Key takeaways from the world of content marketing 2021

At Content Marketing World 2021, an undercurrent of energy ran through the crowd and presenters. This year’s conference marked a return to the in-person event after an all-digital version last year, and that energy was born from a sense of normalcy returning to the world. It felt good to reconnect with other members of the brand marketing community, and it was fascinating to hear what everyone had been up to.

If you couldn’t attend this year but still want to know how the state of marketing has evolved, we’ve compiled some key takeaways from CMWorld 2021’s keynote presentations here. a chart of where the industry is headed, so you can keep up with the best marketers in the business.

Content strategy is only as strong as its ability to scale

Robert Rose, chief strategic advisor at CMI, kicked off this year’s CMWorld dressed as a steampunk-style plague doctor. Her gritty outfit represented what we’ve all been through for the past year and a half: a global pandemic that’s claimed lives, disrupted industries and forced us to adapt to a digital lifestyle.

As he removed the mask, Robert began to talk about the harshness and strangeness of those times, but he emphasized that we had survived. We have adapted and we will continue to evolve, because that is what humans do best. We take on the challenges presented to us and will use all the resources we can find to solve them.

Evolution was the concept behind his presentation. Not only have we as humans adapted, but our approaches to content marketing have evolved. Suddenly, the demand for content skyrocketed in the industry, and over the past year we’ve seen many companies launch brand new content studios and ambitious content initiatives.

But at the same time, organizations have embraced a greater sensitivity to the type and amount of content they produce, as audiences suffer from “content fatigue.” Since people are online all day, every day, they are tired of having their feeds and inboxes bombarded with content, so marketing needs to evolve accordingly.

Robert set the stage for the entire conference with his presentation, and his message was one of hope. Yes, the industry is booming, but there are still challenges ahead and we need to prepare for the next storm. The key to doing this is to build a content strategy that can change and adapt – that can evolve and grow no matter what is thrown at it.

Focus on the emotional journey

Next, Jill Grozalsky Roberson, Director of Product Marketing, Experience Platform at Sitecore. She continued the content fatigue thread, citing that:

These are disturbing statistics – how can digital marketers connect with an audience that is disengaging from their efforts? The key, according to Jill, is to strike a balance between providing thoughtful content and not overwhelming the audience.


To achieve this balance, you must tap into emotions to make a good first impression. Positive and emotional brand associations result in more loyal and trusting customers with higher lifetime value. Although it may seem simple to achieve this on the surface, it is easier said than done. But Jill had a few pointers to steer marketers in the right direction, including:

  1. Don’t do all the talking. Listen to your customers and don’t make assumptions.

  2. Watch your tone. Connections are based on evoking different emotions, but be sure to use the correct emotions.

  3. “Dress to succeed. In other words, use the right technology and the right platforms to reach your audience.

  4. Treat them as if they were your one and only. Know who they are, personalize the experience, and deliver the right content at the right time.

Customers must feel to convert. Learn about your customers and discover their emotional journey. By focusing on this journey and using these tips, you develop and deliver content that truly connects and builds relationships with your audience.

The art of storytelling

Ann Handley, Content Director at MarketingProfs, is an expert storyteller. When she took the stage, she brought with her an energy that lit up the room, which reflected what her presentation was about: how do you enthusiastically sell something, even if you’re not the ideal buyer?

Business-centric messaging tends to default to product-centric marketing. While your organization may have a great product, it doesn’t belong in the center of your story. Instead, your brand story should put the customer at the heart of everything.

Ann admitted that it wasn’t always easy to do, but she had a solution: “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. It may sound out of left field, but Ann explained that she thinks Rudolph creator Robert L. May was perhaps the world’s first content marketing hero.

A budding writer turned marketer, Robert May was commissioned by his boss at Montgomery Ward in 1939 to develop a story that would entice people to shop there. Although it was a difficult task, Robert May managed to do just that and more – he created an iconic Christmas character and story that is still beloved to this day.

What can we as marketers learn from this story? Ann’s advice is to use the Rudolph framework. This is a great example that can be used to highlight the need for storytelling in your organization. Here’s an overview of the framework, as broken down by Ann:

Rudolph frame

Brand story framework

Use this framework for your own brand as a creative exercise and compare it to how you currently develop and position your content. Are you putting your audience, rather than your product, at the heart of your story? If not, maybe it’s time to rethink things.

Remember Ann’s wise words: stories add context, and context adds value. Invite your audience to be part of your story.

Radical relevance: the right message, messenger and modality

Jay Baer, ​​founder of Convince & Convert, moderated the last opening session, and it was a perfect summary of all the themes we’ve talked about so far. He started by discussing how the pandemic has created many winners and losers, touched on how marketers around the world have changed their content strategies, and focused on creating even more. content, and noted that content fatigue is real and detrimental to marketers’ efforts.

With this in mind, he created an analogy of a castle and a moat. The client built a castle and defended it with a moat to protect against unwanted content and marketing messages.

If you know anything about moated castles, then you understand that it is almost impossible to besiege a moated castle. If you manage to cross the moat somehow and approach the castle with ladders, the defenders can just push your ladders back, leaving you stranded as they bombard you from above.

moated castle

picture by Bruna Noronha from Pexels.

So how can you access the fortress? The drawbridge, of course.

Every castle must have a drawbridge to let people in and out, and the key to crossing that bridge is to be invited by the client. For marketers, Jay outlined three drawbridges they can use to build trust with customers:

  • Deliver the right message. Going too narrow or too broad with your message will hurt the effectiveness of your content. Instead, you need to think about how your content can be radically relevant to your customer. No one likes to receive information that isn’t tailored to their needs, so be sure to deliver a personalized message that will resonate with your customer and address their unique situation.

  • Select the right messenger. Can your customers see themselves in your content messaging, or is it all “branded”? Customers tend to trust people who have been in their shoes, whether friends or influencers, more than a message from a vague entity like a brand. Think about how you can tell stories from your customer’s perspective and you’ll find a messenger who can safely cross the drawbridge.

  • Choose the right modality. People want different things depending on where they are in decision-making. As such, you need to identify the type of content you need for someone at a certain stage of the journey, but it doesn’t have to be the last or only piece of content for that stage of the journey. . You need to develop a content ecosystem that allows customers to fully self-educate using the modalities they prefer.

Although you cannot storm a moated castle, you can be invited inside across the drawbridge. To do this, look for ways to be radically relevant to your customer through the right message, the right messenger, and the right modality.

CMWorld 2021 and its keynote presentations demonstrated that the industry has evolved over the past year. Content marketing has become more mature, more thoughtful, and more resilient. As we move forward, keep these key points and overarching themes in mind and incorporate them into your marketing plans. By doing so, you can create a brand message that will not only capture your audience’s attention, but resonate with them in the year to come and beyond.

Curious to learn more about the latest trends and best practices in marketing? To verify The content standardSkyword’s guide to improving your marketing prowess.

Featured Image Attribution: Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels.