I always love this time of year. The weather is typically great; the scenery is gorgeous; and there are so many fun things to do in the area with my family. It’s also the perfect time to start looking forward to 2016, and put pencil to paper for the campaigns and ideas rolling around for the last few months.
For me, that centers mostly around content marketing. 2016 will be an interesting year for content. Right now, it’s a buzzword. Something people still don’t completely understand or implement correctly to achieve its fullest potential. But in 2016, I think that’s going to start to change.
Here are a few predications for next year that will help make that happen.
###1. Content and marketing will start to separate
Content is about connections; marketing is about selling. Yes, content ultimately helps drive sales, but at its core it’s all about building connections and establishing relationships. There won’t be a drastic split, but marketers will embrace content’s unique ability to build relationships and focus less on making the sale.
###2. Strategy will play a bigger role
For a long time, content marketers have been able to get away with posting regular blogs and driving organic traffic. That no longer works. There is too much competition.
Strategies have to be set and well documented. [Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs](http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2015/09/b2b-content-marketing-research/) found that only 32 percent of B2B marketers have a documented content strategy, even though a documented strategy is clearly tied to effectiveness.
A strategy helps keep everyone on the same page and serves as a compass for tactics. When you find yourself a little lost and straying from your goal, a strategy can pull you in. If there’s a lot of back and forth between your team and tactics, take a look at your strategy and make sure all ideas are on the right track.
###3. The most effective content programs will be the most authentic ones
Content needs to be meaningful to break through the noise. That doesn’t mean it was to save the world or have a noble cause behind it. It just needs to be authentic. It needs to seem natural for your brand, your culture, your audience and (lastly) your products or services. Companies that know their brand, and live it through their culture, will be most successful at connecting with their consumers.
###4. Brands will take more (calculated) risks
Bland blog posts, scheduled social media posts that tie into National Donut Day and canned responses to customer feedback have already lost their effectiveness. Content teams have to work harder and smarter to create better content. Ann Handley calls for [bigger, braver, bolder](http://www.annhandley.com/2015/09/10/bigger-braver-bolder-content-marketing-3-examples-from-the-cutting-room-floor-of-my-latest-presentation/) content, and that’s become my mantra now and for 2016.
###5. Content’s “Dunk” will happen
Oreo set the bar for real-time social media with its now-famous Dunk in the Dark tweet during the 2013 Super Bowl. Articles were devoted to it. Brands and agencies discussed it to try to figure out how to replicate its success. Now, it’s standard for brands to be part of the discussion around current events. (Content marketing at its finest.)
My prediction is content marketing’s “dunk” will happen in 2016. Companies who understand their brand, their consumers and content marketing will set the bar with a new, innovative and seemingly simple tactic. I’m not sure who it will be, or what they will do, but my money is on any brand who approaches content marketing strategically, honestly and is willing to take a little risk.