- 📉As content becomes more central to marketing, the CMO role may be in trouble.
- 🤖 Google News no longer cares if content was generated by AI.
- 📺 Branded documentaries are rising
The CMO role is disappearing: At companies including UPS, Etsy and Walgreens, chief marketing officers have exited and their roles have been merged with other C-suite positions or been distributed across the organization, reports Fortune,
While it’s probably early days to call for the end of C-suite marketing roles, the purpose and position of marketing is shifting rapidly across many major companies. In fact, marketing is taking on more importance, not less: McKinsey found in a study last year that CEOs that placed marketing at the center of their strategy were twice as likely to have greater than 5% annual growth, compared with those who didn’t. But as a result, as we reported in early January, the C-suite marketing role has splintered. CEOs are getting more involved in marketing, and titles like chief brand officer, chief creative officer, chief content officer or even chief communications officer now include marketing responsiblities. Marketing-only roles of course continue to exist and grow, but it is possible that more companies will seek to reposition or eliminate pureplay CMO roles this year.
Why this matters: Driving this trend, say business leaders, is the reality that communications and content are becoming core competencies inside companies and more critical parts of growth strategies. More companies are making content a linchpin of their overall marketing approaches, including building owned-and-operated brand publishing operations designed to help them attract and retain customers. Content is also a key human resource and talent acquisition function, and even in departments such as technology and engineering, content is becoming a key skillset.
“You can’t make a business plan without being able to communicate it. You can’t respond to the needs of the society around you or prep for geopolitical challenges without being able to communicate well,” said Salesforce head of public affairs Margaret Taylor at an event in December.
Brand execs say marketing roles are becoming more about content, while content marketers are finding themselves stretched across departments and disciplines – making it even more important for them to learn new skills.
As Axios reports, top communications firms are noting the shift, and making content and “storytelling” key strategic priorities this year. On the M&A front, Highwire PR acquired content firm Candor, FINN acquired Outre Creative and Mod Op acquired Crenshaw, all in an effort to sharpen up content chops.
Firms like Upland and 160/90 have sprung up, all of which are making publishing owned content the centerpieces of their offerings. “We must create a narrative [explaining] why people should pay attention to the brand. This means thinking less like advertising and thinking more like a producer. … It’s not so much about product placement — it’s more about connecting audiences to a story,” Ed Horne of 160/90 said to Axios.
What’s next: The relationship between marketing and communications is about to get even rockier than it already is, and content will be at the center of the tussle.
What’s next for brand content
Brand publishing will mature further as a discipline in 2024 as it plays an increasingly important role in many companies’ strategies. But as content becomes more central to the way businesses attract and engage both external and internal audiences, content operations will also face greater scrutiny and pressure to perform in the months ahead.
Heading into 2024, brand publishers now face many of the same challenges plaguing the traditional publishing industry: Declining organic distribution and growth, growing competition for consumers’ attention, increasingly discerning audiences, and a tightening of the purse strings.
Google News doesn’t care if content is made by AI
Google said last week that it will not rank content based on whether it was written by AI or not. does It’s the natural next step since Google’s last announcement on this, when it said that its search algorithm would not penalize content simply for being AI-generated.
What this means: Google News has always been somewhat of a black box: For years, publishers and brand publishers have tried to figure out what makes them “qualify” to appear on Google News. For brand publishers – brands making content – getting on Google News and other news aggregators has become a top priority recently as growth becomes more elusive. Google has always been a little looser than other aggregators such as Apple News. Last year, a spokesperson told Toolkits that “any content that meets Google News and Search policies is eligible to show within Top Stories, the News tab and Google News itself.” There is no application process. Now, that eligibility does not preclude AI-generated content.
On one hand, companies have been more open than “traditional” publishers to experimentation with AI solutions that help with the ideation, creation, and distribution of content. Many are already dabbling with using one (or more) of the thousands of AI tools out there to figure out if they can help make workflows more efficient or make their content more high quality, at a cheaper cost. Now they know they won’t be dinged by Google News for doing so. But at a wider level, it’s likey the change will result in more low-quality content flooding Google News – which at the end of the day presents an existential threat to absolutely anyone creating content and trying to stand out to audiences.
New data piece from Empathy
Empathy, a company that offers bereavement support to families, published its “Cost of Dying” report. The data-driven content piece dives into what exactly happens after a family member passes away, and how HR departments and corporations deal with workers who experience loss.
Lenovo and Intel launch a new season of branded series
The branded entertainment trend continues. Lenovo and Intel’s branded series, “Brave New Art,” will premier in India on Disney+ Hotstar. The series spotlights four artists across various disciplines who collaborate to take their talents to unexplored areas, all using Lenovo laptops.
Branded documentary rising
Documentary company XTR is launching a brand content division, run by Kelly Spencer, former VP of growth at Mediamonks. The company’s new division has projects with Toyota and the Olympics in the works.
Relatedly, WhatsApp released a new feature-length documentary called “Ugo: A Homecoming Story.” In the film, NBA star Giannis Antetokounmpo travels to his homeland, Nigeria, to understand their culture and roots. The film was directed by The Mandalorian director Rick Famuyiwa and released on YouTube and Prime Video.