winter / 2016

The magazine of branded content
How to future
proof your content
Feature
Juliet Stott
11/16/16
Juliet Stott
Nov 16, 2016

In the ever-evolving marketing tech landscape, where new tools, platforms and ways of working are being introduced roughly every six months, it’s hard to know what’s around the corner. Yet, businesses and brands that are managing to ride the crest of the wave, have one thing in common, they’re not afraid; they’re embracing the digital innovations and experimenting with new techniques. Here we’ve identified four trends that successful businesses are using, or will soon be utilizing, to keep themselves current and attractive to the consumer.

Innovation Labs

Innovation labs are being set up by businesses around the globe to keep pace with digital advancements. Banks, insurance companies, manufacturers and entertainment companies are all adopting this approach. Large news-outlets and publishers are doing the same. Mashable’s CMO Stacy Martinet says this is what sets them apart from their competitors, “We are always on the cutting edge of trends. For example, we were one of the first brands to bring on a team member whose role was to specialize on Snapchat, without any real metrics to track. Two years later, brands are seeking major engagement on Snapchat's platform. Investment in time and talent is essential in order to be truly innovative.” Mashable’s investment in innovation means it’s not afraid to throw things at the wall to see if they’ll stick. “At Mashable we encourage experimentation. It is so important to give the team space to experiment with social because of the rapid rate of change in the industry. What we were doing on Facebook two years ago is no longer relevant today, and what we are doing today on Snapchat didn’t even exist two years ago,” says Martinet.

Data Management Platform Solutions

Serving up relevant content, at the right time, on the right channel, in the right form, is the nirvana of content. Many brands and businesses are trying to grapple with this right now and it’s what the public is increasingly coming to expect. Large publishers have been doing this for several years with the aid of DMPs. A DMP takes data from a source and turns it into a resource. A DMP can identify a person’s interests, gender, demographic, income bracket or age from a mix of sources, including monitoring their behaviour and patterns on a site. This enables publishers to serve their audiences relevant and tailored content. Brian Jacobs, co-founder of a European tech provider Enreach, says: “DMPs help publishers to make their content more relevant. If the content is relevant to the reader, they are more likely to react positively to it and do something as a result of reading it. If it’s not relevant they’ll disengage. The more you know about your audience, the more you can enhance their experience on your site. The greater the relevance, the greater the engagement.” DMP solutions are no longer the preserve of big publishers. DMP providers are diversifying and offering this tech, at a lower cost, to brands wanting to become publishers.

Personalization

The future of content is personal and is set to get even more personal with the aid of machine learning, says Andy Zimmerman from the US tech provider, Evergage. Traditional personalization, based on rules (i.e. if a person does that, then show them this) will be overtaken by AI, using algorithmic methods. “The computer will decide, based on patterns of behaviour from other similar people and the individual’s interests, which content to recommend. It will be able to show the individual the content that’s most likely to lead to a conversion,” he says. Machine learning will eventually make it easier for marketers to personalize content on a greater scale. In the meantime, one to one personalization is well within the reach of mid-size companies. The evolution of the tech has made it a lot easier (and cheaper) for marketers to use, without relying heavily on IT and developer skills. Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows Resort in Lake Tahoe, California, uses Evergage’s personalization platform to serve up tailor-made content for its customers. It uses a combination of geolocation, viewing behaviour and real time analytics to vary the content it shows to its segmented customers. Such is the power of personalization that its family segment has had a 38% increase in conversions and 41% lift in revenue compared with a controlled group in the same time period.

Mixed Reality

If 2016 was the year of Augmented Reality (think digital overlays of the real world) and 2017 is predicted to be the year of Virtual Reality (where headsets can transport users to another place), 2018 and beyond will be all about Mixed Reality—where AR objects come to life and are aware of their environment and have the ability to interact with the real world. You may not have heard of Mixed Reality yet and feel like you’re only just catching on to the AR/VR trends, but when Microsoft and a heavily financed start-up called Magic Leap (which has so far raised nearly $1.4 billion in venture capital) release their Mixed Reality headsets sometime in the next 18 months, it will be the hottest tech to come to market. According to an article written by David M. Ewalt in Forbes, Mixed Reality will “usher in a new era of computing, a next-generation interface [that] we’ll use for decades to come.” Ewalt writing in Forbes says that Mixed Reality “applications are profound. The computing power isn’t confined to a gadget on your desk. It’s something that you can link to any object, real or virtual, giving it awareness of its location, intelligence about its purpose and insight on how you might want to use it.”