BEIJING: Domestic brand owners in China are heightening their focus on content marketing, with digital platforms like microblogs, video and mobile assuming increased prominence.

PR Newswire, the news distribution group, polled 1,387 executives of indigenous corporations, and discovered that 49% regarded this channel as "very important", while 46% described it as "important".

"Content marketing has now become the primary focus of the marketing department," said Aaron Shen, e-marketing supervisor at Stanley Black & Decker China, the tools and accessories specialist.

News releases were employed by 88% of the firms assessed and seen as among the most effective tools by 70%. These figures stood at 78% and 57% in turn for Weibo, or microblogging, services.

Website content such as features and microsites logged 62% and 40% on the same metrics respectively, topping photos and infographics, which secured 52% and 26%.

By contrast, only 28% of companies utilised blogs, below mobile marketing on 29%, social networks on 33%, videos on 35% and communities and forums on 45%, the report added.

"Companies need to keep up with the latest communication tools," said Zhu Jianwei, senior communication manager, public affairs at Unilever, the FMCG group. "New media platforms ... [are] an effective way to raise corporate visibility."

Looking ahead 12 months, fully 73% of the panel expected to make greater use of Weibo platforms, and 50% anticipated that their websites would see activity levels rise. Video, photos and infographics hit 46% here, with mobile on 45%.

"Companies themselves are becoming business catalysts. As mass media has transformed itself from solid state to streaming, networking becomes everything," said Wang Fan, director of business development at Sina Weibo.

The primary objectives of these initiatives incorporated enhancing brand visibility on 91%, attracting new customers on 73%, boosting loyalty on 58% and directly driving sales on 47%.

Marketing teams managed such activities at 71% of organisations, as did C-suite executives at 40%, brand communications teams at 36% and corporate communications at 34%.

Budgets for content marketing reached less than RMB100k for 28% of firms. An extra 29% invested RMB100k to RMB500k. Another 19% of companies spent RMB500k to RMB1m, and 15% had an outlay of RMB1m to RMB5m. Just 9% spent over RMB5m.

"Don't mistake new media or social media as something cheap. Significant results require a large amount of investment," said Amy Chen, director, interactive marketing at Coca-Cola China.

The main challenges of content marketing were producing engaging content on 67% , measuring payback on 60%, a lack of sufficient in-house skills on 45% and picking the right channels on 36%.

Data sourced from PR Newswire; additional content by Warc staff