Thought Leadership
  • Content marketing

10 content marketing trends that will define 2020

Paul Button
4th March 2020

From hyper-personalisation, influencers and data to voice, 5G and in-housing - what trends are driving your content marketing strategy?

  • Content must be personal, targeted and drive measurable business results – firmly aligned to the growth agenda of CMOs today

  • Content automation and AI will be key elements of marketing budgets in 2020

  • 5G will redefine what’s possible in experiential, video streaming, VR and AR

Content marketing is over 10 years old as a concept – and much older in reality – and we’ve come a very long way in a relatively short time. Over the past decade, the Mediablaze team has seen trends come and go and, more importantly, seen trends bed in, mature and become staples of content marketing best practice. 

So what can we look forward to over the next 12 months? We’ve dusted off our magic content marketing 8-ball and come up with our Top 10 predictions for content marketing in 2020.

1 - Hyper-personalisation

We’re very used to seeing context-aware suggestions when we’re shopping the internet. The upsell is entirely expected. In the same way, we’re going to have to get used to hyper-relevant content being served to us based on our browsing habits. 

But hyper-relevant means multiple variants of what is essentially the same piece of content. It means that instead of preparing an A/B test of content, you need to prepare an A/B/C/D/E/F... (you get the idea) test’s worth of content to ensure you’re snaring the right customer at the right time; someone who’s looking for the very thing you’re putting in front of them. 

Now, this either requires a newsroom’s worth of content-creators or some smart automation (more on that later) to pull contextually relevant elements from a ‘master’ piece of content.

But the takeaway here is that relevance has never been more important – and the most relevant brand takes the spoils.

2 - How to make friends with influence(r) people

Influencers have come under intense scrutiny of late. Macro, micro, maxi, mini… They’re all being watched ever more closely. But why?

Well, let’s look at why they exist. Influencers were the antidote to relentless branded messages assaulting our eyeballs at every click. They were sticking it to the man. They were liberated, they were genuine and incorruptible. They were real.

But that authenticity has taken a battering over time. Follower farms, questionable morality and ill-fitting brand tie-ups have all contributed to eroding consumer trust in influencer marketing.  

A case in point? Unilever’s 2018 mission to combat follower fraud within its own influencer campaigns morphed into taking a stake in influencer platform CreativeIQ in mid-2019, so that it could take a frontline position in the fight against influencer dishonesty. 

The relationship between brand and influencer needs to change. It’s become unequal. 

But influencers still have a part to play in the marketing mix. It’s a question of remembering who should be leading the relationship. (It’s the audience, not the brand.)

So while genuine advocacy/UGC is the new holy grail of influencer marketing, there’s still plenty of scope for influencers to impact marketing efforts in 2020 and beyond. Just remember that authenticity and legitimate brand affinity will always win.

3 - It’s all about the data

Once upon a time, around 2010, content marketing was something every big brand knew it needed to do, but didn’t necessarily know why.

ROI was an alien concept to content marketers, and content KPIs were based on soft metrics, such as page views and dwell time. Measurement was a black art – not often practised and little understood – and most of the major social networks had very little in the way of meaningful data to track conversions or target specific audience segments.


Thankfully, that simpler time is now firmly in the past. Data is everywhere, as are native and third-party analytic packages designed to help marketers justify their every content move. And data is going to become even more granular, and content even more targeted, than ever before.

That data has led to vastly more effective attribution, where marketers can pinpoint which piece of content led to which consumer action, increasing marketing efficacy by an order of magnitude. 

In summary, a writer’s gut feel may have cut the mustard back in 2005, but in 2020, gut feel without data to back it up is a dangerous (and potentially expensive) game to play.

4 - Location, location, more personalisation

We’ve been talking about it for years, but is 2020 the year that real-world, location-based marketing really kicks off?

At the tail end of 2018, Burger King ran a campaign to promote its revamped app that sold Whoppers for a penny to customers it detected were within 600 feet of a McDonald’s restaurant.

It’s worth mentioning Snapchat here, too, of course. Its Geofilters have been allowing brands to target users in specific geographical areas since 2014. Hollister, for example, targeted 19,000 US and Canadian high schools with its ‘Friday Vibes’ geofilter back in 2015. 

But there have been precious few headline-grabbing, location-based marketing efforts, and FMCG brands could be missing a trick if they don’t turn their hands to more location-based guerilla marketing efforts this year. 

5 - 5G but why?

In comparison to the launch of 4G, 5G has been – at least so far – something of a damp squib. It exists. The handsets are out there. But no one quite knows why.

In terms of bandwidth, 5G networks have the potential to be up to 100 times faster than 4G ones and as fast as some of the fastest home broadband out there (if you take real speeds into account rather than wild claims). Add to this the fact that 43% of 18- to 24-year-olds are prepared to ditch fixed broadband for its mobile equivalent, and you start to see the appeal of 5G.

Bearing that in mind, beyond merely delivering high-speed wireless broadband to remote areas of the UK, Europe and beyond, 5G networks have the bandwidth to carry a LOT of complex data. The sort of data that could power some pretty impressive AR and VR experiences without the need for a supercharged fibre optic connection.

That means that experiential marketing and the content derived from it has the potential to kick up several gears in 2020, as we begin to define what’s possible using 5G networks.

6 - Voice search… again

A mid-2019 Adobe survey of business decision-makers revealed that 91% were investing in voice, and 94% of those same decision-makers intended to increase that investment in 2020.  

Currently, varying estimates put the number of voice searches as a percentage of total search at around 20-25%, but that number is set to rise fast.

Exponential growth in voice device ownership, underpinned by the runaway success of Amazon’s Alexa, means voice-optimised content is going to hit big in 2020. This Gartner study predicts that 30% of all searches will be voice-based this year.

7 - TikTok don’t stop

No one over the age of 23 understands TikTok. That’s a verifiable fact. But as marketers, we always need to be eyeing the next generation of customers, and TikTok is a rich vein of potential that’s criminally underutilised by many brands.


Generally acknowledged as the spiritual successor to Vine (although newcomer Byte might have something to say about that), with its short-form video focus, TikTok is currently making Snapchat look like Bebo in the race for youth eyeballs. A phenomenal 700 million daily active users as of Q4 2019 makes it the fastest-growing social network in the world. UK audiences are signing up in their droves, with eMarketer predicting that the network will hit 10 million UK users next year. 

Yes, brands can run ads on TikTok, but the real engagement comes from producing genuinely entertaining content that pulls in eyeballs organically. Everyone skips the ads.

Video is still an underserved channel for most brands. Our video work with Volvo has revolved around getting the message across clearly and quickly, given minuscule modern-day attention spans. If you’ve not captured the watcher in the first three seconds, you’ll struggle to hold your audience’s fickle gaze.

8 - Automate to accumulate

Are the days of the strategist numbered? Can AI pull out the juicy details and deliver a science-led content strategy as well as – or even better than – a human?

It’s possible. And it’s happening. Given that strategy involves a whole lot of data analysis, it makes sense that AI would be able to make deductions faster than a human. Similarly, paid media’s reams of analysis are well-suited to AI systems. But – and it’s a big ‘but’ – AI still lacks the smarts to run the show solo just yet. However, artificial intelligence (or more accurately perhaps ’machine learning’) can free up content-creators and paid media analysts for less binary tasks, such as community engagement and tweaking creative and ad placements to take advantage of the hours they’ve trimmed from their day.

The key is to unify data and creativity – a concept we explore further in our ‘marrying data and creativity’ article. 

And from a pure content production point of view – from AI blog creation all the way to streamlining your content curation – automating content marketing to improve efficiency will be a key trend for 2020. Whether you’re looking for a simple CMS or an AI moderating tool, the race to increase the efficacy and efficiency of content creation is well and truly on. 

Expect to see a host of new features appearing on existing CMSs and likely some new challenger brands looking to automate curation and creation of content in 2020 and beyond. 

9 - The in-housing opportunity

Increasingly, brands are building their own teams of content-creators, writers, designers, coders, community managers and paid media specialists. A core team of in-house personnel can be a boon for brands, reducing external overheads on day-to-day activities. 

But flexibility is what smart growth partners offer. A well-run agency is able to scale up and down far more rapidly than an in-house team, offering the ability to react quickly to changing marketing demands and to partner as a brand moves through the process of in-housing. 

Add to that international reach, a bulging black book of creative contacts and the knowledge to up-skill new in-house teams, and you quickly see where the agency/brand relationship is heading. 

So while some agencies see in-housing as a threat to their service offering, we see it as a unique and exciting opportunity. You can read more about the challenges of in-housing here

10 - Measurable results

Making authentic, actionable content that delivers results may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s something that many brands are only just beginning to get to grips with.

Ultimately, the relationship between brand and agency partner needs to deliver ROI, and transparency has never been more important in order to justify the existence of agency partnerships. Clear, measurable results keep shareholders happy and safeguard the long-term future of the collaboration, enabling both parties to benefit from a more embedded, longer-term relationship. 

That’s why it’s no longer OK to just create amazing content; it needs to have clear performance data to back up its efficacy. Agency partners that have the ability to deliver on both the content and performance elements are well-placed to face down the challenges of digital marketing in 2020. 

11 - Community, connection, conversation, communication and care*

The sudden and shocking escalation of Coronavirus worldwide has highlighted the demand for five basic human needs: community, connection, conversation, communication and care. Now more than ever brands have an opportunity to deliver something very meaningful to their audiences, something that can lessen the burden and deliver much needed help, yet to do this they must first listen. And listen well. *added 20th March

Talk to the content marketing specialists

If you’re keen to explore any of these trends and want to discuss how to supercharge your content marketing and communication in 2020, particularly in these troubled times triggered by the Coronavirus, get in touch with Paul Button, Co-founder and CEO, to kick-start the conversation.

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