Marketers around the world are placing greater emphasis on brand activism as they seek to use content campaigns to align brands with a trend, issue or topic that resonates with consumers, a new global study has revealed.

According to World Media Group – an alliance of leading international media organisations that includes The Economist, Reuters and The Wall Street Journal among its members – marketers now consider alignment with social issues (18%) as one of the top three benefits of a content campaign, alongside brand engagement (34%) and changing perceptions (20%).

World Media Group reached this conclusion after polling 269 industry experts (including 42% from agencies and 34% from media owners) across nine global regions in September and the first week of October 2019.

Its survey, which looked specifically at the latest trends in branded content campaigns, further revealed that a full 80% of respondents expect content-driven marketing to continue to grow over the next two years.

And 90% believe they will use audio/podcasts in their campaigns over the next 12 months, closely followed by voice technology and augmented reality (both 89%), increased personalisation (88%), events (85%) and virtual reality (84%).

The survey participants also expect more use of live video and 360° video at the expense of traditional long-form and short-form video, which they anticipate will decline.

When looking at KPIs for content-led marketing campaigns, the survey also found that industry practitioners still believe brand awareness is important (27%), but they rate more highly KPIs related to a shift in brand perceptions (31%) and time spent with content (28%).

And in another key finding, the respondents emphasise the importance of a ‘think global, act local’ approach. Those doing so – for example, 71% adapt a global story for local markets – overwhelmingly opt to use an international network agency (80%) rather than multiple local agencies.

“The clear trend towards brand activism revealed in the WMG content survey indicates just how important it is for marketers to acknowledge and respond to the zeitgeist,” said Alex Delamain, president of the World Media Group.

“Consumers are no longer ‘brand loyal’, which means advertisers must work harder to stay relevant. Content campaigns provide a vehicle for brands to demonstrate their commitment to the social and environmental issues that people care about with authenticity and understanding.”

Sourced from World Media Group; additional content by WARC staff