5 Rules For Marketers for Successful Engagement

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If Adobe’s latest reports (parts 1 and 2) on its study of the State of Content in six Western countries is anything to go by, marketers have new rules for successful engagement in the coming years. That is mixed news for marketers because it may necessitate a complete shake-up of your content marketing strategies. Don’t worry, these can be good news for you, if you are creative and can see the potential.

Changing content preferences

The first report, published in October 2015, is titled “The State of Content: Expectations on the Rise” and focuses on consumers’ changing expectations of content they receive.

What stands out from the report’s key findings are that consumers are less interested in more informative content than they are in entertaining content. More than a third of the Millennials interviewed both don’t check that content they share is accurate and tend to devalue accuracy. Roughly 60% of the people surveyed tend to doubt the accuracy of content they consume anyway and they trust friends and family far more than news anchors who, in the past, were regarded as credible sources of fact.

Another set of insights from this report to a strong tendency towards using multiple devices at the same time (referred to as “multiscreening”) while also being easily distracted when multiscreening (not really surprising). If they have to choose which medium to consume if limited to a 15 minute time period, they opt for video.

User experience is very important to the survey’s respondents and 73% of those surveyed insist that content “must display well on the device”. They also have a strong preference for beautiful design over “simple and plain” content presentation. This is probably one of the contributing factors for Tumblr’s growing popularity, for example.

New rules for engagement in 2016

Adobe just released its second, follow-up report to the first report and this is where things become even more interesting.

The second report is titled “The State of Content – Rules for Engagement for 2016” and goes beyond the trends analysis in the first report:

This morning, we released findings from one of the industry’s largest and broadest global surveys of consumer views on digital content. We surveyed more than 12,000 consumers across six countries to get a deeper understanding of evolving consumer expectations and how they are fueling marketers’ challenge. The report, titled “State of Content: Rules of Engagement for 2016” sheds light on five rules for content marketers to follow in optimizing engagement with their target audiences.

The multiscreen reality

The first report highlighted just how prevalent multiscreening is. The second report emphaizes the importance of designing for this new reality. This means that your content has to display beautifully on a variety of device form factors with variable resolutions and contexts. One important point is that great design is essential to counter shorter attention spans. Content marketers just can’t expect to engage meaningfully with consumers using a “one-size-fits all approach to content distribution”.


If you know what #TLDR is, you are familiar with the unfortunate and growing resistance to longer form content. Consumers increasingly prefer shorter content pieces and will not persevere with a piece if it doesn’t meet their length, quality or formatting requirements. That doesn’t bode well for in-depth opinion and analysis pieces, unfortunately. On the other hand, it does mean that if you can find the perfect combination of those key elements, you have a better chance of capturing your consumers’ already limited attention.

Don’t be so serious

Humor has always been a great way to engage with people. Adobe’s report highlights the need for marketers to lighten up and use humor more liberally in their campaigns. Coupled with a growing reluctance to verify facts and a distrust of seemingly accurate materials (largely because most respondents distrust the sources’ motives), you should be more focused on entertaining content.

They don’t trust you

Although hardly a new trend, it is interesting to see how much respondents trust friends and family over previously trustworthy and influential sources. This is a blessing in disguise because, although they don’t trust you, if you can capture the attention of their friends and family, you will be better positioned to cultivate strong relationships with your target customers. This is why it is so important to create unmissable ads and explore more experiential campaigns that use augmented and virtual reality.

As for permission

Another important reminder is that assuming you can use consumers’ data without asking them for permission is a bad practice. Many brands technically secure permission using privacy statements no-one reads and that tends to be legally compliant. Unfortunately consumers aren’t as concerned about legal compliance as they are about transparency and respect for their data. If you have operated on the premise that your privacy statement covers you adequately, you may be interested in Adobe’s findings:

The majority of consumers understand the value of predictive recommendations, with 73 percent noting they are willing to share at least one piece of information about themselves and 71 percent reporting they are open to predictive recommendations from brands based on past behavior. Among consumers not willing to share their information, 40 percent believe companies could do something to ease their concern and 25 percent suggested “asking permission to access data” would make them more comfortable. This maps back to trust; consumers are most comfortable sharing information with brands they trust.

Fortunately, alleviating consumers’ concerns and taking advantage of such a strong willingness to share personal data to improve their experience of your marketing isn’t difficult. Be more transparent about the data you want to collect and what you intend to use it for. Most importantly, show the value you will give consumers in return.

The silver lining

There is no doubt that marketers have to adapt to a changing market and this report highlights some of the bigger changes taking place. Rather than frustrating marketers, these trends mean that smart marketers have more opportunities to engage more effectively with consumers. Only unimaginative and sluggish marketers will suffer. Which are you?

In the meantime, here are the highlights of the second report in a handy infographic:


Header image credit: Snapwire Snaps, released under CC0

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