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PHOTO: Rob Bye

With the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) set to go into effect in May, marketing organizations now need to adjust to a “new normal” — a reality in which data privacy regulations restrict how marketing automation tools store data, how the information is shared, and how the information is used.

The GDPR raises the bar for content by requiring companies to get consent from people before collecting and using their data, and by introducing concepts such as the right to be forgotten, data portability and privacy by design. Under the new law, EU customers will be able to choose how, when and by whom they want to be contacted. They will also choose the types of content for which they are willing to turn over their valuable personal information. As customers gain more and more control over their personal information, the pressure is on to ensure that brands provide value in exchange for customer data.

For customers to be willing to share their personal details, the content and information organizations offer in return must be relevant and engaging.

Consumers Suffer From Content Burnout

The ways in which customers interact with content continues to change.

In the 1990s, marketers had to learn an entirely new way to interact with customers on “The Internet.” They needed to adopt new ways to manage and deliver digital content. Back then, it was very much a one-way street — brands would broadcast messages to customers, with very little two-way interaction.

Social networks and “Web 2.0” further changed how people identified products, found product reviews and interacted with brands. That stage was followed by the era when smartphone adoption reached critical mass, which led to the phenomenon of anywhere, anytime, anyone access to online content.

We now live in an era characterized by broad access to content — incredible amounts of content. Almost anything you want to know can be found online. The website Internet Live Stats graphically displays the thousands of tweets, Instagram photos, gigabytes of internet traffic, Google searches, YouTube views and emails sent. At the moment I am writing this, in one second that amounts to:

  • 7,983 tweets.
  • 837 Instagram photos uploaded.
  • 55,103GB of internet traffic.
  • 66,098 Google searches.
  • 73,230 YouTube videos viewed.

You get the picture.

Marketing guru and author Mark Shaefer used the term “content shock” to describe the current situation. He defined content shock as the state of affairs that arises when “exponentially increasing volumes of content intersect our limited human capacity to consume it.” In other words, when there is so much content available that people cannot possibly consume it all.

According to eMarketer, adults in the United States spend 12 hours, 7 minutes a day consuming media (which includes multitasking, such as watching television and using a mobile phone at the same time). What this means is that the volume of content is not the issue. Instead, the issue is the quality of content.

Related Article: Yes, You Need to Feng Shui Your Content

Providing Content as Value

All of this points to a need for better content. Content that provides a high value exchange. Here is a look at how four types of content exchange work.

  • Customer journey exchange: This is where content drives the customer experience, with brands offering customers content that matches their stage in the buying cycle, with an eye toward making it easy for them to find the information they need and act on it. This entails identifying content to match each person’s customer journey.
  • Customer relevance exchange: This involves connecting with customers through product, lifestyle and practical insights that connect to the broader goal of a customer buying a product or using a service. This means telling stories that target specific people and help them address the challenges they face instead of just describing the features of a product or service. This type of content homes in on the “why” — why customers should give you their ongoing loyalty.
  • Customer preference exchange: This is about targeting content based on what customers actually ask for, and doing so on their terms. With the GDPR requiring explicit consent to collect and use people’s data, organizations will need to provide tangible value in return for that data, narrowing down the type, delivery and substance of every targeted experience.
  • Local content exchange: This is an element of effective global marketing in which content is tailored to regional markets, taking into account factors such as language, seasonality, cultural nuance and local market opportunities. It’s about understanding the extent to which you can integrate both global and local campaigns for greater engagement opportunity; it is also about scaling growth.

Related Article: Creating Content Experiences: Be Remarkable or Fail

Tactical Value Exchange

Brands are using more and more tactics to reach their target audiences. Remember brochures and print ads? Today’s marketing campaigns span social media, email, events, ebooks, white papers, videos and webinars. According to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), marketers use an average of 12 content marketing tactics during their campaigns (11 for B2C campaigns and 13 for B2B).

In addition, the CMI’s B2B Content Marketing report for 2017 stated that 73 percent of marketers plan to “operate content marketing as an ongoing business process, not simply a campaign,” 69 percent create “content for their audience versus their brand” and 71 percent consider “how content impacts the overall experience a person has with their organization.”

What is vitally important is to strategically choose the tactics that best reach your target audiences based on customer experience, insider information, personalization and local content value exchange.

Related Article: 5 Ways to Stand Out in a Sea of Content

AI and the Value Exchange

Artificial intelligence (AI) will increasingly be a force to be reckoned with when it comes to providing customers with content that matches their profiles and customer journeys. Brands will increasingly need to align their offerings (whether they be blogs, infographics, videos or reports) to deliver value that aligns with the customer’s universe — not the brand’s universe.

The real value of AI will reveal itself as it is used to alleviate marketers of the need to handle data processing and manual tasks, enabling them to devote more of their time to creative content and content based on “human insights.” As Conor McGovern, managing director at Accenture Digital, said, “As more of the consumer experience of a brand is driven by AI, the emphasis on fair value becomes even more important. And it’s a crucial component underpinning the ability to build ‘living brands’ that adapt and evolve with every consumer interaction.”

Moving forward, organizations adopting AI will require supporting operational models, governance, data governance, technological agility and the ability to harness AI in a way that will enhance the value the humans bring to the exchange.

What’s the exchange value for all the content your brand is creating?