It was the late 1990s when things really started to change. Computer use grew, e-commerce emerged and along with it e-mail as a powerful marketing tool. Then came blogs – first as personal diaries by individuals, then leveraged by companies for brand awareness.
Blogs housed articles, then infographics, white papers, eBooks, animations. Content. And when social media came some years later, the best of it would use and point back to the content on those blogs.
In 2010 the US-based Content Marketing Institute arrived, and we never looked back. Or at least US companies never looked back.
So has the rest of the world caught up yet? And if not, how can we in the UAE get things moving in the right direction when it comes to content marketing?
1. It’s about priorities
In 2017, US home appliance manufacturer Whirlpool acquired Yummly, a recipe search engine. While it’s not uncommon for legacy brands to acquire tech startups, this purchase was all about content, and about integrating it into Whirlpool’s products, putting them ahead of the competition.
Meanwhile, when the infamous HubSpot decided they wanted to add an agency blog to their roster, they acquired Agency Post. On a smaller scale, Adorama (a photographic equipment retailer) was part of a group that purchased JPG photography magazine, getting access to a huge amount of content along the way.
Clearly, most companies can’t just buy a content wing and fold it into their business. But what we can learn from these examples (and there are hundreds more) is just how important content marketing is for US companies. Not an ‘add on’ or a ‘nice to have’. It’s central to the business.
What this means for the UAE
Putting content first is easier said than done. It requires a cultural shift within the business, where true value is placed on becoming your customers’ trusted advisors and industry thought leaders.
Too often in the UAE, content is seen as a luxury rather than a necessity. If US companies are going as far as buying entire media companies, we need at the very least to be putting content at the top of our marketing wish-list. Content nurtures leads, builds trust, increases revenue. In some cases the content becomes a revenue earner in and of itself.
2. It’s about clarity
We face an issue in the UAE of not always defining content marketing correctly. This hasn’t been an issue in the US, since the Content Marketing Institute put forward its definition that’s still widely used:
‘Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.’
Too often other aspects of digital marketing are confused with content marketing. For example, I often hear social media being mistaken for content marketing – rather than seeing content as something which is at the core of the very best social media.
All of which is to say: how can companies in our region get fully on board with content marketing if no one is 100% sure what it is?
What this means for the UAE
It’s our job as content marketers to better describe the benefits, so its value is understood and UAE businesses see it as a way to compete with other companies.
Right now, all the great examples of content marketing are coming from the US (along with notable European examples such as Red Bull). With no local models to learn from, the UAE is not seeing first-hand how content marketing extends your marketing reach, maximises your spend, and boosts customer loyalty.
So clearer communication and better examples are the two key changes we need to see.
3. It’s about resources
When it comes to content, you need great people. With content marketing so mature in the US, there is no shortage of talent for companies to use. As there isn’t a solid UAE content marketing offering currently, the resources required (agencies, writers, designers, etc) are not in place.
There is tough competition to recruit what is available, as well as retention problems which mean getting consistency within a content team isn’t always easy. And creating a long-term content strategy needs a steady team – it’s a long-term proposition.
What this means for the UAE
An immediate solution is to outsource your English-language content needs. You might start with a freelancer or two, but as you scale you’ll need to look to agencies. The key is finding the right one with the right talent.
Ensure you’re working with highly experienced English-language writers, editors, copyeditors and proof readers, so you know your content will be in safe hands.
The US and the rest of the world
Figures from the Content Marketing Institute suggest that 88% of B2B marketers in North America use content marketing. HubSpot noted in 2016 that while European marketers did rate content marketing highly, 75% felt their efforts fell short. While hard data on the Middle East, and the UAE in particular, is hard to come by, the overall sense is that marketers do want to increase their content market output.
The key is returning to some of the basics noted in this article, to ensure companies in our region remain competitive and don’t leave all the content marketing glory to US companies.
There is no reason why we can’t compete at the highest level.
Silx is a new style digital agency that works with companies across the Gulf region and Europe to help them tell their stories, reach their audiences, and create great conversations with their customers. For more information visit www.silxdigital.com, or get in touch with us on +971 (0) 50 883 8921 (Dubai), +49 (0) 89 7499 9522 (Munich), or firstname.lastname@example.org.