In 1933, Procter & Gamble started to broadcast a radio serial drama sponsored by their Oxydol soap powder. The owners wanted to build brand loyalty by aiming to adult women. They could intermix their marketing messages into the serial drama. The term soap opera was born in this year, and they marked a precedent for native ads. Engagement with the audience was a key element with the creation of this content.
This presentation is drawn from our work here at Convince & Convert, where we create content marketing strategy for some of the best-known brands in the world. (if we can help you, please let us know). In practice, of course, creating a fully functional content marketing plan requires meaningful time and effort (usually 60 days or so for us), but I sincerely hope that this presentation and the seven steps it outlines for how to do this kind of work, will help you take your own content marketing plan to the next level of success.
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: Sainsbury magazine is the top cooking magazine in the United Kingdom, with 3 million paid subscribers — a content marketing effort that pays for itself. But, what’s even more remarkable is that, according to a 2015 survey conducted by the company, eight of 10 readers have bought a product from Sainsbury’s after reading about it in the magazine.
It’s for this reason that we don’t recommend you spend too much time analyzing the many data points you may be able to surface on your competitors. We encourage you to experiment with various tools for competitive data analysis. Just don’t make it a focal point of your content strategy. Your energy is best spent on your unique connection to your best customers.
There are as many types of content marketing as there are types of content--far too many to cover here. My intent is to give you an introduction to content marketing and get you thinking like a content marketer so you’ll see the opportunities all around you. Soon you’ll be coming up with 50 content marketing ideas every day. You won’t be able to stop seeing opportunities to create content. Here are five examples to help your mind start percolating.
The Future of Customer Engagement and Commerce (FCEC) is the widely respected digital magazine behind SAP Hybris’ customer engagement software, and a prime example of how a small team with a long-term vision can strike content gold – and trigger a potential customer’s entry to the marketing funnel. For Global Head of Editorial and Content Marketing for FCEC and SAP Hybris Amy Hatch, who started up the blog as a one-woman show in 2012, it took a simple recipe to ensure her success: consistent publishing, distributing content via social media, and utilizing SEO best practices.
It doesn’t really matter what content marketing stands for. The debates around the definition of content marketing and even its value will not make the lives of your customers better nor will they improve your business. Content marketing is not a holy grail, it’s a popular term for a way of working with content to do better. On the other hand the debate does matter in the sense that often you will read things about content marketing that aren’t correct because the definition was wrong to start with. And misinformation can lead to wrong decisions.
The “marketing” part of content marketing can lead to confusion as content marketing is not just used for strict marketing purposes. It’s also used for sales enablement, public relations, etc. Good programs involve multiple internal customers (customer service, sales, product marketing, brand management, etc.) and content marketing is not owned by marketing (nor by PR or any other division).
You know what segmentation is. In general, it means that your content should appeal to prospects/customers in function of their profile, behavior, journey, personas, etc. You probably think “I am doing that” but instead of targeting people in function of demographics or job functions take it further: industry, expressed needs and challenges, past behavior, triggers, digital signals, cross-channel customer data, whatever. But, most importantly: look at the pain points, questions and concerns of your prospects.
17. Bumble and Bumble: Video style guides. Regardless of if you use Bumble and Bumble’s hair products, its website answers a multitude of questions about blowdrying, dealing with curls, straightening hair, and much more. The company’s robust library of step-by-step videos show how to create any look with any type of hair imaginable. It’s free content that’s as useful as it is memorable when you want to buy your next styling product.
A change in mindset and a library of high-quality content will replace this traditional funnel with something more sustainable (and effective). The funnel is becoming more of an ongoing cycle that prioritizes continuous engagement over transactional relationships. This increased focus on nurturing, especially post-sale, makes customers more likely to stay with you or buy again — and more likely to give recommendations to friends and colleagues.
Social media websites are among the most valuable resources a business can have. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are chock full of members of your niche audience and other potential customers waiting to be found — so be sure to share your content with them! It can even help answer many of their questions while simultaneously establishing your credibility.
While sharing company updates might be helpful for you and your employees internally, your blog can speak to a broader audience, and hyperspecific news really isn’t all that helpful to your readers’ efforts to solve their problems. To truly attract and engage your target audience, your blog has to be entertaining, address questions and pain points, and serve as an educational resource for your readers.
Take Patagonia's response to the Trump administration's decision to reduce the size of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. Patagonia created a visually stunning "interactive film experience" called "Defend Bears Ears," that urges people to take action. In addition, Patagonia shared dedicated posts about this hot topic on its blog, The Cleanest Line, and on social media. One post even famously declared, "The president stole your land."
One final word on creating a content marketing strategy: It’s not a one-and-done process. As things change within your company, and as the nature of the content marketing landscape shifts, you might find that you’ll have to go back and adjust your strategy. Think of your content marketing strategy as something that will grow and change over time, as your brand grows and changes.
To create an ongoing dialogue with its target audience of small business owners, Barclaycard for Business has spent the last few years building up its News and Insights content hub. Articles and infographics run the gamut of topics important to its audience, from how to guard against a cyber attack, to fun quizzes like "How well do you know your business?"
Over the 179 years of its existence, Hermes (Brand value in 2016: $11.7 Billion) has become synonymous with a commitment to design and impeccable taste. This extends to their content as well. La Maison des Carrés or House of Scarves is an online destination dedicated to their most iconic accessory, the scarf. The website is a delight to browse through as every click brings you closer to each creation and leads to a seamless purchase experience.
This information should come partly from doing the steps above. If you’ve determined your audience is primarily on LinkedIn, then they might like in-depth articles, whitepapers or slide decks. If they’re on Facebook, then video and list posts might fit their style. If they spend a decent amount of time on Medium, long-form storytelling might be a good fit.
Go back and read the content marketing definition one more time, but this time remove the relevant and valuable. That’s the difference between content marketing and the other informational garbage you get from companies trying to sell you “stuff.” Companies send us information all the time – it’s just that most of the time it’s not very relevant or valuable (can you say spam?). That’s what makes content marketing so intriguing in today’s environment of thousands of marketing messages per person per day.
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.
EXAMPLE: Sony’s Alpha Universe is a content platform dedicated to photography professionals. While its purpose is to drive product sales for Sony’s Alpha line of cameras, the content focuses not on Sony products but on providing information the audience will find educational and helpful. After starting as a blog, the brand diversified its content into a podcast and a training program.
The new strategy is already seeing strong results. Back then, there were around 10,000 employees in the Adidas LinkedIn community – which happens to be GamePlan A’s most important distribution channel. Today, that number has grown to more than 33,000, along with 673,000 general followers. Most posts link back to the GamePlan A content hub. With hundreds of likes and multiple comments per post, it’s plain to see that Adidas has a highly engaged audience.
Think about it: the average podcast is 35 minutes long, much longer than Bon Appetit’s readers probably engage with a single article on their site. If the content is good, people stick with a podcast much longer than they would linger on a webpage, and they subscribe to receive this content right on their smartphone every week. (If you dig podcasts, check out Salesforce’s new marketing-focused podcast launched in 2015 — the Marketing Cloudcast.)
According to Content Marketing Institute, 65 percent of the most successful content marketers have a documented strategy. A simple content marketing assessment can help companies identify their primary goal and design a successful content strategy to meet it. As strategy becomes more important, companies will need the right tools to align priorities and document their plans.
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!)
With so many ways to publish content as a brand, inspiration always helps. That’s why we created this list of our 30 favorite content marketing examples of 2015. Whether it’s an individual campaign, a new podcast, or an overall blog property, these companies demonstrate what it means to be customer-focused in every content creation effort. As you plan content marketing campaigns for 2016, consider emulating the spirit of these brands who already do it well.
Some of the brands covered here are newcomers to the market, while others are household names that have been around for more than a century. However, they all have one thing in common: they recognize the value of creating great content to engage their audience and generate new leads. Get inspired by their examples and use their success to fuel your own content marketing efforts.
In the latter category we also find platforms that are closely connected with, for instance, marketing automation platforms. The industry of content marketing software is growing fast but also evolving fast, with some players being acquired by large marketing software vendors. At the same time, we see several marketing software vendors but also content management firms and others including content marketing features.
Whole Foods does a great job of living those brand principles in its content marketing. Articles about how to save money but still eat healthy or tips to change your diet for the better make Whole Foods’ products and lifestyle more inclusive. On top of that, it uses a lot of proactive language (“I want to learn/do/both” as a search option in its navigation bar) which makes the audience feel like they have an active role in the experience.
When I was teaching Public Relations courses at our local universities, I introduced students to the use of Managing By Objectives and how to integrate that approach into the development of a written PR strategy. Briefly, it begins with stating the Goal — a measurable goal — with a deadline — and beginning with the infinitive “To..” Then, you ask yourself “How” … how will that be accomplished. The first responses are broad. Each time a “How” question is answered, you become more specific. The first “hows” are the Objectives. Under the Objectives are the tactics. When properly done, you can read the strategy backward by asking the question “Why?” ……….. and if all falls into place correctly, you’ll get an A!
The Burberry Kisses campaign was a fun and innovative idea that consumers took to. It captured their audience’s love of mobile technology and interactive experiences to deliver a unique content marketing campaign. By appealing to the audience’s emotions and desire to connect, they captured their target consumers’ attention, making sure that the Burberry brand would be in the back of their mind next time they wanted to purchase cosmetics.
Hexagon used augmented reality (AR) to spruce up their written company report, giving investors a more interactive experience when learning the latest updates on the company. How does it work? A mobile app, based on technology from Samsung and zSpace, displays a virtual demonstration of a product when readers hold their mobile device over a "trigger image" of that product within the report.
Don’t just assume. Research your current audience and see who’s already engaged with your brand. You can even set up simple online surveys to send to your current audience, and build audience profiles based on the results. Your audience won’t fit a single category, but research can help you develop a primary “buyer persona” that fits the profiles of much of your audience, as well as several secondary personas.
Like style guidelines, a content marketing strategy should be comprehensive and also concise. You want to cover likely eventualities and explain the basis of the strategy, but you also want to help prevent a new strategist or writer from spending the entirety of his or her first month reading it (and ensure they can actually remember the gist of it by the end).
In the ‘modern’ approach of content marketing, where more people look at the role of content in branding, reach, engagement, social and SEO. especially in a pure branding, reach and engagement approach, organizations look less at buyer personas but rather at audiences. Nevertheless, such a view requires a content marketing strategy as well. Unless your company lives from website traffic, a pure publishing model without an overall strategy makes no sense. It’s also advisable to not look at content marketing from the pure social and search context.
“Content marketing means creating and sharing valuable free content to attract and convert prospects into customers, and customers into repeat buyers. The type of content you share is closely related to what you sell; in other words, you’re educating people so that they know, like, and trust you enough to do business with you.” – Brian Clark, Copyblogger
Since then, Marriott has delivered on that goal, with many of its brands releasing bespoke films dedicated to further their reputations and drive revenue. The 2015 short film, "French Kiss," for example, drove more than $500,000 in Marriott bookings in less than 60 days. Renaissance Hotels has released two seasons of "The Navigator’s Table with Andrew Zimmern," which highlights the chef meeting with tastemakers in different cities. Courtyard by Marriott showcases its status as the official hotel for the NFL through a video series that has racked up more than 1 million YouTube views.
Influencers: Letting others speak for you is sometimes more valuable than tooting your own horn, and audiences may find it more authentic as well. Creating a rapport with prominent industry influencers and having them share your content through their own social feeds streams your content to potentially thousands or millions of new followers. That means more brand ambassadors than you could have ever organically created.
Another reason? People are just not that into ads. According to Nielsen’s Global Trust In Advertising report, people trust text ads less than any other content medium, especially on mobile. What’s more, on the list of trusted mediums, editorial content outranked ads on all traditional channels, including TV, radio, billboards, newspapers and magazines.
There’s really no single way to create a content marketing strategy – you have to do it in such a way that aligns with your budget and business goals. However, the main thing to bear in mind that, with digital marketing, you’re looking for engagement and conversations that are a two-way street. So, you’re going to pay attention to what genuinely draws people towards your brand.
The Chanel website is all about storytelling. It is a content marketing spectacle that takes viewers into the world of Chanel through distinct chapters. The chapter on ‘No.5’ demystifies the most famous fragrance of all time, ‘Coco’ gives viewers a glimpse into Mademoiselle’s world and chapters like ‘The Lion’ or ‘The Jacket’ reveal secrets behind quintessential Chanel staples.
EXAMPLE: TD Ameritrade produces its print and digital magazine thinkMoney for active customers – those who can make trades as often as hundreds of times in a day. In its early days, TDA put the program under review to determine whether it was worth continuing to spend money on the magazine. The leaders persevered and, after approximately two years, received confirmation of its value: Subscribers and readers of the magazine traded five times more than non-subscribers. Simply put, those who subscribed to this magazine became better customers for TD Ameritrade.
Next, do some research and learn more about your target audience. What are their goals? What do they already know about banks and personal finances? At this stage, it’s also helpful to take a look around at the competition and see what they are doing. You don’t want to copy your competition, but you do want to produce content that’s much better and much more useful.
One reason behind Benefit’s domination of the space is its shrewd marketing activity, which in 2017 involved the ‘Browmobile’ campaign. Combining experiential elements with digital marketing, it involved an online competition offering users the chance to win a visit from the browmobile. A lucky few would be able to enjoy a personalised brow tutorial, treatments, and a hamper of Benefit goodies.
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.