Coke's "share a Coke" content marketing campaign

How effective is content marketing?

Measuring the impact of content marketing is no easy feat. Those of you who already work in a content marketing role will know what challenges and pitfalls may await – for example, ambitious channel managers will take the accolades when content performs well (i.e. dressing up the performance of strong on site content as “performing well for SEO”). So what’s the best way to assess the effectiveness of your content marketing efforts – in a way that doesn’t sell your value short? Here’s how I do it…

Scott Bampton 6 months ago

How effective is content marketing? It can be very, very effective. Brands like Coca-Cola, Old Spice, and Blendtec have used clever content marketing campaigns to drive impressive commercial results and enhance their brand profiles.

Overcoming a few key challenges is all that’s really preventing any good content marketer from replicating some level of that success: the key is to overcome siloed thinking and ensuring alignment on what constitutes “effective” content marketing for your brand…

The challenges in measuring content marketing effectiveness

The common practice of viewing marketing results through the lens of single channels can make it difficult to separate and evaluate the content itself in terms of its effectiveness – especially if you’re creating really valuable content that’s designed to perform well in a cross-channel campaign involving social media, email marketing, your website, and the like.

In reality, of course, all of these things pulling together is what creates effectiveness; the selection of the right content formats, the strategic placement of that content on the right channels, the skill and knowledge that goes into the production of this content, and much more.

So it is quite often the bane of a content marketer’s existence when they’re asked to demonstrate the effectiveness of their content strategy and/or the content they’ve produced. After all, what does “effective” even mean when content is involved? How might that measurement differ across different channels? Should an “effective” social media post be given as much weight as the “effective” e-com landing page that posit points to?

You’re probably going to be looking at a different set of criteria and metrics to assess the effectiveness of each one. So it’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming that if the social post is scoring well on social media success metrics (like click through rate), and the landing page is doing the same for its relevant success metrics (like number of conversions), then all must be well, right?

Not necessarily. And even if that is the case, viewing effectiveness in such a granular way can really sell your value as a content marketer short.

Get the overall marketing basics right first

But let’s take a step back to the real basics. First, it’s imperative to ensure success metrics have been established and tracking set up for all of the relevant channels your content will be placed on…

The key is to ensure the route to measuring effectiveness – of marketing in general and in turn content marketing – is laid out clearly up front. Because the effectiveness of content marketing really comes down to one question: why did you produce this content in the first place? Was it to achieve better search visibility? Was it to engage a social media audience? Was it to drive more conversions on your website? All legitimate ways to assess the effectiveness of individual pieces of content for example a social media video, a landing page etc. So these metrics need to be agreed and tracking set up before content strategy stage and waaayyy before the content production machine swings into action.

Key metrics for success

These will of course depend on overall strategic needs as not every marketing campaign is going to be aiming for the same outcome. But these are some general examples of typical key metrics and benchmarks for marketing campaigns:

Return on investment (ROI):

  • Example: If you spent £1,000 on a marketing campaign and generated £5,000 in revenue, your ROI would be [(Revenue – Cost) / Cost] * 100 = ((£5,000 – £1,000) / £1,000) * 100 = 400%.
  • Customer acquisition cost (CAC):
    • Example: If you spent £10,000 on marketing activities and acquired 100 new customers, your CAC would be £10,000 / 100 = £100 per customer.
  • Conversion rate:
    • Example: If your website had 10,000 visitors, and 500 of them made a purchase, your conversion rate would be (500 / 10,000) * 100 = 5%.
  • Click-through rate (CTR):
    • Example: If your email campaign was sent to 1,000 subscribers, and 100 of them clicked on a link, your CTR would be (100 / 1,000) * 100 = 10%.
  • Customer lifetime value (CLV or LTV):
    • Example: If, on average, a customer brings in £500 in revenue and stays with your business for three years, their CLV would be £500 * 3 = £1,500.
  • Churn rate:
    • Example: If you started the month with 1,000 customers and lost 50 during the month, your churn rate would be (50 / 1,000) * 100 = 5%.
  • Social media engagement:
    • Example: If your Facebook post received 500 likes, 100 comments, and 50 shares, your engagement would be 650 (likes + comments + shares).
  • Organic traffic growth:
    • Example: If your website had 5,000 organic visits last month and 7,000 this month, your organic traffic growth would be (7,000 – 5,000) / 5,000 * 100 = 40%.
  • Brand awareness metrics:
    • Example: Using surveys or social media sentiment analysis to measure the increase in positive brand mentions or recognition over time.
  • Lead generation metrics (Cost per Lead):
    • Example: If you spent £2,000 on a lead generation campaign that generated 200 leads, your cost per lead would be £2,000 / 200 = £10 per lead.
  • Email marketing metrics (Open rate and Click-through rate):
    • Example: If your email campaign had a 20% open rate and a 10% click-through rate, these percentages represent the proportion of recipients who opened the email and clicked on a link, respectively.
  • Customer satisfaction score (CSAT):
    • Example: After a customer interaction, you ask them to rate their satisfaction on a scale from 1 to 5. The average score represents your CSAT.
  • Net promoter score (NPS):
    • Example: After a purchase or interaction, you ask customers, “On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend our product/service to a friend?” Based on their responses, customers are classified as promoters, passives, or detractors.
  • Ad impressions and reach:
    • Example: If your online ad was shown 1 million times, the ad impressions would be 1 million, and if it reached 500,000 unique users, the reach would be 500,000.
  • Mobile app metrics (Downloads, Installs, Retention):
    • Example: If your mobile app was downloaded 10,000 times, installed on 8,000 devices, and retained on 6,000 devices after a month, these represent important metrics for app success.

You may not be responsible for setting up, tracking, or meeting all of these metrics. But as content marketers, we are accountable. That’s the difference between actual content marketing and just “making stuff” – our value is in creating content that’s effective in helping meet marketing goals. So whether you’re on a small team, or running the whole marketing show yourself at a small company, it’s essential to determine which of these metrics are relevant and to ensure they are being tracked.

Because the difficult part is when you get to the point of being asked whether content marketing efforts have been effective, and you realise that none of this was talked about upfront. What if nobody took the time to define what overall success looks like? What if nobody had the opportunity to manage expectations of key stakeholders (like a client or a C-suite executive?).

Set the bar up front

So the key is to have these conversations up front. Have them with all of the relevant stakeholders nice and early so that everyone is clear what success looks like. So that everybody is clear how content marketing will support and augment the overall marketing efforts. So that everybody is clear how these combined efforts will benefit the brand. And that’s really a question to throw back at whoever asked you to create the content marketing efforts in the first place; what are they expecting from this? To enhance brand metrics? To drive more sales? To reach new audiences?

A solid overall marketing strategy should be able to answer all of this. That, im turn, should be based on a well-founded company strategy. After all, content marketing is kind of at the end of this chain of thinking; as content marketers we get asked to produce content strategies and produce content to meet a marketing need. That marketing need exists to fulfil a company need. So before starting on any kind of strategic work, and certainly before starting on any kind of content production work, it’s really really important to ask the above questions. If you know why you are creating a content strategy or a piece of content, you should be able to determine its purpose. That should then tell you how it’s likely to be evaluated in terms of effectiveness. Plugging in the specific metrics and benchmarks to measure this performance is the easy bit!

The secret sauce – how to really evaluate the effectiveness of content marketing

We, as content marketers, can use a “secret sauce” to really hammer home the overall benefit of having a really strong content mix.

Because we sit across the full mix of channels, platforms and properties (compared to, say, an SEO manager who’s possibly not that interested in how social media metrics are looking). In a lot of cases, we have more of a bird’s eye view on the overall content mix. We can evaluate a landing page’s effectiveness, for example, across different audiences, different acquisition channels etc. We can be the glue that holds all of that together. We can really demonstrate our value by showing our understanding of how a strong content ecosystem can work together to drive even stronger results across the board.

This is often called the “halo effect”, which can be very difficult to measure. After all, demonstrating the effectiveness of having a truly integrated cross-channel content strategy can be a challenge if you’re working with stakeholders who are used to evaluating marketing success through the lens of a single channel – e.g. social media managers focused on engagement rates, SEO managers who are seemingly obsessed only with rankings.

So here are some examples of how to measure that secret sauce – the halo effect of a strong content marketing mix:

Cross-platform consistency

  • This is about ensuring your brand feels the same no matter where customers find you
    • Keep your messaging consistent
    • Make sure your look and feel match across platforms
    • Ensure your tone of voice are consistent
  • How to track
    • Regularly review how your brand is presented on different platforms
    • Use brand monitoring tools (like Brandwatch or Mention) that notify you when your brand is mentioned to maintain consistency
    • Share guidelines with your team for a unified approach
  • Content cohort analysis
    • Understanding how people interact with your content over time
      • See how many users stick around after engaging with your content
      • Track blended conversion rates over different channels over time
      • Observe how users continue to interact with your content
    • How to do it
      • Group users based on their content engagement
      • Follow their behaviour over different time periods
      • Analyse how their interactions with content influence their overall journey
      • Use analytics platforms (like Google Analytics or Mixpanel), and customer relationship management (CRM) systems for customer data.
  • Customer insights
    • Get direct insights as to how your audience feels about your content.
      • Check overall satisfaction scores from different avenues
      • Pay attention to specific feedback on content relevance
      • Collect suggestions for improvement
    • How to gather insights:
      • Regularly ask for, and collate, feedback through surveys after interactions
      • Use open-ended questions for deeper insights
      • Analyse the sentiment in customer feedback to understand their feelings
      • Use survey tools (like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms)
      • Social listening tools (such as Hootsuite or Brandwatch)
  • Extended brand reach and sentiment
    • See how far your content reaches outside your owned channels.
      • Count how many times your brand is mentioned
      • Analyse the sentiment behind those mentions
      • Look at where and how prominently your brand is mentioned
    • How to keep an eye on it:
      • Monitor press releases, industry publications, and online media
      • Understand the sentiment and context around each brand mention
      • Track how your content influences coverage beyond your owned channels
      • Use media monitoring tools (like Meltwater or Cision) and social listening tools (like Hootsuite or Sprout Social) for wider online mentions.

Best-in-class content marketing that measured success in this way:

Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like”

  • Objective: Rebrand and appeal to a younger audience.
    • The campaign became a viral sensation.
    • Substantial social media engagement and positive sentiment.
  • Significant growth in sales and market share.
  • Nike’s “Breaking2” Campaign
  • Created a documentary-style content series following athletes attempting to break the 2-hour marathon barrier.
  • Generated massive social media engagement and discussions around the event.
  • Reinforced Nike’s position as a leader in athletic innovation.
  • Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” Campaign
  • Objective: Increase consumer engagement and personalise the brand.
    • Replaced Coca-Cola logos with popular names and phrases on packaging.
    • Encouraged consumers to share images of personalised Coke bottles on social media.
    • Boosted consumer engagement, leading to increased sales and positive brand sentiment.

Blendtec’s “Will It Blend?” Series

  • Objective: Demonstrate the durability of Blendtec blenders in an entertaining way.
    • The campaign went viral, garnering millions of views
    • Boosted brand recognition and product sales
    • Engaged audiences through a mix of humour and product demonstration.

It would have been easy for any of these brands to fall into the trap of measuring the effectiveness of each channel. For example, for Old Spice to purely view success as a hugh number of video views and shares generated. But instead, they managed to tie engagement and sentiment into the campaign success metrics, and then were able to see the benefit of that on growth in sales and market share.

An effective content marketing campaign is really all about tying channels together and demonstrating how a cross-channel approach with strong content at its core can drive much stronger results than viewing success through individual channels. Blendtec’s “Will It Blend?” Series didn’t succeed in growing market share because of a well-optimised landing page. Or because their website ranked well. Or because they promoted it using well-optimised ads. It succeeded because the content was genius. It was engaging. It got attention. It kept attention. And so whenever, and wherever a video viewer next saw the Blendtec name, that imagery was already burned into their heads. The content strategy formed a link between a, frankly hilarious video series (seriously, watch them all if you haven’t!) and raising the company’s profile in a way that drove string commercial results,

So by evaluating content marketing through the lens of its overall effectiveness in benefiting the company…that’s where you can really demonstrate the value of a well-thought-out, well executed content marketing campaign. Talk about those success metrics up front, agree them, track them, and you can look forward to reporting back on a successful content marketing campaign.

Written By

Over the past 17 years, I've developed a passion for helping businesses understand content marketing in simple terms. I've been lucky enough to work at some of the most well-regarded agencies in the world - on successful campaigns for Bosch, Optum Health, University of Southern California, JD Sports Brands, Fosters Wine, Greene King, Tough Mudder, University of Arizona and Disney Interactive. I've also held in-house content marketing roles at Silicon Valley tech unicorn Truepill, and WPP-owned AI company Satalia.