I don’t see any obvious connecting thread for everything in this week’s content marketing news, except that everywhere you look you see flux. We have a grab bag of evidence demonstrating that:

  • customer behaviors and expectations are shifting.
  • brand loyalty is harder to build.
  • consumers aren’t sitting still for the ads.
  • yesterday’s winning campaign is a dud today.
  • brand managers keep adding to and sorting through their martech toolkits to keep up.
  • insurgent brands are finding ways to compete and smart incumbent brands are finding ways to connect with niche communities.

In other words, the customer is still saying catch me if you can.

Niche brands are grabbing all the new customers in CPG

Small, niche, new and private label consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands are growing sales and grabbing market shares at a significantly faster rate than the largest CPG brands.

Though each CPG category is up between 2 and 11 percent overall, larger brands actually declined in sales at around 2 to 5 percent, according to an Advertising Age article that reported on findings from digital marketing solutions company Catalina. Shifting within categories, a.k.a. churn, accounts for the biggest dent in sales volume for blue chip CPGs. Per-buyer consumption, rather than new buyers, is the biggest driver of growth for large brands.

This trend in CPG confirms something my colleague Joseph Rauch discussed at length in an an article on how current and lapsed customers are too often overlooked in content marketing.

“I’m not here to make friends” – maker movement edition

Intel is investing in a TBS cable channel reality show called America’s Greatest Makers where contestants compete to create the next great invention. Former Intel researcher Shaheen Amirebrahimi says the company is trying to get back to its roots by encouraging the next generation of tinkerers to build amazing hardware. The casting call is open now for programs airing next year.

This sounds like a great example marketing at the intersection of co-creation, user generated content, brand alignment, activating micro communities of power users and developing content that offers entertainment and education. Can’t wait to see it.

Content marketing and marketing automation getting bigger ROI

U.S. B2B marketers expect content marketing and marketing automation to deliver an increase in return on investment, according to a Spear Marketing study. They also anticipate that predictive analytics and big data will become more important while CRM and SEO technologies will have less of ROI.

Mobile ads cost both publishers and users time and money

The ad blocking conversation blew up the last few weeks. Let’s leave aside the right and wrong of it and how publishers should respond for now. I want to try your attention to a fascinating analysis of the actual dollars and cents costs of NOT ad blocking.

The New York Times looked at what impact ads have on load times and data usage on the the most popular news sites. How of much of the time and data is attributed to editorial, and how much to ads? In the case of mobile viewing, they found that it actually costs you around $.09 worth of your cell phone data plan and 8 seconds of time to load the ads alone on the homepage of most of the top new websites. One outlier, Boston.com, uses $.32 of cell data to load the ads on the front page (an $.08 for editorial.)

I don’t think we should assume people are using ad blockers because they are always so reluctant to see the actual ads. It may that they just want the pages to load already.

B2B content marketing stats and takeaways you’d be crazy not to want

The annual report produced by Content Marketing Institute and other partners on B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends for 2016 was released last week. Here are some of this year’s key points:

  • Only 44% of B2B marketers say their organization is clear about what content marketing success or effectiveness looks like.
  • Sales lead quality will be a more important metric than website traffic.
  • Creating more engaging content is the highest priority for B2B content marketers.
  • B2B content marketers who document their strategy are more effective.
  • The most effective B2B marketers allocate 42% or more of their budget to content.
  • Only 28 percent have a documented editorial mission statement.
  • 76 percent expect to create more content next year.
  • 51 percent say they will increase spending.

B2B direct mail marketers move toward digital

In this age of digital marketing, there are still many B2B marketers who only use the U.S. mail to generate leads. They are, however, moving toward digital or at least adding more digital tactics, according to survey results from information services company Penton SmartReach . Thirty percent in the survey said they were sticking with direct mail exclusively, and 41 percent said they will soon start adding email to the mix.

How many emails is too many?

They should be careful not to send too many generic emails, of course. Consumer engagement with emails from beauty brands has decreased relative to other categories, according to a CosmeticsDesign article that cited a study from Experian Marketing Services.

They analyzed several thousand marketing emails from brands in this sector and found that compared to last year they are 9 percent less likely to be opened and 33 percent less likely to get a click through. The emails are not creative and personalized enough, making consumers frustrated with the large quantity.

The sector is an outlier, though, according to Experian, which found that response rates and revenue per email are about the same as a year ago.

Lawyers need to upgrade their marketing

A survey from law firm Moses and Rooth, in partnership with Mike Blumenthal, reconfirmed something lawyers already know: the most common way for people attorneys is through referrals from friends, family and co-workers, with “internet search” and “Google” close behind.

However, Kevin O’Keefe, founder and CEO of LexBlog, says the underlying driver is relationships and that content marketing is a key way of building those. Lawyers should produce great content so they are relying on more than word of mouth.

He cited legal marketing and SEO consultant Gyi Tsakalakis, who — in an article on Laywernomics —  says lawyers and firms should think of themselves as publishers, not commercial producers.

Like the higher education branding problem we discussed in our last content newsletter, it seems the legal world is struggling to keep up with the marketing curve.

Joseph Rauch contributed research and writing to this article.