Let’s take a peek inside the black box of content marketing: How and why does it work?

Black Box, a joint research project of the Jyväskylä University School of Business and Economics (JSBE) and the University of Tampere, examined the logic of content marketing. According to Project Researcher Hanna Reinikainen from JSBE, the results highlight the role of the public because it is the public’s expectations and experiences of a brand that determine how useful the content a brand produces is.

Brands should, more sharply than before, acknowledge the types of expectations and earlier experiences the public has and what the brand’s latitude is from the perspective of the public. Often the latitude is narrower for established brands. Usually the public has strong views on what is suitable for an established brand and who can speak for it.

Good content is useful, truthful and personal

According to Black Box, usefulness and truthfulness are key characteristics of good content. For the public, useful content is informative and, at its best, also entertaining. According to the researchers, “truthfulness” refers particularly to how the public views the truth of content.

The study indicated that the public may feel intimacy with people they meet through social media. Bloggers who openly discuss their life may feel familiar, and the same experience can emerge with brand representatives in social media if their updates are personal. The feeling of familiarity and real interaction may motivate the audience to return to the content repeatedly and spend more time with it.

Measurement of content marketing starts from targets

Content marketing must be measured to ensure it is efficient and can be developed further. Measurement should always be based on targets set by the company itself – usually comparison to other brands is not sensible.

The success of influencer marketing is usually monitored through likes, shares and comments. Black Box showed that the public’s participation increases the influencer’s credibility, which also promotes the efficiency of the endorsement. Thus, the public’s participation may indicate successful influencer marketing and a positive attitude towards the brand.

Content marketing planning based on research results

”Our research results may not surprise content marketing professionals. For example, the usefulness of content and human-to-human marketing have been discussed in the field for a long time. However, scientific data can help us offer a stronger foundation for marketing communications strategy work in companies,” Reininkainen says.

Black Box is a research project funded by Business Finland in 2016 to 2018. It has analysed more than 100 content marketing cases from 9 companies, interviewed more than 20 content marketing experts and collected answers from over 2,000 representatives of the public.

”The best communications and marketing result from cooperation,” Reinikainen explains.”With the help of our excellent project partners we were able to collect data from the public. This also made it possible for the doctoral students in the project to further their own research.”

In the future, the Black Box project will be used as the basis for the development of a digital content compass (DigiCC), which will help to focus and enhance content marketing and take account of the expectations of the public in more detail. The DigiCC project is also funded by Business Finland.

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