By 2014, Forbes Magazine's website had written about the seven most popular ways companies use content marketing.[16] In it, the columnist points out that by 2013, use of content marketing had jumped across corporations from 60% a year or so before, to 93%[17] as part of their overall marketing strategy. Despite the fact that 70% of organizations are creating more content, only 21% of marketers think they are successful at tracking return on investment.

Of course, generating revenue is a key goal for many marketers, and content marketing can be a powerful driver. When you build an audience that trusts you and wants to hear from you, they are more likely to purchase your products. For instance, CMI subscribers are more likely to take advantage of CMI paid offerings such as attending Content Marketing World than non-subscribers.


28. Home Depot: Spreading seasonal knowledge. Home Depot shares excellent content year-round, but I especially admire how their content is hyper-focused on what’s top-of-mind for customers in the changing seasons. Energy-efficiency during the holidays, selecting a Christmas tree, and how to create a wreath were all recent articles as I wrote this post in late December. To ensure timeliness, Home Depot is always thinking ahead to the next few seasons and anticipating customers’ future needs — a great reminder for all brands who create content.
To maximize the visibility into and reporting of ROI, every deliverable must be tracked from conception to creation to conversion. From there, you’re able to assign a specific dollar amount to each line of copy and every strategic decision. In this sense, executives will likely be grading content marketing on granularity: They need more data, more details and more reason to further invest in future campaigns.
While this is obviously so, this goes for all forms of “marketing” from an integrated perspective. Nevertheless, content marketing, regardless of definitions and terms, can be clearly differentiated in many ways from other marketing tactics and approaches. Even if phenomena and activities such as corporate blogging – and, going back far more in time, storytelling – are older that the term content marketing, they are often mentioned in a content marketing context. This also means that often definitions overlap. Corporate blogging is a good example as it is defined as a content marketing practice but also as social media marketing and inbound marketing. More about the difference between content marketing and inbound marketing here. Finally, as new – mainly digital – evolutions (also driven by consumer adoption), it’s clear that content marketing will continue to evolve, as will media evolutions, as the increasing focus on “converged media” clearly indicates.
Burberry is known for some of the best content marketing examples for a luxury consumer brand. But by far one of their most interesting digital marketing campaigns was the Burberry Kisses. This campaign revolved around their line of beauty products and had a simple premise – you could send a virtual kiss to someone you know after virtually choosing a lipstick.
The key word here is “valuable.” It’s what changes this definition from one that could describe almost any form of advertising or marketing. You can tell if a piece of content is the sort that could be part of a content marketing campaign if people seek it out, if people want to consume it, rather than avoiding it. So was VW’s 2014 “Game Day” commercial, which has been viewed on YouTube almost 18 million times as of the writing of this post, an ad, or content marketing? The answer is it’s both, depending on how it’s received by each individual who is exposed to it. The same will apply to any piece of content marketing you create, depending on whether the recipient received value from it or not. Of course the goal is to provide as much value from your content marketing to as much of your target audience as possible. At this point, despite this definition and explanation, you’re probably still wondering what exactly content marketing is. We can get more clarity by considering a few examples.
Land Rover's content strategy also extends to social media and video. Last fall, Land Rover created a video series in which it followed an adventurer couple and their eight-week-old baby taking a two-week trip across Europe in a Land Rover Discovery. It also created a 360-degree video where viewers could go sailing with the Land Rover team in Bermuda ahead of the 35th America's Cup.

Be sure to talk frankly about the outcomes they should expect from content marketing. Brand building? Check. Helps your social efforts? Check. Increases your audience? Check. But because most content marketing sits up at the awareness stage of the funnel, it's not realistic to expect customers will go en masse from reading one blog post to buying all the things.


EXAMPLE: River Pools and Spas changed its mission from being a pool installer to being “the best teachers in the world about fiberglass pools” — and then started to answer specific customer questions in blog posts. As Marcus Sheridan explained, that decision was “one of the most prosperous days of our lives,” as that was when customers started coming to them. View the case study:

16. Method cleaning products: Soap Dish blog. Method’s blog contains tips and tricks for house cleaning, cooking, and eco-friendly living. It all ties in with Method’s mission of natural-minded cleanliness, organization, and comfort within the home. For example, check out this post about keeping your hands soft while keeping a house clean. The topic of cleaning a home is so broad, but Method manages to narrow it all down to a tight content focus.

Please, please, please don’t neglect to incorporate visuals into your content strategy. Of course, having a presence on visually-focused channels like Instagram and YouTube is vital -- but when it comes to your written content, don’t afraid to use visuals there, as well. After all, articles with an image once every 75-100 words got double the number of social shares than articles with fewer images.
Books. Like movies, people often think of books as selling themselves, but savvy marketers don’t sell books just to sell books, they sell books as marketing tools. Michael Port’s sales manual Book Yourself Solid is a great read for entrepreneurs, salespeople, and marketers, and while I’m sure Port enjoys selling his book, the book is a tool for driving customers to his coaching and speaking services. Although with self-publishing it’s easier than ever to publish a book, there is still the perception that it’s difficult and that only reputable professionals can publish a business book. Publish your own, and even if people don’t read it you can still use it as a form of content marketing every time you’re introduced as “Author of…”
Deloitte is a professional services company specializing in consulting, tech, auditing, and more. It works with a massive cross-section of industries, from government agencies to life sciences -- and that broad range of knowledge is a major selling point. That’s why creating informed, useful content for individual, specialized audiences is core to its marketing strategy.
Take one look at The Orange Dot, the brand’s blog, and you’ll see what he means. Every post, video, and social share is paired with a unique and vibrant image, GIF, or animation that grabs a reader's attention. While posts reference meditation, there's no hard sell for Headspace. Rather, a designed call to action is embedded in each post, and there's also a persistent sign-up button on the blog's header.
On Instagram, Taco Bell posts original illustrations and photos commissioned for the brand. On YouTube, Taco Bell has a number of fan-inspired series, like "For Here or To Go," which shows how to take menu items to the next level through creative ordering in-store or easy cooking hacks at home. On Twitter, Taco Bell often retweets or responds to fans' posts. In addition, Taco Bell uses Twitter to drive people to its presence on other platforms, like Snapchat. (Speaking of Snapchat, you may remember that on Cinco de Mayo 2016, Taco Bell released a filter that turned users' faces into giant tacos. It was viewed more than 224 million times that day – and no, that's not a typo!)
Identify where target audiences are spending their time online, and where relevant conversations are already taking place. For retail companies, maybe it’s Instagram and Pinterest. For B2B, it might be Twitter and LinkedIn. Instead of wasting time and resources on social media that won’t deliver, focus on the right channels with the biggest payoffs...
Chanel uses content to essay its rich legacy to the audience. None of their stories are about the user or the customer. Rather, they’re about the elusive charm that Coco Chanel translated to all her products. By revealing slivers of the brand, it makes users believe that they’re part of an exclusive club where limited, veiled access itself is a privilege.
You're looking for trends to see what successes you can build on and what needs improvement. Don't forget to look for gaps. Sometimes the content you most need is the content that isn't yet there. Do you have 15 posts about tools for every one case study? Are all of your posts about advanced niche topics? What if your audience is full of beginners who want to learn from other people's experience? Looking back through and classifying/quantifying your previous work gives you a bird's-eye view of where you've been in the past and where you have yet to venture.
EXAMPLE: River Pools and Spas changed its mission from being a pool installer to being “the best teachers in the world about fiberglass pools” — and then started to answer specific customer questions in blog posts. As Marcus Sheridan explained, that decision was “one of the most prosperous days of our lives,” as that was when customers started coming to them. View the case study:
Content marketing is nothing without strategy. You can have the most interesting, thought-provoking piece of content out there, but it’s nothing if it can’t be found by the right people. No matter what stage of your content creation you’re in, whether you’re in pre-planning, development, or finishing up and wondering how to present it to the world, now is the time to start thinking about the best strategy for optimizing and distributing that content to your audience.
“It put content marketing, as a program, on the map for USAA, where it had never been before,” says Mollie Walker, Lead Marketing Manager and Content Strategy Lead, USAA. “Over time, we hope to show that the more we grow our content marketing as a program and discipline, the more we can save on the awareness media that we have to purchase. We’re filling that gap and telling a story in between awareness and buying stages.”
An Australian company, Metro Trains, wanted to run a campaign that would promote rail safety; normally, safety messages are dull, boring, and nobody really pays attention to them. But advertising agency McCann Melbourn wanted to help Metro Trains create something that would make people sit up and listen – and that’s exactly what they achieved with “Dumb Ways to Die”.

Last January, Marriott released the 35-minute "Two Bellmen Three," set in Seoul, Korea. The goal of the film: to highlight Marriott's Asian properties and capture a piece of the wedding market. As part of the release, Marriott offered "Two Bellmen"-themed wedding, food, and spa packages at participating hotels. To date, "Two Bellmen Three" has more than 9 million YouTube views. 

The content marketing examples above provide some excellent inspiration for the modern marketer that’s eager to do more with their content. Whether you work to personalize your messaging or just want to do something out of the ordinary with your content story, it’s essential that you keep your audience in mind when developing content ideas. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to have fun!

The Common Language in Marketing website is an ongoing and comprehensive encyclopedia of globally relevant and standardized marketing terms, activities, metrics, and systems. This open-source, curated library of definitions combines the insights of leading marketing academics, industry trade associations, and subject matter experts with input from the broader community. 
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