The New Rulebook for Content Has Landed

Topics: Marketing Strategy, Web Marketing

Adobe recently released its annual content report, The State of Content: Rules of Engagement for 2016. As you’d imagine, it does a great job of pulling back the consumer curtain and providing a number of helpful data-driven insights. More importantly, it succinctly lays out some new ground rules for making sure your precious content garners more clicks, views, and shares.

Let’s take a stroll through the highlights. Of course, we recommend downloading the report in its entirety here.


Adobe reported that 83% of global consumers readily admit to multi-screening—using 2.23 devices at the same time. And even in the wake shrinking attention spans, the majority of users (59%) still prefer beautifully designed substantive content over simple content—even if time is short.

Most of us screen hop, so this probably comes as no big surprise. However, it does highlight the need to start content strategies with an omnichannel view in mind, rather than trying to optimize by channel after the fact. That means doing it right, right out of the gate, knowing the experience needs to seamlessly extend across devices. And of course, making sure everything looks amazing, otherwise, why bother, right?


The survey showed that 89% of digital device users immediately jump ship if content fails to meet their expectations. 67% of users stop engaging if content is too long. And eight in 10 would do the same if content doesn’t display well on the device they’re using.

Not only has consumer demand for content reached a fever pitch, all of it has to be top-notch. It’s a perfect storm of quantity and quality. Add to that the need to optimize for length and channel and it’s clear we all have our work cut out for us.

The right approach to determining content type and length all goes back to the customer journey. Here at Axis41, we refer to this as fast and slow content. Essentially, in the awareness stage, you need to keep content emotional, simple, and quick. Then as you move customers through their journey towards the purchasing stage, the content becomes increasingly deeper, more logical, and informative. It’s a classic case of the heart leads the head. In short, don’t hit them with a white paper when they’re really just looking for a quick video.

On a side note, don’t feel bad if you had to look up #TLDR (too long, didn’t read). I had to as well.


The data showed that 70% of global consumers reported that humor makes companies more relatable, but only a mere 14% rate company generated content as actually being entertaining. And ‘making people laugh’ was singled out as the top motivator for sharing content.

It’s safe to say that customers either want to be entertained or enlightened—amuse me or teach me something useful or inspiring. Our client roster is dominated by B2B tech clients, so a large share of the content we create falls in the latter bucket, but there is definitely a time and a place for humor and a lighter tone. Especially at the beginning of the customer journey.

I also think many B2B brands fall into the trap of using language that sounds like two robots communicating, rather than two human beings sharing ideas just because they’re talking about high-tech topics to high-tech audiences.

The truth is, a CTO or a network engineer appreciates humor just as much as the next guy or gal. We’re just people talking to people. Defining and using a brand voice that drops the jargon and adopts a more conversational and approachable tone is going to cut through the noise and help build customer relationships.


Adobe’s report showed that 50% of consumers question whether negative comments or reviews have been purposefully removed, and 49% percent wondered if any author was paid or incentivized to write a positive review. Additionally, 81% percent of consumers consider a product endorsed by a fellow consumer more trustworthy than one endorsed by a celebrity.

As consumers, we are more digitally and socially empowered than ever before. This has bred a healthy dose of skepticism towards online content, especially content directly created by a brand. We put way more stock in recommendations made by a friend or fellow consumer than any celebrity. Which begs the question, why on earth did Nike sign a $1 billion endorsement deal with Lebron James?

Trust is hard won, but easily lost. We make it or break it with every customer interaction, big and small. Which means we must be vigilant brand stewards and on the constant lookout for opportunities to get micro-influencers on our side.


Survey data showed that 73% of consumers are open to suggestions or predictive recommendations from brands based on their past behaviors. 75% of digital device users are willing to share at least one piece of information to improve content recommendations from brands.

There’s a fine line between helpful and creepy. The hard part is finding it and then never crossing it. In many ways, it comes down to not being overly greedy in the use of customer data. Harvest it, but then use it intelligently and carefully. Make things more effortless for me as the customer (like auto-form filling for contact info and checkout), and do respect my screen time with content that actually interests me, but don’t overdo it.

Customers are getting better at understanding that there is a certain give and take at play. Personal digital experiences have to be powered by personal customer data. There’s no way around it. The trick is to provide experiences that provide real value. Experiences that make the customer feel like the trade-off in privacy is worth a better and more meaningful experience.

Common sense leads one to believe that over time repeat customers with deeper brand affinity will become increasingly open to and even expect more personalized brand experiences.

So, there you have the latest rules for transforming your content into customer experiences that help drive your business goals to the finish line. Hopefully, it wasn’t #TLDR. Subscribe to our blog to read more articles like this, and share if you’ve seen the new content rules taking effect in your industry.