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When it comes to content marketing, media spend, programmatic ad buying, and other popular marketing tactics, finding good benchmark data can be hard.

Announced at AdWeek in New York today, Beckon — the marketing performance data platform — has analyzed over $16 billion in omnichannel marketing spend and performance data to better understand what works, what doesn’t, and where to invest your budget.

The report looks at spend and performance data from hundreds of brands, and the findings show some interesting juxtapositions. The most popular tactics, it seems, are actually those that perform worst. And those tactics that do well are simply not being leveraged by a wide enough audience.

“Perhaps the biggest surprise was that the current wisdom that brands need to be content machines is simply not supported by the data,” Jennifer Zeszut, CEO at Beckon, told me. “Brands might be shocked to hear that while branded content creation is up 300 percent year over year, consumer engagement with that content is totally flat. They’re investing a lot in content creation, and it’s not driving more consumer engagement.”

And just how bad is this engagement problem?

“We dug deeper into that flat engagement statistic, to see if we could shed light on why,” Zeszut said. “We found that a very small fraction of branded content — just 5 percent of it — accounts for 90 percent of engagement. The other 95 percent of a brand’s content typically has single digital views and likes.”

That is significant. Content marketing has seen an explosion of late, and it is assumed to be a worthwhile investment.

“Publishing many variations of content may make sense if you’re pursuing highly targeted marketing — only serving targeted content to a targeted subset,” Zeszut said. “But we’re pretty sure fans of targeting and personalization would say they’re investing in all those variations to increase effectiveness, not keep it flat.”

The answer then is to avoid “me too” content at all costs. Original, well-thought-out content will continue to perform well.

“Based on data from Beckon customers, low-quality content seems to be a primary cause of flat engagement,” Zeszut said. “Brands should make sure that content quality and brand standards remain high as they rev their content engines. Don’t create content faster than you can do it well. Lastly, be sure to have effectiveness as your KPI for content teams, not the volume of content published, because what gets measured gets done.”

This drive to create brand content despite poor returns is interesting because there is an entire industry that revolves around promoting content marketing as the Holy Grail of tactics. Beckon certainly didn’t expect it to perform so badly.

“Given how much brands are spending on content creation, this stat is worrying,” Zeszut said. “And while we don’t like raining on the content parade, it does feel good to be a source of truth for the performance side of these marketing trends, and provide perspective to marketers everywhere who crave data and not anecdotes.”

The full report is available from Beckon (PDF).

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