This piece was first published in #TheFutureByDesign. Click here to download the publication with insights from leading marketing, creative, technology and advertising minds.

In the beginning there was the banner advert. And lo, the banner advert was good. But banners and other traditional digital advertising are no longer quite cutting it. Research from the Content Marketing Institute shows that consumers reject banners at a rate that is greater than 99%.

In stark contrast, the Website Marketing Group indicates that online content influences 75% of purchasing decisions, while a survey by content technology company Kapost revealed that per dollar, content marketing produces three times more leads than traditional marketing.

The Future By Design asks top local content expert, Melissa Attree, to get predictive. Attree currently works as the director of content strategy for Ogilvy & Mather.

The big question that brands need to ask themselves, Attree says, is: “How do we deliver the right content to the right people at the right time — content that people want to spend time with?”

Why is this important? “Everything that we create is content,” says Attree, and by we, she means you, the brand owner, the marketing director, or advertising executive reading this article. “Above-the-line-advertising, promotions, tweets, Slideshare, videos, infographics, Facebook posts – it is all content, and what matters is what you do with that content. Brands need to work out what comprises long-term sustainable content, and how this is different from content that fits campaign thinking.” Then brands need to figure out how that’s different from social content, or short-term content which is used on social media platforms.

“Content is extremely overtraded – everyone is talking about this latest buzzword – but we have been creating content for decades. It’s only become a trendy word because the concept of content marketing and content-led strategy is becoming a lot more important,” she says. “This is because the research shows that customers want to spend time with content that brands create and which add value. This is content that entertains, educates or empowers,” Attree explains.

“In the future we will see companies start focussing on owned platforms rather than renting platforms,” she says, adding: “This is not incredibly new. Brands have run blogs for ten years or more. Brands that have kept this going have done well, because a blog is a beautiful owned piece of property. Sadly, when social media came along, people spread content through social media, but many brands left their blogs behind in the headlong rush for rented properties like Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn. By doing this they’ve run the risk of resourcing massive communities that don’t belong to them.”

Yes, social platforms are critical hubs that contribute to the spokes of a content marketing programme, but Attree maintains they must be used as the spokes without becoming the hub, or whole, of the brand’s marketing. “This is why the smart people who are ahead of the curve are reviving their own owned publishing.”

Attree’s tips for top content marketing. “Refocus on what customers need, particularly if you are a brand with limited resources and don’t have budget for above the line. If you don’t have reach you must think about doing relationship marketing and having a conversation with customers, and you can do this well with a solid content marketing approach,” she says.

“Get in touch with customers on a one-on-one basis, and give them content that builds trust, and advocacy for your brand. It is important that you’re intimate with your customers, which is less about collecting data and more about segmenting the customer base, and really seeing who your customers are and what they want. Understand your customers habits and consumer behaviours. Lastly, approach what you are doing with some sort of editorial or publishing lens.”

melissa attreeAbout Melissa Attree

Melissa Attree has been working in the social media space since 2006 — before ‘social media’ was a thing. Nine years later, and she’s worked in the big leagues. She’s done social strategy and creative campaigns with brands like ABSA, Adidas, Big Blue, Black River FC, 5FM, MasterCard, Nando’s, Nedbank, Ogilvy, SAA, South African Breweries, Toyota, Vodacom and Woolworths. Attree is currently director of content strategy at Ogilvy & Mather in Cape Town.

Follow her on Twitter: @MelAttree