What Impact Does Content Actually Have on Consumers?

'Content' is the latest marketing buzzword. Most marketers are investing in creating it and if they're not, they're intending to. But what impact does content really have on consumers, and what types of content are the most effective? These are questions which a recent study by inPowered, in association with Neilsen, attempted to answer.The study, which was US-based, involved 900 respondents recruited off casino floors in Las Vegas (which sounds like an odd methodology but is actually an excellent way of securing a US sample with wide geographic origins). The participants were exposed to 3 content types - expert content, user reviews and branded content - and answered an online survey both before and after that exposure to see what impact that content had on their brand familiarity, brand affinity and purchase intentions for products in a number of categories.The results of the study are outlined in the chart below.Contents_Influence_on_ConsumersWhat were the study's conclusions? As you can see from the chart, although all content types had some success at increasing product familiarity, affinity and purchase intent, content written by credible, third party experts performed best overall.That's no surprise. Third party experts are more likely to be trusted over branded content because of their perceived impartiality - 50% of those surveyed wouldn't trust a product's branded website for an unbiased assessment. And experts are experts, so are deemed to be more informative than both branded content and user reviews.But the results reveal some interesting variations by product type. Branded content was more powerful where product specifications were a key part of the decision making process - for technical products like digital cameras and smartphones. However, user reviews were more powerful in categories were the users were deemed to have a high degree of product expertise - for example video games, where gamers trusted the views of other gamers, or child car seats, where parents trusted the views of other parents.Most interesting for luxury brands, expert content was found to be by far the most influential for purchases over $1,000 in value. Although branded content drove familiarity and affinity it was not as effective at influencing the final purchase decision. User reviews were found to have a much less relevance for these types of purchases. The study found that as the value of the purchase fell, user reviews became more influential.The learnings? Well, definitely the importance of securing quality 3rd party reviews for your product. But although 3rd party content generally was the most influential, all types of content had some impact. It seems like a broad-based content strategy makes sense for most product categories in order to successfully move consumers through the purchase funnel.But perhaps the most telling finding is that this study provides further evidence that content marketing works. It may be that marketers need to adjust their efforts to help create the types of content that consumers find most useful, but the time and effort marketers are investing in content per se is clearly well worth it.

ContentGraham Painter