The marketing landscape is undergoing enormous changes right now, and those changes are happening fast. How are you going to keep up? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
At this year’s PlayPlay Content Summit, 16 expert speakers from power-house brands like, MarketingProfs, Booking.com, Fast Company, Hootsuite, Semrush and more shared the latest trends, opportunities and knowledge your marketing & communications teams need to leverage in 2024 and beyond, so your content stays compelling and your organization stays ahead of the competition.
The changing landscape in content, marketing & communications
Marketing channels, including social media - in all its forms - continues to grow. And the explosion in AI in recent years means content strategies are evolving fast. Here are the emerging trends, challenges and opportunities marketers need to know as they develop next year’s marketing & communications strategies and plans:
1. Consumer behavior has changed
“People expect more from brands they love”, says Maury Rogow, CEO of Rip Media Group. So you need to listen to your audience and respond with authenticity. Do this, by producing content that puts your customers, employees, partners and story front and center.
2. Audiences can spot marketing a mile off
It’s no longer good enough to jump on the bandwagon - “Consumers are now hyper aware of what looks like marketing and advertising; we’re all super-attuned to it, particularly Gen-Z. You have to be genuine and transparent, or they’ll call you on it”, says Sally Bolig of Etsy. “Create content that people believe and feels true to them”, she advises.
And remember, not all brands have to - or should - say something on every topic: ”Be the brand that has something to say, not the brand that has to say something”, says Karla Hernández Zaldívar, Global Social Media Insights Manager at Booking.com, ”genuine and transparent communication is key”, she explains.
3. Your audience wants to be part of a community
And the more specialized and niche that community is, the more engaged the audience. So respond to what matters to your audience with content that speaks to their problems or aspirations. Karla Hernández Zaldívar from Booking.com explains, “explore new conversational spaces, be genuine, let your audience see themselves in your content, and empower teams to share content”.
4. Keep an eye on up-and-coming marketing opportunities
Staying up-to-date means you stay relevant to your audience, and your business stays competitive. “Gaming is now bigger than both music and movies put together” reveals Thibaut Machet, Co-Founder and CEO of PlayPlay. There’s a huge opportunity for forward-thinking marketers to find ways to engage an audience through the games they love. Next year, look for opportunities to team up with gaming brands that align with your organization.
5. Emerging tech can take marketing to another level
Take inspiration from the gaming world: use gamification and compelling, immersive strategies to grab - and hold - audience attention. “Immersive tech can bridge the gap between traditional e-commerce and physical retail—it’s an evolution of what we see today — to make something super individual and customized to every brand’s guidelines” advices, Samantha Lerner Kobrin, VP of Marketing at Obsess.
The importance of storytelling in marketing:
Storytelling might sound like fluff - like fables and fairytales, especially in business. But, Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs explains, “In a business context, storytelling is about learning to tell a true story well”.
6. Storytelling is absolutely essential in today’s marketing world - if you want to be successful, that is.
”Your brand will thrive or die based on the stories you tell”, says Maury Rogow of Rip Media Group, “your story feeds everything from your video marketing and social media to pitch decks and hiring”.
That means marketers need to pay close attention to the way they shape their comms. However, it’s important not to overthink it, Ann Handley of MarketingProfs explains: “One of the biggest mistakes that people make is overthinking it - focusing too much on the structure and not the actual story. Your audience doesn't need a huge build up, just get to the story”.
7. Make your comms relatable
Appeal to one person, says Ann Handley of MarketingProfs, “The best stories are those told at a human scale. And remember to make your customer the hero for the most effective storytelling”. Sally Bolig, Senior Global Employer Brand Manager at Etsy agrees that “Storytelling works best when people see themselves reflected in the content”.
And if you are curious about the best approach, follow Maury Rogow’s, CEO of Rip Media, tip to “share customer stories to show the areas you can help with, that no one else can.”.
8. Add conflict to your content
“Conflict makes things interesting”, explains Maury Rogow of Rip Media. You can use tension your audience feels when facing their problems or aspirations to tap into their pain. Or share your organization’s history - “underdog storytelling is compelling” says Maury, and every brand has had struggles at some point – even the Apple's of the world use it! Why? Because this strategy will make your brand more relatable.
9. Make every part relevant to your story
Just like every scene in a blockbuster or line in a book is there to add to the story, the same should be true of your marketing. If you’re creating a video for social media, make sure every scene has a purpose. Every scene of a video must be vital, touching key emotional levers in your viewer or moving your story forward.
10. Land your message with your audience
Whether you’re telling the story of your brand, your products or your people, there are key elements you can include to make sure your message hits home. Use Maury Rogow’s of Rip Media acronym STUFF to remind you what you need to include:
- Sexy: how do you make people better, more desirable, or faster?
- Touching: evoke nostalgia or touch their heart.
- Unique/Unexpected: make it memorable.
- Funny: because there’s nothing better than a good laugh.
- Fear: tell your audience the dangers of not being secure, OR of missing out – create FOMO.
The ever changing role of AI in marketing and comms:
If there’s one thing all our speakers agreed on, it’s that AI is here to stay. And it should be embraced by marketers - and the brands they work for - if they’re going to stay relevant. “AI is now an essential part of marketing and content creation” says, PlayPlay’s Tyler Lederer-Plaskett. And Natalie Lambert Founder & Managing Partner of GenEdge Consulting hammers it home for pros in our industry: “Marketers are not going to be replaced by AI, but by marketers using AI.”.
So what do you need to know about AI to help you scale your marketing and comms strategies in 2024? Here are the key insights:
11. AI improves productivity, efficiency and quality
AI can help you “get to good faster than you ever imagined”, explains Natalie Lambert of GenEdgde Consulting. She reveals that "marketing consultants using AI completed 12% more tasks, 25% faster and got 40% higher quality results than those not using AI".
“AI can open many doors, especially for small businesses with limited resources. For example, they can now get copywriting capabilities that they couldn’t even have imagined,” says Samantha Lerner Kobrin, VP of Marketing at Obsess.
12. Pick the right tasks for AI, and work out the best way to use AI for the task
Natalie Lambert of GenEdge Consulting breaks down AI’s potential uses into three “C’s”: Creating, Collaborating and Cultivating. In other words:
- Let AI do the majority of the heavy-lifting on a task at hand.
- Treat it as a partner you can ask questions or brainstorm with to help you develop your thinking.
- And let AI give you the skills you always wanted to help you improve as a human and marketer.
Andy Crestodina from Orbit Media Studios explains that “we don’t necessarily need to trust AI at all”, but what we’re looking for is efficiency in our activities. Use AI to “get rid of the grunt-work that people don’t want to do’ says Natalie Lambert of GenEdge Consulting — for example, repurposing original content — so your teams can focus on the things they want to do and matter, like tailoring your message to your audience, creating original content and adding the finishing touches.
13. Tailor your prompts for AI
While AI “can create a [video] from a single sentence”, as Tyler Lederer-Plaskett from PlayPlay shared, when you ask AI to perform a task for you, it’s drawing on the whole internet. So the final result can be bland - “it finds basic information and gives it back to you”, explains Andy Crestodina, Co-Founder and CMO of Orbit Media Studios.
Instead, says Andy, “teach it to act like whoever you’re talking to [your audience]. Ask the persona [your brand developed, that’s inputted into AI] about their concerns, and then ask for article topics on those concerns”. In other words, break the task down into smaller steps and you’ll get much more useful, meaningful results.
AI will help us more and more as time goes on, “In the future, a style guide will be something you can give to AI”, says Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media Studios.
14. Add the human touch
“AI gets your video 90% of the way there” says PlayPlay’s Tyler Lederer-Plaskett - and it’s the same for other forms of content. After that, it’s your job to tweak and edit the result - “the sweet spot is combining with human oversight and insight. That could be "opinions, contributor quotes and supportive data", explains Andy Crestodina. As Natalie Lambert put it, your teams can bring “the secret sauce that makes it perfect”. After all, Samantha Lerner Kobrin describes, “people are looking for the valuable, but also the human” in their content.
Once you edit and improve AI’s results, “give the AI your improved version back, so it can get to know you. The key is to train it to think and act like your audience and your brand – just as you would do with a human assistant”, says Andy.
15. Get started with AI, don’t worry about perfection – the key is to test, test, test!
“Don’t be afraid to experiment”, says Margarita Loktionova, Content Marketing Lead at Semrush, so if you haven’t already, get started in using AI. “AI makes developing ideas faster, simpler and cheaper. So crank out the content - the more you create and share, the more you’ll learn” says Tania Rahman, Social Media Director at Fast Company. And you’ll never know where AI might take you: “the bounds are limitless when it comes to creativity - the weirder you get, the better results you might see!” says Samantha Lerner Kobrin, VP of Marketing at Obsess, so start exploring the possibilities for your brand.
If you’re not sure where to begin, GenEdge Consulting’s Natalie Lambert’s tip is to take a look at www.TheresanAIforthat.com: the tool will help you identify the available AI solutions for every task imaginable, simply “put in what you want and it will show you thousands of apps”, says Natalie.
The Pressing Importance of Customer Trends, Data, and Research
Of course, as big and influential as AI already is, it won’t do your brand any good if you don’t have solid data to back what you ask it to do for you. Research is fundamental to your content marketing plans - after all, how will you speak to your customers' pain points or appeal to their dreams if you don’t understand what they are? And in a growing tide of AI generated content, this is a great way for your brand to stand out to your audience.
This is what our experts had to say on gathering data and understanding customer trends:
16. Keep your customer personas up to date
“Consumer behavior has changed”,’ Maury Rogow of Rip Media tells us. There’s a huge difference in what consumers were looking for before the pandemic compared with what they expect from their favorite brands now. Of course, consumer behavior is always evolving, but in recent years, things have shifted and started moving faster.
That means you need to know who you’re targeting. It sounds simple, but Hootesuite’s, Senior Director of Global Corporate Communications, Melanie Gaboriault, reveals that “42% of marketers don’t know their audience” - and if you don’t know your audience, you don’t know what makes them tick.
Morgan Lehmann, Senior Director of Product & Solutions Marketing at SurveyMonkey outlines the questions marketers need to be asking:
- Who are we targeting?
- What do they care about?
- What are their pain points and their challenges?
- And what benefits do they see in the solutions we offer?
She recommends using a variety of different research methods to get good results, and refresh your market segmentation regularly to inform your strategy.
17. Test everything - especially your creative
Because that’s how you understand whether your brand collateral is hitting the mark with your target audience. “We test logo designs, ad copy and video treatments to understand what our prospects and our customers are feeling about our messages and design”, shares Eric Van Susteren, Director of Content Marketing at SurveyMonkey.
For example, you might have a favorite out of several ideas for a logo design, but, he says “get a bit of extra customer data to validate what internal and external stakeholders think. It’s amazing to have some solid data behind you to back up your decisions” - especially if you’re put on the spot by senior teams!
18. Empower your teams to carry out research
Inspire a culture of curiosity at your organization, with leaders encouraging teams to bring data to the table as they make decisions and plan content. Provide the right tools so staff can conduct research, and always think about which team is the most appropriate to uncover the data on product, customer insights or brand. Research is a great way to enable a sales team. They can use the stats you uncover in their outreach to drive credibility with your prospects, Morgan from Survey Monkey explains.
19. Use research as the basis for your content strategy
Data can help you tweak your messaging, your product strategy, and the language and elements you use in your content. Including valuable research data in your content can make it more believable, authoritative and relevant. “Research can help you balance relevance with the issues people are facing, it makes your content super-popular and generates tons of leads”, says Eric Van Susteren of SurveyMonkey. He continues, “Using original research in your content makes it more believable, authoritative and just plain better”.
20. Keep up with user trends
The content landscape is constantly changing - trends move quickly and consumers change fast. And can vary between platforms. “Listen to what works for your different audiences so you can optimize and repurpose your existing long-form content to capture your users’ attention”, says Tania Rahman of Fast Company.
The good news is that your customers are telling you their needs, their wants and their biggest pain points all day long, you just have to listen. “Tap into your social media teams to get this data: there isn’t anyone in your company who is closer to what your customers want than that team!” says Melanie Gaboriault from Hootsuite.
21. Gather data on how your content performs
Content can have a wide variety of comms purposes that depend on what you’re trying to say and who you want to connect with, so set your KPIs accordingly. For example, for video, this might be the number of views, or it could be something else - like engagement or click-through. Monitor each video’s performance against its objectives to understand what works for your brand, advises Fast Company’s Tania Rahman.
The rise of video
As a content medium, video has it all:
- It's eye-catching, so it stops the scroll,
- It helps make your brand more relatable, because your audience can see and hear the people and experts in your team
- It can convey rich, textured messages much faster than any other type of content. And with attention spans getting shorter - some say as low as 3 seconds - marketers need to harness the power that video can bring to their organizations.
Here’s what you need to know about video’s essential part in marketing & comms for 2024:
22. Get your story across effectively with video
Ask an audience to name their favorite movie or TV show, and you’ll get a ton of answers. But ask them to tell you their favorite PowerPoint presentation, and you’re unlikely to get a response. That’s exactly how Maury Rogow from Rip Media demonstrates the effectiveness of video content - “PowerPoints aren’t built for stories, but films are. Your brand story is your superpower; you need to think Hollywood”, he says.
In other words, video is an essential tool for marketers. “Video can play a central role in your strategy, it’s a way to get the story across in a different medium”, says Tania Rahman from Fast Company.
23. Video content doesn’t necessarily have a high price tag
Think about what’s really needed to create compelling authentic content that will help you achieve your goals. For instance, a behind-the-scenes video or an opinion piece by a journalist are often best made using a camera phone to make things feel real and immediate - plus it’s a great low-cost option. Use archive footage to add texture, which can be cheaper than filming for yourself. Or undertake a shoot to get the high production value needed for a documentary or longer-form piece.
As accessible tech advances, DIY content is on the rise, with tools like PlayPlay on the scene make video creation fast and effortless. PlayPlay’s Tyler Lederer-Plaskett says it’s easy to get started, with just a few simple steps:
- Tailor your prompt
- Let AI do the work
- Edit your video
- Look out for new features
- Publish your video
24. Always take a social first approach when creating videos
“Think about user behavior on social media from the very beginning,” advises Tania Rahman from Fast Company. Consider how your audience will view and engage with your content across different platforms so you can plan your videos accordingly. Take highlights from your videos and use an editing platform like PlayPlay to convert it into short form videos - they’ll give a sense of your story so users want to explore your content further.
25. Make sure your videos are purposeful
There are lots of opportunities to use video to capture a moment for your content. Not only can you repurpose existing long-form content to grab users’ attention and tempt them further into your brand, but there are candid moments to capture too. “Think about doing a quick thank you for an award. Think about what’s easy, fast and connects with the audience”. says Sean Duggan, Filmmaker & Advertising Executive at September Swell Productions. A peek behind-the-scenes can go a long way in helping your target customers build a relationship with your brand.
And when you’re wondering how long your videos should be, trends will come and go. So keep monitoring what your audience likes. Crucially, remember Maury Rogow’s advice: “Every scene of a film must be vital, or it’ll be cut”.
26. Measure your video performance against your objectives
Video can have a wide variety of comms purposes. It could be the number of views, but depending on the size of your target market or the purpose of your video, you might be more interested in engagement rates or click-throughs. Track each video’s performance to understand what works for your organization and your audience, our experts explain.
27. Don’t worry about perfection, just get started with video
Give video a whirl in your content creation and distribution - “try out several approaches and gradually learn what resonates with your audience”, says Sean Duggan from September Swell Productions. It doesn’t have to be perfect, because AI makes developing ideas faster, simpler and cheaper. “The more you crank out the content, the more you’ll learn”, says Tania Rahman of Fast Company.
Get Ready for 2024 with Fresh Marketing & Comms Insights from Industry Experts
Looking for more incredible insights into the content marketing landscape of 2024 and beyond? All the recordings from PlayPlay’s Content Summit are available NOW. With insights from thought leaders on storytelling, AI, data, trends, video and where content is going next, delivered by big brands like Fast Company, Hootsuite, Booking.com, Etsy, SurveyMonkey and more, you’ll find plenty of inspiration and ideas. Head over here to watch the replays.
What are the highlights? Summaries, tips and full recording of our sessions delivered at Content Summit 2023 are now available, including:
- People Buy the Story You Tell, Not the Product You Sell: How to Tell & Amplify Your Story by Maury Rogow, CEO of Rip Media
- Crafting the Future of Marketing & Comms with Generative AI by Natalie Lambert, Founder & Managing Partner at GenEdge Consulting, formerly Google
- Unlocking the Value of Social Relationships by Melanie Gaboriault, Senior Director, Global Corporate Communications at Hootsuite
- How to Create a Video in 10 seconds with AI by Tyler Lederer-Plaskett, Marketing Communications Advisor at PlayPlay
- Generative AI for Content Marketers: 5 Ways to Use Artificial Intelligence for Performance and Productivity by Andy Crestodina, Co-Founder and CMO of Orbit Media Studios
- Building Engaged Communities at Scale by Karla Hernández Zaldívar, Global Social Media Insights Manager at Booking.com & Sally Bolig, Senior Global Employer Brand Manager at Etsy
- The Marketer of the Future: Evolution, Content Formats and Skills by Thibaut Machet, Co-Founder and CEO of PlayPlay
- Create a Snack Video for Your Social Media In-House in 10 Minutes by Peter Blackburn, Marketing Communications Advisor at PlayPlay
- Bigger, Bolder, Braver Storytelling that Builds Customer Trust, Affinity & Supercharges Your Brand by Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs
- How to use Research to Inform Your Brand & Content Strategy by Morgan Lehmann, Senior Director of Product & Solutions Marketing & Eric Van Susteren, Director of Content Marketing at SurveyMonkey
- Elevating Brand Experience with Content Enhanced by Emerging Technologies by Samantha Lerner Kobrin, VP of Marketing at Obsess & Margarita Loktionova, Content Marketing Lead at Semrush
- The Future of Video for Communications Strategies: Production, Trends, Distribution & Best Practices by Tania Rahman, Social Media Director at Fast Company & Sean Duggan, Filmmaker & Advertising Executive at September Swell Productions.