While all the ways American Girl connects to its audience are too numerous to cover in this one post, I’m particularly amazed by its print publications. For instance, The Care and Keeping of You is a book all about growing up for girls. It ranks second in its category (and 71st most popular among all books on Amazon). It’s from a brand selling dolls – but the subject has nothing to do with the dolls.
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.
Your overall positioning will influence traffic types and patterns, and your traffic patterns will also influence your SEO standing. It’s all a two-way street, and the rules sometimes change over time. To this end, having your SEO on point can be challenging and having an SEO-friendly website can take a while to build (search engines do tend to favor more established businesses).

Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider Group. He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and a top CMO influencer by Forbes. Please follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook and Subscribe here for regular updates.

NewsCred’s inaugural #ThinkContent Awards celebrate best-in-class content marketing brands. Their approaches are fresh, innovative, and creative. Even better, these brands have found solutions to some of content marketing’s most pressing issues, including using personalization to give people the right content at the right time, leveraging new content formats, and measuring ROI.


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!
Content marketing is different than traditional product-marketing efforts like sales collateral and other product-specific info. Content marketing includes things like educational articles, e-books, videos, entertainment, and webinars that answer specific questions people have and provide them with something they can’t get elsewhere. It’s the best way to turn your product, no matter how common, into something that is not like everyone else’s.
In contrast to the other two, a content plan is very tactical. It documents the specifics of how you will execute your strategy, and who on your team will be handling each task. It’s important to understand that you need a content marketing strategy BEFORE you build your content plan. Think of it as a marketing plan that specifically relates to content; thus, it should include details such as the key topic areas you will cover, what content you will create, when and how to share your content, and specific calls to action you will include.
When content marketing started becoming increasingly popular, it was believed by some that content marketing would be a passing fad, among others given the huge increase of content created. Early observers and practitioners called this the ‘content marketing backlash‘. Another term – that expressed this sentiment, was introduced later and was contested by Joe Pulizzi – was ‘content shock‘.

EXAMPLE: Jyske Bank is a large Danish bank that now also functions as a media company. The company started using content marketing to get better results than its high-cost sponsorship marketing. It created Jyskebank.tv, which produces amazing financial programming, as well as compelling stories the bank believes are relevant to its core audience of younger consumers and small enterprises.


In the past year, Headspace has launched a few new content initiatives designed to make meditation more accessible – and drive and retain subscribers. One is a "How to Meditate" section that includes answers to frequently asked questions, plus videos that help people solve common meditation challenges. Headspace now also offers “packcasts,” which are recordings that feature Headspace employees discussing certain packs, or sets of meditations, while “trying to build a meditation practice that works for [them]” and showing how personalized one's meditation journey can be.
However, like video, you’re probably thinking you need all sorts of specialized gear and skills. And while yes, audio is a whole other beast, you can get started with just a little bit of effort. In his class Getting Your Podcast Off the Ground!, Neil Patel, host of The Indian Startup Show (the #1 tech podcast in India) runs us through the basics of podcasting.
Content marketing is an umbrella term. This means that it can be used for numerous reasons and can mean many things to many people. It’s less tangible than search engine marketing, for instance. This is exactly the reason why you need to think about the strategic role of content marketing within your organization and its ecosystem. Without a content marketing strategy, you risk focusing on the content – and content strategy – too much and not seeing the overall goals anymore. In fact, this is one of the most crucial and deadly mistakes in content marketing. Unfortunately, this disconnected view on content marketing happens very often and leads to a focus on the wrong things.
That’s what Raise the Bar does, by compiling a “daily digest of timely, must-read posts on sales, marketing and growth engineering.” And, that was the intent all along. In a 2016 blog post announcing the launch of the newsletter, Mattermark’s Co-founder and CEO, Danielle Morrill, wrote, “We’re turning our focus toward sifting through the mountains of content out there around sales, marketing, and growth to help the community of DOERS who grow companies.”
Videos. Gary Vaynerchuk is a master of content marketing using online video, just take a look at his YouTube channel. He got his start creating videos to promote his family’s wine store and through those videos and other online marketing he eventually grew it to a $45M empire. Videos and podcasts are a largely untapped form of content marketing because people think it’s expensive and hard. But with the falling cost of professional grade equipment creating high quality video and audio content is easier than ever. Amateur video content marketing has been used to sell blenders, launch new dental products, and market Hong Kong visa consulting services. What video could you throw together for your company that might change your fortunes overnight? It might be easier than you think.
But in order for content to convert readers and incite growth, it needs to occasionally disrupt its audience's point of view. A company doesn't work for its content; content works for its company. If you need to say something that a blog alone can't, the business demands that you make it work -- whether that means starting a YouTube channel or seeing how you can integrate an AR tool into your next ebook.
Xerox is the world’s leading photocopying company. While that sounds like something to brag about, it has, ironically, created some branding problems for the company. Since Xerox is so widely known for its photocopiers, many customers don’t know anything about its other services, such as IT outsourcing. Xerox solved this problem by rebranding itself with content, which played a huge role in boosting business in its other verticals.
Content may be king, but many content creators (and purveyors of fine content) often struggle to show the value of content marketing. This is because the types of content (blog posts, guides, webinars, etc.) that most people think of as content marketing all fall in the "discovery" part of the marketing funnel, which is several steps removed from conversions.

12. Bon Appetit Magazine: Foodcast. Bon Appetit’s podcast “features interviews with chefs, writers, and, well, anyone who has something cool to say about food.” Topics include holiday baking, why chefs hate brunch, and FAQs for Thanksgiving dinner. Not every company needs a podcast, to be sure, but if you can schedule great guests and figure out the tech specs, this can be a meaningful channel to engage with storytellers over the long term.

Whether it’s weekly, monthly, or quarterly, never leave your content without tracking the results. This can include monitoring view and click rates, reading customer comments and responses, or even tracking ecommerce stats in relation to your content releases. Data tracking will allow you to analyze the results of your content marketing efforts and learn what’s effective and what isn’t.


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.

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.
A content marketer’s work is never done. We’re constantly updating and optimizing our strategies based on our latest learnings, observations, insights, and technology. At NewsCred, this is one of the reasons we find our work so exciting. We’ve been in business for nearly a decade and it’s been gratifying and fascinating to evolve with the space. In keeping with our annual tradition, we’ve taken a look at the state of the content marketing industry, plus our strategy and learnings, and put together a case study on ourselves. Here, our best practices for using content to drive business results.
In politics, the “sizzle” tends to look like catchy one‐liners that are ultimately meaningless, out‐of‐context statistics that sound good, and targeted attacks on your opponents. None of these things have anything to do with whether or not a candidate will be successful in office, but since the masses tend to respond to sizzle, politicians focus on the sizzle.
One might argue that the industry best suited for content marketing is the financial and banking industry. After all, people are frequently looking for information about money and what to do with it. They want to know how to pay down their debts, save for the future, and reach their financial goals. So, how does a bank provide that information to consumers and stand out from the competition? With bank content marketing, that’s how. Banks and financial institutions use content marketing to develop trust-filled relationships with their customers.
Infographics. These are generally long, vertical graphics that include statistics, charts, graphs, and other information. If you need some examples, here are 197 infographics on the topic of content marketing curated by Michael Schmitz, head of Content Lab at Publicis, Munich. Infographics can be effective in that if one is good it can be passed around social media and posted on websites for years. You can get a professionally designed infographic by hiring a contractor on a site like oDesk or if you want to remove some of the risk you can go with a company like Visua.ly. A decent infographic will usually cost you at least $1,000 to have designed, but can cost several thousand dollars if you are hiring a contractor or agency to include strategy and planning, research, copywriting, and design. There is also the matter of promoting that infographic to bloggers and the media. Or you could set up a board on Pinterest and curate infographics on a topic related to your business. That is also a form of content marketing, and it costs nothing but your time. Hey, it worked for Michael.
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.

When content marketing started becoming increasingly popular, it was believed by some that content marketing would be a passing fad, among others given the huge increase of content created. Early observers and practitioners called this the ‘content marketing backlash‘. Another term – that expressed this sentiment, was introduced later and was contested by Joe Pulizzi – was ‘content shock‘.

19. American Express: Departures. Departures is a content brand that encompasses travel, fashion, shopping, arts, and culture advice for American Express cardholders. It’s available in both print and digital formats. I personally enjoy receiving the print version every season; it’s a photogenic taste of what’s of the moment around the world, and it gives me aspirational ideas of where I’d like to visit.
All Coke did was print individual names on cans and bottles and suddenly everyone was identifying with the product. In this campaign, and in all of Coke’s marketing, it built a foundational shared experience that almost everyone has with its product and made it shareable. In the next phase, customers could customize bottles with all kinds of names and titles for a super interactive, one-of-a-kind product.
While a content marketing strategy first looks at the strategic place of content marketing in the overall marketing process, there is also a planning and organizational dimension, mapping the different steps regarding content planning, mapping, creation, etc. In this sense, a content strategy involves various components. In most cases several of them come back but here are some common questions to answer or tasks to fulfill in a content strategy.
'When it comes to business blogging, there’s no doubt that consistency is important,' says Vaughan. 'Just consider the fact that companies that increase blogging from 3-5X/month to 6-8X/month almost double their leads. That being said, consistency must also be applied to the quality of your content, not just the quantity. If you pay any attention to the increased emphasis Google is placing on quality content, this comes as no surprise. Because marketers must also make a commitment to quality in all the content they create, increasing frequency alone won't get you very far. Quality and quantity must go hand in hand, and this will become even more important in 2013 and beyond.'
Celine Roque of Contently recently wrote a very insightful piece about American Express and its longstanding commitment to content marketing. Roque points out that the world’s largest travel company has been using content for brand building for the past 100 years, beginning with a series of engaging travel guides in 1915 that played a prominent role in growing the company.
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