YouTube, newsletters underpin content marketing trends coming out of pandemic

By Sean Stanleigh

The Globe and Mail

Toronto, Canada


I was recently part of a wide-ranging networking discussion with someone who had a deep background in TV commercials, a medium in which I have not professionally dabbled and admittedly tend to dismiss as ineffective.

“Why,” I asked, “would brands spend so much money on something that most people skip? Their money could go so much further online.”

He cited strategies on more relevant content — such as a focus on brand benefits over attributes — and improved measurement technologies. But the line that stuck with me was this: “Commercials can’t exist in a vacuum. All campaigns must take an omnichannel approach.”

I realised my comment isolated one piece of the advertising and marketing puzzle. It got me thinking more broadly about COVID-19 and the positivity creeping back into the economy as vaccine rollouts pick up steam. A lot of brands have retreated from the market in varying degrees in the past year, depending on the business impacts of the pandemic. I get the sense they’re now ready to spend.

YouTube remains one of the most popular search engines on the Web.
YouTube remains one of the most popular search engines on the Web.

As some of my colleagues have pointed out: “Our current landscape presents many similarities to those of the Roaring Twenties: Optimism toward shedding the pandemic lifestyle and living in future abundance.”

That’s going to present a challenge of saturation. New brands will emerge to compete with the brands returning to the arena and those that wisely stuck it out and owned the bulk of the conversations. Without an omnichannel approach, executed over an extended period of time, it’ll be easy to get lost in a sea of distraction. Yes, it’s going to cost money, and yes, it’s going to require a smart strategy to stand out.

So, where to begin?

  1. What makes your brand special? What is its differentiator? How will you articulate it?
  2. What is your desired outcome? What are your key performance indicators (KPIs)?
  3. Who are your target audiences, and what do you know about them?
  4. When do you want to launch and for how long?
  5. What is your budget?

These factors, combined with research and data around relevant topics, are the information drivers that lead Globe Content Studio in creative directions for brand campaigns. Then it’s time to plot the omnichannel strategies.

Here are some of the recommendations we’ll be making related to content marketing for the balance of the year.

Social media and influencers

Huge audiences combined with paid targeting capabilities and engagement potential make these channels the behemoths you can’t buy around. There was chatter around the decline of influencers during COVID-19. But with the emergence of TikTok as a dominant platform, I’d argue they’ve become more important than ever.

Digital and print media

I’m biased, but news media collect rich first-party data from audiences that land on their doorsteps for the exclusive purpose of consuming content. In the case of The Globe and Mail, the overlap between our print and digital audiences is only about 30%. Yes, this means print is still a smart tactic for greater reach.

E-mail and newsletters

Marketing experts for many years have said don’t forget about e-mail, and those words still hold true. Newsletters are a great opportunity to collect audience data from subscribers by delivering relevant information that can spur new prospects to buy. They also aid in client retention.


It’s worth remembering that YouTube isn’t just a video platform; it’s a leading search engine. A recent U.S. survey by the Pew Research Center found YouTube and Reddit were the only social platforms that experienced statistically significant growth during the pandemic. YouTube is also a place for brands to showcase their personality — both in the visual tone of their work and through the people they choose to present it.

Events and live streaming

Zoom fatigue is real. But in Canada, as in many other parts of the world, we’re not going to be physically gathering in the dozens, let alone hundreds, any time soon. We still want to gather to see and hear from each other in a group setting. Webcasts and live social discussions need to be planned thoughtfully to make them engaging and valuable, but when you get them right, you’ll boost brand currency.


This remains a huge growth area as more players continued to pile on, even during the pandemic through remote recording. Why? As the recent ascendance of Clubhouse shows, the intimacy of audio remains a powerful force. Listeners tend to not to skip ads as long as the integration is done well. There’s still the challenge of a lack of deep, insightful measurement to overcome, and it will be interesting to see how that develops in the coming months.

And no, I still won’t be recommending TV commercials. Maybe next year.

About Sean Stanleigh

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