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3 Things I Learned About Content Marketing From Robots and Drones


You may be wondering what a content marketer can learn from 170,000 engineers and product specialists operating drones and robots. I asked myself that same question. And then I discovered the C Space at the Consumer Electronics Show and realized what a powerful impact technology has on content strategy, creation, and distribution.

I walked away with three key takeaways — opportunities, really — to keep in mind over the coming year.

1. Technology innovation is moving faster than content innovation

With Gartner’s prediction of seeing more than 500 smart objects connected to smart households by 2022, there’s surely no shortage of technology in our daily lives. But consumers often have slim pickings when it comes to authentic, premium content to consume on these devices to take full advantage of whiz-bang features like 4K, Ultra HD, and 4G.

.@Gartner_inc predicts more than 500 smart objects connected to smart households by 2022 via @amanda_vasil Share on X

What gadgets am I talking about? Virtual-reality headsets, augmented-reality glasses, and smart watches, to name a few. While the hardware is available for consumers to play with (as evidenced by the nearly 4,000 exhibitors at CES), one of the biggest user complaints is that the software applications and overall experience leave much to be desired.

This presents an incredible opportunity for content marketers. But it requires us to think a little differently and a little bigger. Yes, there’s still a need for traditional long- and short-form content to fit existing mediums. But when brands like Best Buy, NBC Universal, Coca-Cola, and others are asked what keeps them up at night, the answer is unlocking the secret to creating the perfect omnichannel user experience. And they’re not necessarily talking about their e-newsletters and blogs. Keeping up with 2.6 billion smartphone subscriptions and 1 billion tablets is just the start.

How do we apply the fundamentals of audience segmentation and message hierarchy to creating the type of content that not only makes sense but also functions properly on more complicated devices, reaching a more tech-savvy user?

The answer is twofold, and both components require humans. Content marketers are no doubt going to be the leaders in this revolution. But we need to get comfortable leading strategy in uncharted areas, trusting content marketing fundamentals applied in new, unfamiliar ways. We also need to check egos at the door and diversify teams with a new mix of experience and skills, such as coding, analysis, and even industrial design. Bottom line? Have the confidence to smartly experiment and lead in areas where other content marketers are struggling, and in some cases being left behind.

2. If you build it, they will not necessarily come

Rightfully so, content marketers spend significant time creating valuable engaging content. But unlike Kevin Costner’s baseball diamond in Field of Dreams, if you build great content, audiences — the right audiences — nonetheless won’t serendipitously stumble across it. This isn’t telling content marketers anything new, but it’s an important reminder — especially since distribution means more today than checking a box labeled paid, earned, or owned.

Instead, distribution is about leveraging a multichannel, multi-device strategy and treating content published on Twitter differently than you treat content on digital signage, the iPhone mobile app, the Android mobile app, a digital catalog, etc.

Effective distribution is also about convenience. Who’s doing it right? Netflix. Not only is CEO Reed Hastings responsible for adding the term “binge-watch” to the Collins, Oxford and Merriam-Webster dictionaries, he’s also behind the more than 600 hours of original programming queued to hit subscriber profiles in 2016. Netflix has been so successful at carving out on-demand viewing, Nielsen now has a separate “subscription video-on-demand” or “SVOD” services category for measuring on-demand viewership.

Making content available on demand, in its simplest form, could be the difference between hosting a webinar on Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET and making it available for download anytime on any device for more universal access that meets today’s consumer’s consumption and lifestyle habits. It’s an evolution, really, of audience segmentation and profiling, creating a personalized experience for consumers how they want it, when they want it.

3. Mass personalization is not an oxymoron

Repeat after me: Mass personalization is not an oxymoron. If this sounds too good to be true, let me assure you that it isn’t. For too long, content marketers have felt the need to choose one of two extremes: cater to the masses with a one-size-fits-all solution or take a highly customized approach that appeals to one or a few. But not only is there a middle ground, there’s also a way to mass communicate and still target VIPs.

Let’s take EA Sports’ Madden NFL, for instance. Madden gaming activity has quieted despite the growing popularity of the NFL and, in turn, increased tune-ins to weekly matchups. Last year, AdWeek told us that 87% of consumers are using more than one device while watching TV. This, combined with the trendiness of GIF-based memes, birthed the Madden GIFERATOR. In addition to capitalizing on real-time marketing by pulling in clips of big plays as they happened, the GIFERATOR hit gold on mass personalization. It empowers individuals to create their own content and share it to their networks — all the while establishing brand awareness for Madden.

87% of consumers are using more than one device while watching TV via @Adweek. #contentmarketing Share on X

There are countless examples of other brands embracing mass personalization, everyone from MasterCard’s resurgence of its 18-year-old priceless campaign to the White House making its annual holiday lighting display accessible through a self-guided virtual reality tour.

When Google hosts a Content Cocktail Party, you know that it’s a place content marketers will want to be. Surprising that it’s part of a consumer electronics convention? Maybe. But 15,000 marketers showed up to that convention this year, and I for one, am already looking forward to seeing how content will intersect with technology next year.

This article originally appeared in the June issue of Chief Content Officer. Sign up to receive your free subscription to our bimonthly print magazine.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute