The more things change, the more they remain the same

- in ARTICLES, The Drum


Last year, I asked a number of experts to help me with some crystal ball gazing that resulted in the Expert Predictions chapter of the first edition of the Best of Branded Content Marketing (BOBCM) ebook.

This year I asked a far broader group of marketing practitioners from around the world what they expect to see change in the next five years, and what they expect will remain the same. The question was prompted by comments made by the analyst, author and founder of Altimeter Group, Charlene Li, who’d pointed out that despite the many different sites, technologies and business models we have today, “the fundamentals of marketing have remained the same as have the challenges.”

The question brought a seven-fold increase in response with a mixture of description, prescription and prediction. Because the term ‘content’ straddles so many marketing and other disciplines, the responses highlighted the need for a shared lexicon which we hope the industry can move towards. The recently BCMA commissioned research undertaken by Oxford Brookes University, in partnership with Ipsos MORI, which has resulting in the following overarching definition of branded content:

Branded content is any content associated with a brand in the eye of the beholder

This is helpful first step by describing what branded content is generically, but it doesn’t explain the ‘Why’ (in what is the marketing problem it attempts to solve?), nor ‘What’ the branded content specifics might be for the different variations of ‘Whom’, ‘Where’ and ‘When’. There’s also the important question of ‘How’ any success might be measured.

We hope the report, and the case studies we publish, will start to address some of these issues. No-one has all of the answers yet, but we also hope the responses and points raised will also provide a frame of reference for marketers to better navigate a path through the many challenges ahead.


This report was originally published in the 2014 Edition of Best of Branded Content Marketing (BOBCM), and we have republished it here in 4 parts based on the following Section:

  1. The Yin Yang of Branded Content Marketing
  2. Strategic Considerations
  3. What will change
  4. What will remain the same

In the meantime we have included the Report Index, which was also put together as a narrative summary:


  • Branded content
  • Content marketing
  • And branded entertainment?
  • Branded content and content marketing: two sides of the same content coin


  • We are media
  • Your brand is a social construct that you no longer control
  • so get yourself invited, don’t just buy your way in
  • or just try and catch the next big wave
  • and ensure that your branded content marketing strategies are truly consumer-centric
  • and that your branding is aligned with your branded content marketing strategy
  • or you’ll get found out!
  • Welcome to the rise of the narrative brands
    • Driving purpose
    • Cultural context
    • Personal relevance


Branded Content At The Heart Of Every Marketing Strategy

  • Driven by digital and social
  • and stand-out examples
  • and more standardised procedures
  • Moving across the spectrum, to become less isolated and more integrated
  • and not just an afterthought
  • Becoming the communication norm across the organisation
  • but more risks still need to be taken

New (Open And Collaborative) Agency Models Will Emerge

  • Publishers as agencies
  • Agency-facilitated brand alliances with publishers
  • More and different kinds of celebrity partnerships
  • New (open source) business models
  • so that lines will continue to be blurred until there are none left

But New Skill Sets Will Be Required

  • new skill sets required
  • to understand culture better
  • and social behaviour
  • The dawn of the pi-shaped data storytellers?
  • Real Time And Agile
  • or something more additive?
  • Evolving beyond real time opportunism
  • and being more creative, experimental and iterative

The Rise And Rise Of Storytelling

  • More authentic, entertaining and engaging
  • and purposeful content
  • that resonates emotionally
  • In longer and more digital formats
  • and more involving, less interruptive
  • original content funded and distributed by brands
  • Making good stories more important than ever to cut through the content clutter
  • But storytelling changes everything about how brands go to market

More Platforms, Devices And Personalisation

  • It will become more personalised
  • Pulled not pushed, and more contextual
  • Content shifts triggered by mobile, shared by the second screen, and expanded through smart displays
  • Eventually moving off screen to become part of our branded life
  • Optimisation will become the norm
  • Putting distribution at the heart of any strategy
  • and brands developing their own media
  • Blurring the lines between earned and owned media with the rise of ‘fractured passion centres’ and content curation
  • With customer stories becoming more important than brand ones
  • and the need for earned media planning
  • Learn to make the most of wearable tech
  • and navigate through the internet of things and hyper geo-location
  • via mobile to an increasingly screen-less world
  • to interact with a brand construct
  • Becoming more programmatic and marketing as service orientated
  • and requiring a whole lot more computational power
  • to get back to where we started from

Measurement, Analytics And The Rise Of Empathetic/Emotional Marketing

  • There’s no shortage of industry measurement standard initiatives
  • bringing rigour, but often driven by measurement tools
  • and so there’s a danger of measuring data for the sake of it
  • rather than looking at how the whole is greater than the sum of the parts
  • More accountability and analysis required
  • with new tools and skills getting more sophisticated
  • Predictive modeling for a better sense of who wants what
  • and understanding of the value of what they share
  • and the better targeting of ‘material’
  • and more creative scope for crafting messages
  • with emotional data becoming ubiquitous
  • and tracking through to purchase
  • without requiring the capturing of lead data
  • and valuing individuals based on purchase probabilities
  • Brands will demand more bespoke metrics
  • In the meantime, longer-term view may be required
  • but you can start with a simple tracker survey


  • It will still be all about relationships
  • Strategy starts with the data
  • But go beyond the desk to find real insight and opportunities
  • and to help create content that resonates
  • Brands will still be struggling to join all the dots
  • People will still be sharing content, and caring more about themselves than brands
  • Where consumers go brands will continue to follow
  • particularly with video-based branded content
  • But old media habits will continue to die hard
  • and we’re about to be deluged by more “crap”
  • Experts will continue to disagree about what the future holds
  • particularly whether we’ll figure out the secret of branded content success
  • So it looks like we’ll still have a lot of figuring out to do

2014 Future of Branded Content Marketing Report Contributors:

  • Steve Ackerman, Managing Director, Somethin’ Else (UK)
  • Bjoern Asmussen, Senior Lecturer in Marketing, Oxford Brookes University (UK)
  • Paul Bay, Founder, Citizenbay
  • Robert Bean, Founder, Robert Bean Branding (UK)
  • David Berkowitz, Chief Marketing Officer, MRY (USA)
  • Daniel Bô, CEO and founder of QualiQuanti, and author of Brand Content, and Brand Culture (France)
  • Idil Cakim, analyst and author of Implementing Word of Mouth (USA)
  • Andrew Canter, CEO, BCMA (UK)
  • Dave Chaffey, CEO, Smart Insights (UK)
  • Tony Chow, Media Consultant and Chief Storyteller at What’s your Story Inc (Singapore)
  • Chris Clarke, Chief Creative Officer, at DigitasLBi (UK)
  • Minter Dial, Professional Speaker, Consultant & Coach and Brand & Digital Marketing Strategist (France/UK)
  • Scott Donaton, Chief Content Officer, UM (USA)
  • Sarah Farrugia, Thinker, Strategist, Progressive at Sarah Farrugia & Company (UK)
  • Tim Foley, MD, pointlogic (UK)
  • Sandra Freisinger-Heinl, Journalist at Branded Entertainment Online (BEO) and Managing Director at MA Media Agency (Germany)
  • Max Garner, Managing Partner at Aegis Media (UK)
  • Samantha Glynne, Managing Partner at Publicis Entertainment (UK)
  • Jan Godsk, Founder Ideatakeaway and Chairman, BCMA Scandinavia (Denmark)
  • Graham Goodkind, Founder, Frank PR (UK)
  • Chris Gorell Barnes, CEO, Adjust Your Set™ (UK)
  • Uroš Goričan, Creative director at Publicis Slovenija (Slovenia)
  • Morgan Holt, Chairman at the BCMA
  • Drew Rayman, Managing Parter, Tenthwave (USA)
  • Crispin Reed, Managing Director, Fusion Learning ((UK))
  • Michael Reeves, Business Development Director, Red Bee Media (UK)
  • Chantel Rickards, Head of Programming/Branded Content EMEA at MEC (UK)
  • Sander Saar, Product Manager, AOL (UK)
  • Joanna Scarratt, Head of Brand Partnership at United Agents (UK)
  • Eric Schwamberger, Strategy Partner, Tenthwave (USA)
  • Doug Scott, President, OgilvyEntertainment (USA)
  • Chris Sice, Managing Director at Blended Republic (UK)
  • Ryan Skinner, Senior Analyst – Content Marketing, Forrester Research (UK)
  • Chris Smith, Business development director at Romelle Swire (UK)
  • Stewart Thomson, ex-Research Director at Ipsos MORI, Media CT Division (UK)
  • Jadis Tillery, Social Media Strategist and Speaker (UK)
  • Stephen Waddington, CIPR President Elect, Director of Ketchum Europe and author of Brand Anarchy and #BrandVandals (UK)
  • Kami Watson Huyse, CEO, Zoetica (USA)
  • Patricia Weiss, CSO, Wanted Agency; SVP Strategic Consultant for Branded Content, Branded Entertainment and Transmedia Storytelling at ASAS da Imaginaçaõ (BRAZIL)
  • Mark Welland, Founder at New Media Works (UK)
  • Mark Wood, Partner at Krempelwood (UK)
  • Sarah Wood, COO, Unruly  (UK)
  • Barney Worfolk-Smith, Head of Creative Solutions, Unruly (UK)
  • Ian Wright, Managing Director at Tapestry Research (UK)
  • Mario Yiannacou, Media & Advertising Manager at ISBA (UK)

This introduction to the Future of Branded Content Marketing Report compiled by Justin Kirby. It was originally published in the 2014 Edition of Best of Branded Content Marketing (BOBCM), co-edited by Justin and Greta MacFarlane.


About the author

Justin Kirby is a consultant, educator and thought leader with a 20+ year career in industry as a digital strategist, producer and entrepreneur. He chairs and speaks at conferences around the globe, judge industry awards, and advise brands and agencies.