LONDON: Brands are increasingly thinking like publishers when it comes to content marketing but most are failing to produce good content, a new report has argued. 

The Brandopolis report, from online marketing company Distilled, looked at the future of online marketing, based on interviews with executives from agencies, consultancies and brands, with the aim of changing how marketers think about content.

Will Critchlow, founder of Distilled, commissioned the report "as a way of cutting through all the noise around content marketing". He suggested there was no shortage of information available to marketers but there was "a lack of real insight into how the best brands actually execute their content marketing strategies".

The report said there was no magic bullet for excellent content but highlighted those strategies, many of which are still evolving, that have worked well and brands which are succeeding in this arena.

One salient point was that in many cases "it's pointless to distinguish between 'content versus social,' or to silo the two away from each other". Good content, the report said, could be remixed and repurposed for many channels.

But while content and social strategies merged, it remained important to focus on content in those places the brand controlled, such as its websites, where it could test design and observe copious amounts of data.

The report echoed advice, such as that in a recent issue of Admap, on the need to take a subtle approach and not over-promote and to seek out experienced content creators. It went on to explore the possibilities around brand ecosystems, how being an early adopter could pay off and the ways in which contextual content could help both consumers and brands.

A healthy brand ecosystem could encourage interaction and new thinking as well as generating a host of product ideas. This required "a friendly environment for smart, creative people to offer feedback or make things" with examples being MyStarbucksIdea and Dell's IdeaStorm.

While the internet continues to throw up a proliferation of increasingly narrow content niches and social networks, these sometimes achieve wider popularity and the report suggested that attentive marketers "have developed a sense of how and when to jump into a barely defined new niche or network". This was something Honda had done particularly well on Pinterest with its #Pintermission campaign.

Honda also appeared as an exemplar of good contextual content with its Build Your Honda web feature which not only allowed users to play around with everything from colours to seating but kept the brand top of mind and fed back into car design.

As content and social strategies become more closely aligned, content marketers may also wish to consider Warc Prize for Social Strategy, a global competition with a $10,000 prize fund, to find the best examples of social ideas that drive business results. Entry is free and submissions are due by 5th December 2013.

Data sourced from Distilled, Admap; additional content by Warc staff