Content marketing trends: the past, present and future | writefully

18 Apr 2022
Dean Meadowcroft

It’s always fascinating to look back at content marketing trends and fads over the years. Sometimes the dated nature of the materials may make us cringe, but it’s important to never lose sight of how far we’ve come. It can be shocking to observe the changing trends in marketing since the days of door-to-door salespeople, and doctors prescribing branded cigarettes for pregnant women.

The point is that with the best of intentions, marketing can sometimes dwell on where the world is – rather than where it’s going. 

Close your eyes and picture your definition of marketing. Do you see a newspaper advert or a magazine spread? The distant murmur of an offer or deal on the television as the kettle boils during an ad break?

Or do you see pop-ups, Spotify soundbites and social media feeds?

Whatever images enter your mind, it’s safe to say that the only certainty in marketing is that you should never be sure of anything. After all, as we’ve just illustrated above, one person’s future of content marketing is another’s long-forgotten past. 

Changing trends in marketing will always elevate some industries and pass others by. Why? Because any reaction to change is based on our perceptions of the world – based on what we’re accustomed to within it.  

One generation perceives images and pictures as something that requires patience and development, while the next generation perceives it as an instantly obtainable image in the palm of their hand.

And how are we now able to easily compare developments between then and now? How are we able to judge outdated marketing methods to today’s standards? Through the ultimate platform of the best and worst of the world, of course: the internet. 

When the internet made its debut in the 90s, there was no bombastic shift. No overnight boom. Content marketing services didn’t suddenly change. But the seed of something beyond our comprehension was planted, and it would change the way the entire world communicated. Forever. 

The past: less channels – less effort

No content strategy in marketing exists within a vacuum. When it comes to the changing trends in marketing, you don’t even need to look past the last five years before you’ll find something that looks tired and dated. 

Due to the acceleration of the internet, it can be challenging to stay ahead of the next wave of content marketing trends. 

Of course, one of the most exciting elements of marketing is its ability to constantly adapt and change to the world around it. But there was a time where these changes weren’t always so easy to anticipate. 

Old school methods of marketing were rigid. Enlisting content marketing services meant someone tapping out a few sentences on a typewriter and sending it to the printing press. 

Families gathered around the television and were told what they needed, why they needed it, and where they should go to get it. A mass appeal was easier to obtain. Why? Because with fewer channels to receive their ad campaigns, nobody cared about catering to a consumer’s personal identity. 

Television and radio dominated the advertising landscape in the late ‘80s and ’90s. Meanwhile, as the marketing wheel continued to spin, the foundations of an impending phenomenon were starting to take shape. 

Digital footprints: the first steps of a new content marketing strategy

As the years passed, families were less reliant on one solitary channel for entertainment. Physical separation no longer meant a lack of intimacy. 

People were being born who had never experienced a life without the internet – parents announced newborns on Facebook. We began to enter a brave new era, where consumers are welcomed into the world with heart emojis and baptised by live feeds. 

Digital footprints were being made before a child even made its first steps. 

People began to consume content differently, and while some still rolled their eyes at the murmurings of an e-commerce content marketing future, the simmering appetite for quick and easy content from young consumers began to stoke the embers of the future of content marketing.  

In other words, marketing was no longer exclusively for global brands on television and radio. The days of SMEs placing smudged ads in the back of local trade publications was about to become a myth in the minds of a new breed of consumer. 

The world was changing – the playing field levelling. All it needed was for one global brand to take notice. When it finally did happen, it came from an unlikely place…

The road to innovation in digital marketing services: first stop, Springfield

So, where and when can we pinpoint the catalyst for this monumental shift in marketing paradigms? Believe it or not, you can trace it back to a little animated town called Springfield.

In the early nineties, The Simpsons became a staple of entertainment across the globe. While families gathered around the TV and became invested in the antics of the Simpson clan, their merchandise became something of a cultural phenomenon. 

The Simpsons Ride™ - Universal Studios Hollywood

Those of you who experienced this will remember that you couldn’t set foot outside without finding a piece of Simpsons merchandise. Their faces were plastered across the globe across every imaginable product, including:

  • Bart Simpson t-shirts (shifting one million units per day at their peak)
  • branded foods and soft drink tie ins
  • fast food promotions 
  • collectables and action figures
  • computer games and arcade consoles
  • albums, board games and stationery.

After so many decades, The Simpsons had become a legacy within the very fabric of pop culture. In fact, the show was recently named the most successful television brand in history, with global merchandising and show sales reaching more than $8 billion. 

On December 16th, 2007, the show aired the ninth episode of its nineteenth season, titled ‘Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind’ to an audience of 10.15 million viewers. The episode featured a parody of this popular YouTube video:

Why was this moment so crucial to the future of marketing?

Because it made a statement to the world. For the first time ever, one of the biggest cultural shows on the planet took influence from an individual piece of content that wasn’t associated with Americana or celebrity culture. Instead, it parodied something from internet culture. 

Rather than the most successful show of all time influencing what happens in the outside world, the world was influencing the show. 

A billion-dollar franchise was acknowledging a popular YouTube video, and unknowingly influencing the future of content marketing. 

While this was a small moment at the time, the principles it set out were loud and clear – pop culture had evolved. It understood what their younger demographics were looking for, and adapted accordingly. And when entertainment makes a statement, marketing is never far behind. 

Marketing was about to break out and become less insular. 

New trends, new consumers and a new content strategy in marketing

Websites hosted adverts. Consumers installed ad blockers. Social media became a place where customers could openly complain about poor service to the entire world. People began to gain more control of the marketing they allowed themselves to see. 

Viral YouTube clips became a staple of talk shows. The growing range of media channels gave more choice to people – and celebrities made announcements on social media instead of in print. 

Inevitably, brands took notice. 

The message was clearer than any broadband connection at the time could possibly be – businesses would need to step up their game and develop a more interactive marketing strategy. 

The present: internet trends influence marketing

Once the internet’s influence on consumers was undeniable, it quickly became part of a larger content strategy in marketing. What was once shrugged off as a small but loud subculture was now becoming part of everyday life. 

However, that subculture began to infiltrate marketing, and influence how content marketing trends were presented. 

Vaporwave design aesthetics 

In the early 2010s, platforms like Tumblr became the shining beacon for apathetic web surfers and jaded creatives, who began to parody the aesthetics of mid-90s software and desktop graphics.

In what seemed like the blink of an eye, the previous decades’ marketing was being used as disposable art fodder online. And just as previous generations had laughed at the outdated marketing that came before them, young consumers were now parodying what was once considered cutting edge. The world was moving fast.

This aesthetic became universally known as vaporwave.

Elements of vaporwave design include: 

  • ambient and soothing images 
  • slick curves and soft designs 
  • techno style fonts 
  • digital collages 
  • cyberpunk influences 
  • 80s consumerism aesthetics.

This campaign by make-up artist Norvina perfectly encapsulates the vaporwave appeal. It’s both retro and modern – comforting and exciting. 

Anastasia Beverly Hills on Instagram: “Norvina Vol. 3 🦋 #norvinapalette” |  Anastasia beverly hills palette, Norvina, Anastasia beverly hills

Content marketing trends: the irony of it all! 

While some may argue that marketing and art are mutually exclusive, there’s no denying the cyclical nature of this fascinating turn of events:

The story so far:

  • Old school marketing relies too heavily on tried and tested methods.
  • Marketing becomes out of touch with new avenues and the changing trends in marketing.
  • Those changing trends are parodied on mainstream television to millions of people.
  • These new innovations become a part of the status quo.
  • This becomes part of a brand’s digital and content marketing strategy. 
  • Early 2000s trends become dated and are parodied by vaporwave.
  • Digital marketing services and internet brands then implement in their marketing. 

As the ‘perfect storm’ of digital expression, aesthetically pleasing images and consumer-focused software, vaporwave has now become more synonymous with advertising than ever before. 

What was originally intended to satirise consumer culture has now become a tool to entice those same consumers through vaporwave design on websites, social media promotions, and other ads. 

Let’s get digital: the future of content marketing and ecommerce 

There was a time when a business wasn’t respected or considered legitimate without a brick-and-mortar store to call its own. Nowadays, a brick-and-mortar store isn’t taken seriously until it develops its online presence and considers the user experience: from the homepage right through to checkout.

In fact, last year global eCommerce sales reached $26.7 trillion.

Yes. That says TRILLION. What a difference a few years can make in marketing…

The incredible rise of ecommerce has given consumers a broad spectrum of choices. And guess what? Younger consumers love to support a small business. While older shoppers continued to make the pilgrimage to traditional stores, millennials began to buy DVDs, order takeaways, and purchase items online. 

No queues. No problems. No effort. 

A small business could stand toe-to-toe with global competitors, with minimal overheads and a 24/7 platform that could reach anyone, anytime, and anywhere. 

The growth of ecommerce has benefited business and consumer alike through:

  • zero limitations on reaching customers in other countries 
  • reduced advertising costs with increased sales 
  • price comparison opportunities for customers 
  • quick response time that mirrors consumer demand 
  • the easiest buying process possible.

When it came to ecommerce content marketing, words were tight and to-the-point. A content marketing strategy now needed to be carefully developed – and consider the overall buyer journey. 

The future of content marketing was beginning to grow. Tweets, Facebook posts and hashtags were all now an integral part of unifying a brand’s core message through a mix of internet slang, brand tone of voice, and learning to adapt quickly. 

It could be said that ecommerce content marketing represents the very best of marketing, and its ability to transform itself to stay relevant in times of change. Short attention spans need concise and eye-catching content, or it’s forgotten in an instant. Eye-catching content needs strong writing, and strong writing needs deeper research into what a brand represents in its core values. 

If COVID brought the inevitable boom of ecommerce forward by a few years, then ecommerce content marketing was the signpost that guided millions of lockdown shoppers through a flawless buyer journey – one that they realised was much easier than a trip to the local shops. 

The influencers have become the ‘influenced’ 

We’ve officially gone full circle. Instead of the individual reaching out to their favourite brands, brands are reaching out to the individual and asking for them to endorse their products and services. 

This leads us to the very personification of new marketing – the influencer. 

What is ‘influencer marketing’? 

Influencer marketing uses individuals to springboard your brand across their social media pages, and entice their followers to use your products and services. 

As an off-shoot of the ecommerce boom, social media personalities have leveraged their following into becoming brand ambassadors.

Young consumers now look up to these social media characters, and their opinion can be the deciding factor in a mass migration to your digital checkout page.

While some more traditional businesses may scoff at the idea of influencers, the numbers don’t lie. Influencer marketing is expected to reach just shy of $14 billion this year alone. 

The digital marketing landscape has changed again, and the age of individualistic marketing has just entered the chat…

The future: how businesses can succeed in the age of the individual 

Cause and effect: the new age of digital marketing

With this new understanding of the individual in modern marketing, a digital and content marketing strategy needs to be concise, clear and efficient. Taking these consumer needs to heart reaps incredible benefits.

Below are the seven main effects, for better or worse, that content marketing trends within the digital stratosphere must now stay on top of: 

  1. Accountability 

It doesn’t matter whether your business is acting on the advice of a content strategy agency or writing your own marketing content, the buck stops with you. 

You’re responsible for the praise you receive from customers, and you’re accountable for the content you post online. 

  1. Adaptability 

Has something terrible happened in the world? Is there a trending subject that you hadn’t anticipated? You’ll need to comment on it accordingly with care and sensitivity. 

While it’s a pressure cooker of an environment to implement your content marketing strategy, it’s also the ultimate test of how well you know your brand’s tone of voice. 

  1. Accessibility 

Are your platforms accessible to customers? Is the navigation of your website fluid? Do your products have accurate descriptions? Is the user journey smooth and simple?

Accessibility doesn’t just end there. If your digital and content marketing strategy excludes in any way, then you’re liable to be (rightfully) called out for it publicly. 

Accessibility in marketing is still rare, and savvy young consumers will sniff out these oversights quickly. 

  1. Interactivity 

The brands that once dictated to consumers now have to learn to understand them. It’s not about telling customers what they want –it’s more about discovering what users are actively searching for. Then shaping your content marketing strategy to fulfil these needs. 

Businesses now need to learn how to be a better overall brand. By doing this, they create a more in-depth persona that leads to repeat business, emotional investment and loyal customers. 

It’s a wonderful dynamic that has seen online brands and SMEs soar in popularity over the years.

  1. 5. Connectivity 

People are now spending an average of over four hours per day browsing in apps. Consumers have evolved, and buyers see their mobile device as more of a digital limb than a piece of technology.

Who can blame them? People are now accustomed to having the world at their fingertips and chatbots to resolve most issues within seconds. Your content marketing strategy needs to consider the human touch through content – while having the advancements to deliver it quickly.

  1. Possibility

As any content strategy agency will tell you, the possibilities for modern business are endless, regardless of size and budget. A sound content strategy in marketing that implements Google-friendly content through research, SEO, and powerful writing gives any business a fighting chance in the scramble to climb the search engine rankings. 

The possibility is within reach, all it takes is the right words.

  1. Convertibility

Digital marketing services work tirelessly to mine the USP gold within your business in order to make that user journey from Google search to paid-up-customer feel effortless.

The fluidity of a strong content marketing strategy is the culmination of every element stated above. If you can articulate what you’re offering well – even a few sentences can convey the depths of a good novel! 

Marketing adapts as individuality rises 

And so we reach a historical crossroads in a post-COVID business landscape. While the internet and your business may be the road consumers travel on, make no mistake about who is in the driving seat. 

Early glitches in the transition to digital business and reactionary social media issues are falling by the wayside. We’re heading to an exciting happy medium, where the individual is catered to through technological advancements. 

Digital voice technology has become a staple of most households. Voice-activated shopping has started to gain momentum – and it’s safe to say that when Google and Amazon start investing and testing voice technology, the rest of the world will follow suit. 

Visual commerce is growing as we speak, and with its up-close product visuals, interactive content pages and image recognition techniques, personalisation has never been so immersive. 

Changing trends in marketing are nothing new. So, how can we better understand what’s a passing fad and what’s here to stay? Well, if mammoths of industry like Google and Facebook are investing in something, it’s safe to say that it’s here to stay.

So, with augmented reality and AI technology racing alongside voice-activated technology towards a unified, customer-focused future, what will be the glue that holds this new hybrid of innovation and personalisation together? 

Personalised content and big data analysis: the new marketing frontier 

Global mobile shopping is estimated to reach $270 billion by 2025. With such jaw-dropping numbers and grand advancements in tech, let’s not repeat past mistakes and become complacent. 

Let’s remember what actually captures and inspires people to explore your website: your content.

As opposed to creating distance between you and your customers, AI advancements will be the bridge that facilitates better understanding, immersive marketing experiences, and the personal touch that retains customers. 

Make sure that when it comes to these new content marketing trends, you’ll be able to look back at this year as a defining moment in embracing a brave new future – rather than looking back with regret at what was almost within your grasp.