At our content marketing company Masthead Media, we're always on the lookout for the "next big things" in branded content. In 2017, it was all about VR, AR, episodic content, and brand studios--trends that will very much continue into the new year.

I came back from this year's Content Marketing World with even more inspiration about what's next--particularly in the world of branded content--and expect to see these five trends take off in 2018.

Branded Podcasts

I've said it before: the best way to capture a millennial's attention is through her ears, which is why many savvy brands ranging from GE to Tinder are leaning into branded podcasts. Not only do roughly 67 million people ages 12 and over listen to podcasts each month, but 85 percent of people who start a podcast listen to all or most of it, according to a study by Edison Research. In an age where attention spans are hard to capture, that completion rate makes podcasts a desireable marketing vehicle (not to mention they are far less expensive to create than videos).

Audio Optimization

Another reason branded podcasts are becoming so desirable is the ability to optimize them--or snippets of them--through different platforms, specifically Alexa. Consumers and brands alike can program skills into Amazon Echo (via Alexa), meaning consumers can have your podcast at their beck and call. This channel as a marketing platform is still in its infancy, but look out for brands to program skills, and make a big push for consumers to enable them.


Like Siri for brands, chatbots respond to texts or digital chats, carrying on a conversation with the consumer on the other end. Bots can be used for entertainment, customer service, or to connect with customers in between purchases. Even more exciting for your sales team: bots have evolved to incorporate ecommerce capabilities.

Content Collaboration

Brands have long created crossover merchandise, but now we're starting to see that collaborative spirit emerge in content partnerships. By partnering with like-minded brands on content, brands can get their messages in front of new audiences, and harness the creative power of two marketing departments to create truly engaging content. Earlier this year Cole Haan and Equinox showed us how it was done with the "Elements of Extraordinary" collaboration in Equinox's Furthermore publication.

Hero Content

Google's indexing algorithms have shifted over the past couple of years, and with it so has the strategy around creating SEO-friendly content. Whereas intros rich in keywords used to help articles rank, high quality content now reigns supreme. While this  doesn't mean that your brand should cancel short, timely blog articles, this does mean that periodically--ideally on at least a quarterly basis--your brand should create long-form, multi-media rich content around your target keywords. In terms of length, a study on Google rankings determined that the first page of its SERPs (search engine results pages) were all content above 2,000 words.