In January 2021, Contently set out to find out some answers to one of the big questions faced by marketers around the world – what do consumers want from content marketing?

With the content marketing space shifting, in line with the COVID-19 pandemic and changing behaviours online, Contently wanted to uncover what consumers are looking for from content marketing and how brands can do more to positively impact the purchasing decisions of customers.

There is no doubt that the content marketing space is constantly evolving. The content marketing space is getting more crowded every year, making it harder and harder for brands to stand out, not only from their direct competitors but also from every other content creator online including Google itself.

Consumers are at saturation point when it comes to content consumption. There are only so many hours in the day and so much content each of us can consume. What Contently hoped to discover is how brands can make sure their content is the content that makes it front and centre more often.

Why content marketing should be a priority post-COVID

According to LinkedIn, a whopping 78 per cent of marketers expected their content budget to increase in 2021 and we would expect that to increase further still in 2022.

The COVID-19 pandemic has left no business untouched, with many turning to digital as a way of filling the gap left by the lack of face-to-face contact and a reduction in print marketing.

Content marketing is one of the most cost-effective tactics in the marketing mix. It’s also an area that is on the up. Traditional paid advertising is going the other way. Even pre-COVID, fewer companies were investing in printed publications and making a switch to digital and the pandemic has only accelerated this decline.

In a post written earlier this year, we took a closer look at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and why content marketing is going to be such an important tactic for businesses moving forward. Make sure you check out some of the tactics you should be deploying moving forward and how you can squeeze the most out of your budget.

Contently methodology and key findings

Getting back to the Contently research report, it’s important to understand more about the process and the people included in the survey. Whilst we are a New Zealand based agency, data for our domestic market is often harder to uncover and so we rely on data from other countries including the US, UK, and Australia. We then have to draw some conclusions and anticipate that the trends identified in those markets will translate to the New Zealand market.

In this case, we believe the results of the Contently study apply on a global scale and whilst the numbers may not match exactly, we expect the trends to be the same.

For their study, Contently surveyed 1,072 Americans to find out their content marketing preferences. The sample size was proportioned based on U.S. Census data for attributes including age, gender, region, and income.

Key findings

The key findings of the survey uncovered some fascinating insights, especially when it comes to the power of brand at this time. Here are the headline findings from the survey:

  • 80% of people read, watched, or listened to a piece of content from a brand in the last year.
  • 74% of respondents are more likely to buy something from a brand after reading a story about the positive impact they are having on the world.
  • 63% of the public trusts brands more than media companies or traditional news outlets.
  • Video (30%) is the content format people enjoy the most, followed by visual content, such as memes and photographs (28%, and then text (25%).
  • 58% of consumers said they were likely to take a free course created by a brand.
  • Only 26% of respondents trust influencer marketing.
  • When asked to rank groups based on trustworthiness, friends and family topped the list, while influencers and politicians were at the bottom.

We can see from these headline findings that brand has never been more important when it comes to content marketing.

Branded content makes the breakthrough

There is a misconception that it’s getting harder and harder for brands to be heard, especially on social media platforms. The fact that 80% of respondents had read, watched or listened to a piece of branded content in the past 12 months suggests this is not the case.

Content marketing was not an immediate hit, especially with brands. There was some initial pushback and a sense that content marketing was more of a side project rather than an integral part of a marketing strategy.

For most businesses, that has now changed.

Content marketing is not only an integral part of any marketing strategy, it is often one of the priority items given the relatively low cost and potential ROI.

Part of the challenge faced by small businesses and new businesses is gaining traction and achieving higher brand awareness. This is where content marketing can really help.

Content creates a fairly level playing field, especially when it comes to SEO. If you can create a piece of content that is 10X better than the content that already ranks for the terms you are targeting, you stand a very good chance of ranking in the top positions for those terms. The better you can rank, the more visitors you can send to your website and the more you can gain brand exposure and recognition.

Showcase the great things your business is doing

Whether you have an audience of 100, 100,000 or 1,000,000, make sure you are telling them all about the amazing things you are doing.

The COVID-19 pandemic has provided brands with the opportunity to showcase their connection with their local community and their customers.

Beyond the pandemic, brands that have demonstrated their contribution to sustainability, local charities and the local community are all reaping the benefits with 74% of respondents saying they are more likely to buy something from a brand that is showcasing the positive impact they are having on the world.

No matter the size of your business, make sure you are not only making positive contributions to your local community and wider initiatives but also make sure you are showcasing this and telling more people about it through your content marketing activity.

In brands we trust

Perhaps one of the biggest indicators of the power of the brand is the level of trust respondents have in content published by brands compared to traditional media and news outlets.

Whilst news platforms have been the go-to in terms of getting information during the COVID-19 pandemic, trust levels continue to drop.

Brands on the other hand have seen trust levels increase during the pandemic.

This is most likely down to authenticity. Brands are much more transparent than media – they want to sell you something, even when they are providing helpful content and they don’t try and hide this.

This transparency helps to build trust. People know what to expect from the brands they know and as long as the product or service delivers on the messaging, trust will continue to grow.

We must also remember that this survey was conducted in the US where the news industry has withstood unprecedented attacks on its integrity, especially over the past five years under the Trump administration. Here in New Zealand, the levels of trust in the media are perhaps not as low, however, there is still a mistrust of a lot of the information we see in the news.

Influencer marketing is on the wain

For a period of time, influencer marketing was the buzzword for content marketers. Whether you were using them, researching them or dreaming about them, it felt like influencers were changing the game when it comes to content marketing.

Like many trends, influencers got done to death.

Instead of being seen as a great endorsement for your brand, the content space became so saturated with influencers that trust levels actually started to decline.

Instead of turning to influencers, the most successful brands are using their own voice to promote their brand online and talk about their products.

The most trustworthy group when it comes to recommendations is still friends and family. Successful brands are the ones that can get more people talking about their brand, both online in the public space and offline.

Getting people to leave reviews is still a primary focus of any content strategy. This is a space where not only friends and family can see what you have to say about a brand, but also other prospective customers – this is the best form of influencer marketing.

Other key findings

The Contently survey goes into a lot more detail and you can discover more of their findings in their comprehensive blog post, and we urge you to head over there and check it out. Other key findings include:

  • Most people follow a brand on social media
  • Social impact storytelling drives purchase intent
  • Most consumers subscribe to multiple brand newsletters, but the competition is heating up
  • Consumers crave educational courses
  • Strive for a balance of content formats to maximise your reach


Content marketing is no longer something brands can afford to ignore. Not only should it be an integral part of your marketing strategy, but it should also be a primary focus for 2021, 2022 and beyond. The research conducted by Contently supports this and showcases the fact that businesses that were early adopters and that are doing things really well are reaping the benefits.

If content marketing is not yet part of your strategy, talk to the Digital Hothouse team today or read some of our case studies that demonstrate the outstanding results we have been able to generate for our clients through content marketing.

Case Studies

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