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The Content Council

The Stars Align for Custom Content

Custom content is grabbing ever-larger shares of marketing budgets as marketers become more convinced of its value, according to a new Roper poll conducted on behalf of the Custom Content Council. 

By Matthew Schwartz
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Custom content is grabbing ever-larger shares of marketing budgets as marketers become more convinced of its value, according to a new Roper poll of senior marketing executives conducted on behalf of the Custom Content Council.

Four-fifths of marketers said they were “increasingly” incorporating custom content into their marketing plans, according to the survey of 100 marketers conducted in February. Two-thirds said custom content was set to capture a larger portion of their budget in the next couple of years. Fifty-nine percent said they were shifting funds away from traditional ads toward custom content.

The survey updates a similar poll conducted by Roper for the CCC in 2006. The research demonstrates a dramatic ascendency for custom content over the past five years. For example, the percentage of marketers who are increasingly incorporating custom content into their plans increased 14 percent. And 87 percent labeled custom content as “very” or “somewhat” valuable, up from 72 percent in 2006.

“It’s a pretty big sea change,” says Kathleen O’Neil, research director for GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. “You don’t normally see, even in five years, double-digit increases like we’ve found here.”

The poll, released in March at the fourth annual Custom Content Council conference, queried CMOs and other senior executives at large and midsize companies in 20 industries ranging from finance to communications to retail, travel, and health care. The average portion of respondents’ marketing budget allocated to custom content was 20 percent.

The top three channels for custom content—customized websites, e-newsletters, and print newsletters—have remained the same over the past five years, but social media and video now take the fourth and fifth spots. Key though, is the fact that a large proportion of marketers now report using as many as 15 different channels, including conferences, magazines, white papers, advertorials, and more.

“There are now so many channels through which to disseminate branded content, and so much more understanding and acceptance of it, that it’s really a perfect storm for content marketing,” says Mike Winkleman, president and chief creative officer of custom publishing company Leverage Media and past president of the Custom Content Council. “Each new channel provides a new way to reach the desired audience. And it also multiplies the potential return on a well-developed content strategy.”

Meanwhile, some of the traditional objections to custom content appear to be slipping away. While return on investment continues to be the biggest concern—83 percent of marketers say they would make greater use of custom content if there were an easier way to measure ROI—this was down from 89 percent in 2006. Larger decreases were seen in the percentage of marketers who worried that custom content was too expensive or who struggled to convince their bosses that it was a viable strategy.

Custom content also appears to be resonating with consumers. The CCC/Roper poll included a survey of 1,000 consumers about their attitudes toward custom content. Echoing marketers’ reactions, consumers proved to be both aware of its existence and open to its influence. For example:

• Two-thirds said they “appreciate companies providing custom content as a service to customers.”

• More than three-quarters believe that companies providing custom content “are interested in building good relationships with customers.”

• More than three-quarters said they “understand the company is selling something, but that’s fine as long as the information is valuable.”

• Nearly three-quarters said they preferred to get information about a company in a collection of articles rather than an ad.

Marketing executives are clearly catching on to these consumer perspectives: Ninety percent believe that a majority of consumers are finding useful information in custom media, while 85 percent say that consumers who receive custom content will be more likely to buy from the sponsoring company again.

“Consumers are accepting custom content, and marketers are starting to understand its power,” Winkleman says. “It’s all setting the stage for the continued growth and effectiveness of content as a marketing strategy.”