them improve their mood. More recently, Guardian Labs created an “Alternative Europe” travel guide in partnership with telecommunications company Vodafone to highlight useful travel content related to lesser-known European cities like Leipzig, Germany, and Turin, Italy.

“To gain trust, brands must have the right to play in the space, and provide something of use or entertainment to the reader,” Watkins said.

This post is an excerpt from “The State of Content Marketing: United Kingdom.

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