Marketers have seen their jobs transformed over the past ten years. The transformation is happening again—but faster and with more complexity this time. According to a recent survey of 478 high-level marketing executives worldwide by my colleagues at The Economist Intelligence Unit, more than 80% of marketers say they need to restructure marketing to better support the business. And 29% believe the need for change is urgent. 

Progressive marketers aren’t waiting. They are moving from acting as stewards of the brand to taking on ownership of the customer experience, a transformation that has dramatically increased marketing budgets and focused the C-suite on tying those expenditures to growth. 

Marketing expenditures now total as much as $1 trillion globally, according to McKinsey & Co., putting marketers under increasing scrutiny. Despite the cost pressures, CEOs are looking to their CMOs more than ever to drive top-line growth. 

The rise of the marketer is, of course, driven by the rise of the empowered customer, which represent an entirely new marketing challenge and a potentially powerful positive force. Engagement leads to loyalty, and loyalty to revenue through retention, renewal, and recommendations. 

Getting there, however, is not simple. As marketers embrace content as a key to engagement, they walk a fine line between serving their customers and overwhelming them.  And, in the B2B space, the pressure to compete for attention with B2C brands that have long put a premium on creative, is pushing marketers away from their own strengths. 

In order to better understand the current state of B2B content marketing my colleagues at The Economist Group, working in association with Hill+Knowlton Strategies, conducted an online survey among 1,644 executives globally. The results show a readership that is overwhelmed by the amount of content coming at them – but still hungry for more – and willing to reward those who can get it right with brand advocacy and sales. 

Global business executives are seeking substance and willing to put their trust in brands that can show they are rigorous in their methodology, creative in their thinking, and innovative in their distribution. Yet, as more and more marketers shift from traditional advertising to content, quality is declining as quantity continues to rise. 

So, how do you cut through the noise and become a trusted source of content? Be more creative, yes, but – and it’s a rather big but – but not at the expense of the fundamentals.  

Our study found that while business audiences appreciate an increase in the aesthetics and entertainment value of content produced by brands, they put the highest value on credible content of substance.  More than 95% of the executives we surveyed said they are looking for content that pushes them beyond their current thinking  -- and is fact based. 

The complete study is available at Some highlights include: 

  • Three of five global executives are confused or overwhelmed by the volume of content they encounter, with more than half noting that “intrusiveness” has increased. 
  • Seventy-five percent have become more selective about the content they consume, with just over 80% citing the volume as the reason. 
  • Yet 33% of executives consume thought leadership daily, and 20% have increased consumption “a lot” over the past 12 months. 
  • After consuming compelling thought leadership, 76% are influenced in their purchasing decisions, 67% would advocate for that brand, and 83% are influenced in the choice of business partners. 
  • Compelling thought leadership is “innovative,” “big picture,” “credible,” and “transformative, while unimpressive content is “superficial,” “sales driven,” and “biased.” 
  • Credibility is based on the quality of research; nearly half of executives would consider a new source of content if it were a “source of hard facts.”

As content marketing becomes embedded into marketers’ tactics, remember the ante is still a robust methodology that leads to distinctive, defensible content. In an age of content overload, it is substance, not style, which cuts through the noise.

By: Jeff Pundyk Senior Vice President, Global Integrated Content Solutions, at The Economist Group