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.
Michele Linn is the co-founder and chief strategy officer of Mantis Research, a consultancy focused on helping brands create and amplify original research they can use in their marketing. Before starting Mantis, Michele was head of editorial at Content Marketing Institute, where she led the company's strategic editorial direction, co-developed its annual research studies, wrote hundreds of articles, spoke at industry events and was instrumental in building the platform to 200,000 subscribers. In 2015, she was named one of Folio's Top Women in Media (Corporate Visionary). You can follow her on Twitter at @michelelinn.
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.
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.
Marketers are now moving toward a more centralized mode of social sharing, putting their investments only in proven platforms they’ve actually found traction on. This correlates to higher line-item ROI and a more consistent experience for social followers. Integrating social distribution directly into the content marketing supply chain amplifies the total reach of your assets and allows you to quickly see how engaging your content is, while receiving real-time feedback from online users.
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.
Now is an exciting time for content marketers. We are currently in the performance era of content marketing. We no longer have to choose between creating inspiring content (that’s hard to measure) and ads (that annoy customers but are easy to track). Technology has evolved to the point where we can produce incredible content and measure business results.
If you thought a company like Twitter doesn’t need content marketing, think again. The social media giant has been building up its Twitter Business Outlook blog with original and licensed content centered on how-tos and best practices for advertising on the platform. After all, while countless other websites and agencies counsel on how to tweet to your fullest potential, where better to hear it than straight from the source?

If you’ve ever seen a growth marketer on the heels of a successful optimization experiment, you know that her energy is electric. Unbounce, a landing page software company based in Vancouver, understands that excitement and decided to leverage it to create an engaging microsite, Page Fights, in collaboration with optimization company Conversion XL.
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.
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.
If you thought a company like Twitter doesn’t need content marketing, think again. The social media giant has been building up its Twitter Business Outlook blog with original and licensed content centered on how-tos and best practices for advertising on the platform. After all, while countless other websites and agencies counsel on how to tweet to your fullest potential, where better to hear it than straight from the source?
Add value. That’s the secret. It’s not really a secret at all. We've already talked about it throughout this piece. Although when you look at some of the marketing companies engage in you wonder if they’re purposely avoiding the obvious. We skip advertising when it provides little to no value. If you want to learn about advertising that doesn’t get skipped, find a skateboarder and ask him if you can watch him look through a skateboard magazine. You’ll see that he spends as much time looking at the ads as he does looking at the articles and photos. Or check out The Berrics website. Much of the content is advertisements, but skaters don’t skip these videos, they watch them just like they watch the other videos, because they’re getting the value they want--good skating. As a skater I’d like to say skateboard companies pioneered content marketing decades ago, but I know they were only doing what came naturally, and selling more product was secondary to the fun of creating videos and magazines. If you want to hire someone onto your marketing team who understands content marketing intuitively, hiring a skateboarder might not be a bad step.
Ally Bank is a completely online bank that’s made a name for itself through “disruptor” strategies. The bank has a reputation for coming up with creative ways to get people to think long and hard about their money. One example was a game called Ally Big Save, which only worked during the commercials of the NFL big championship game. In the midst of the football game, Ally’s app was downloaded 65,000 times, and more than a million people visited the game’s microsite.

Different companies have different goals, so no two content strategies work quite the same way. Still, general goals like lead generation, SEO, and thought leadership are common, and starting from there, companies can customize strategies that are specifically designed to work toward whichever goal is most important to them. With sales trends always changing, content plays a key role in attracting new customers.


In honor of all things inbound, consider how your business can use video as a medium to bring the right talent to your office. Rather than drop bait in the form of a newspaper advertisement, or static pitch on an online job board, a recruitment video can be used to expand your reach, while making known the type of environment applicants can expect to work in.
User-Generated Content: Soliciting reviews, comments and content from avid online users and social followers cycles fresh ideas into your content production schedule and presents a more genuine relationship between your brand and the public. UGC allows followers to speak on behalf of your brand through digital vehicles like contests, giveaways, hashtag campaigns, video stories and other visual means.
Whether in a team or on your own, be realistic about your time. If blogging once a week and sending a newsletter twice a month is the most you can manage, don’t shoot for any more than that. Setting yourself up for failure breaks trust with your audience that expects what you’ve promised. You don’t want burnout here, you want a streamlined process that works for your schedule.
Now that you’ve developed and followed your content marketing strategy, it’s time to go through the entire process again! Content marketing strategy is a never-ending process that needs to be followed, analyzed, and revised on a regular basis if you want your strategy to be effective at capturing leads for your business. Engage, refine, and rework on a regular basis, and your content marketing efforts will show better results consistently.

And from the looks of Here, Away’s impeccably cool, new digital magazine, it's not kidding around. A curated selection of hip photography and the occasional illustration invites readers to explore everything the site has to offer, with striking typographical choices drawing attention directly to the headlines (each appearing in a distinct yet complementary font).
Content marketing attracts prospects and transforms prospects into customers by creating and sharing valuable free content. Content marketing helps companies create sustainable brand loyalty, provides valuable information to consumers, and creates a willingness to purchase products from the company in the future. This relatively new form of marketing does not involve direct sales. Instead, it builds trust and rapport with the audience.[2]
We love how this newsletter illustrates the willingness of CB Insights to not take itself too seriously. Yes, it shares some of the finest insights on technology, venture capital (VC), and emerging businesses, but it does so with fun images that ultimately relate back to the subject -- e.g., the above photo of Oprah that’s been adapted as a meme, since, well, that was the topic of the newsletter.

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.
In January 2017, Visit Seattle partnered with Sundance TV to launch "Project Five by Five," which asked five filmmakers to each create a short film about Seattle, inspired by one of the five senses. One video showed how a local farm produces fresh cream and berries for a beloved Seattle ice cream shop. Another reimagined Seattle native Jimi Hendrix's first skydiving trip. The shorts premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and aired on Sundance TV.

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.
Let me quote the people of Arketi Group: “Today’s prospects are much more in control of the information flow, relying on trusted online resources and solution providers’ websites far more often than sales reps to identify solutions, evaluate options and develop short lists for further consideration. The role of today’s BtoB marketers in this new environment is to offer the right content, matched to the individual prospect’s level of interest”. That’s using customized content for lead nurturing, in function of your customer’s offline and digital footprints and where he is in the buying cycle.
For parents, think about BabyCenter. When I was pregnant and then raising my older daughter, I considered BabyCenter to be required reading. It’s a perfect example of content marketing. According to its website, it is the No. 1 pregnancy and parenting digital destination, and eight in 10 new and expectant moms online use BabyCenter each month. The site is owned by Johnson & Johnson, which sells products for babies.
22. Kayla Itsines: Exercising Instagram and blogging prowess. Kayla Itsines was a personal trainer in Adelaide, Australia with an average number of social media followers just a few short years ago. Now her Instagram boasts more than four million followers and she owns one of the top apps on iTunes. How’d she do it? Amazing content, especially in the form of before and after shots of ladies who purchase her fitness program. She also regularly posts how-to exercise videos on Instagram and healthy recipes on her site.
Red Bull TV is a website that provides videos and live streaming of events from across the world. According to Target Marketing Magazine, Red Bull was one of the first companies to create content that its customers actively sought out. As a result, it drew a large number of people who were interested in the adventurous activities that Red Bull drinkers often participate in, instantly setting it apart from others in its industry.
However, you don’t need to work with influencers to utilize user-generated content as part of your marketing strategy. Whether you create a contest or just consistently ask for feedback through social media, you can encourage your fans and followers to post pictures of themselves using your products or services. When you repost this content, you are showing your leads and customers what others think about your brand while showing the customer themselves your appreciation for their business.
"Our ambition is fairly massive," says Jay Curley, now Ben & Jerry’s Global Head of Integrated Marketing, in New York Magazine. "We're trying to create a new model for how businesses can use their voice to have an impact on important social movements, and show that you can do that and it doesn’t hurt your business. As a matter of fact, it may help."
A simple checklist can significantly improve your content quality. It’s a tool that should be in every marketer’s toolkit. By creating a quality checklist as part of your strategy, you and your stakeholders will determine a set of standards that align with your content marketing goals. By committing them to writing, you’ll have benchmarks to which you can hold your work. By distributing the checklist, you’ll ensure that contributors know what you expect from them. And by sharing the checklist with others in your organization, they’ll understand what you’re looking to achieve with your content.
Since its launch in 2014, Peloton has grown at a staggering rate and revolutionized indoor cycling by bringing it directly into people's homes. In four short years, the company has raised $450 million from investors and now employs more than 700 individuals across the United States, thanks in no small part to what The New York Times calls "a fanatical fan base."
You may be thinking, wow that seems like a lot of writing! Don't worry, there are other forms of content marketing outside of print. Another example of content marketing is video. Have you ever searched for information about a particular product and found a video that was so wonderful it convinced you to buy? That is another example of content marketing! The content in the video was most likely informative, engaging, and relevant. This persuades you to purchase the product or service from the company that presented the video.

Let me quote the people of Arketi Group: “Today’s prospects are much more in control of the information flow, relying on trusted online resources and solution providers’ websites far more often than sales reps to identify solutions, evaluate options and develop short lists for further consideration. The role of today’s BtoB marketers in this new environment is to offer the right content, matched to the individual prospect’s level of interest”. That’s using customized content for lead nurturing, in function of your customer’s offline and digital footprints and where he is in the buying cycle.
In honor of all things inbound, consider how your business can use video as a medium to bring the right talent to your office. Rather than drop bait in the form of a newspaper advertisement, or static pitch on an online job board, a recruitment video can be used to expand your reach, while making known the type of environment applicants can expect to work in.
In many ways, step five ties into step one. When you’re thinking of your goals, think of how you can tell if you are on track to reach those goals. In the case of the example brand that’s trying to reach millennial moms, it could track traffic to its website from social media profiles that match the definition of millennial moms. It could also look at responses on social media to see if millennial moms are engaging with the content it creates.
Of course, how you communicate your strategy depends on the structure and culture of your organization. In some cases, it may be appropriate to share your full documentation. In other cases, it may make more sense to create targeted summaries for certain stakeholders (for example, busy executives, or external agencies), based on how your content marketing strategy will impact their particular roles, processes, and objectives.
What do your audiences need to know from you? Use search and social media, plus conversations with customers and your internal personnel (sales and customer service, especially) to better understand the information and persuasive requirements of your customers. Then, organize those needs by persona and funnel stage to create a map of necessary content.
Zendesk might be an expert in the solutions provided by its product, but behind that product is a chorus of highly skilled experts -- the people who build and engineer the software. The company realized that there’s an audience to be tapped that’s seeking insights and expertise on the technical side of the product, so it used that to build an entirely independent content property.
Now that you’ve developed and followed your content marketing strategy, it’s time to go through the entire process again! Content marketing strategy is a never-ending process that needs to be followed, analyzed, and revised on a regular basis if you want your strategy to be effective at capturing leads for your business. Engage, refine, and rework on a regular basis, and your content marketing efforts will show better results consistently.
It's content that helps people find you. It might even be content that makes people fall in love with you a little. But discovery-level content is not usually the last touch before a big sale. There are many more layers of content that usually finesse that conversion. (More on that when we discuss how content can represent various stages of the funnel in ch. 3.)
While the goal on social media sites like Instagram or Snapchat is to connect more intimately with your audience, your goal on platforms like Facebook and Twitter is to expand that audience, drive traffic toward your website, and start conversations in your industry. Do some basic market research to discover which platforms your buyers are on, and mold your content to their expectations.

Big, consumer-focused brands aren’t the only ones providing great inspiration in the form of best content marketing examples. The Make-A-Wish Foundation is a non-profit organization that puts together unique and special experiences for children who suffer from life-threatening conditions like cancer. Even non-profit organizations have to promote their work in compelling ways to get the attention of donors, volunteers, and other individuals who can support their cause.
24. Hansens: Surfer’s guides to everything. San Diego surf shop Hansens seeks to inform surfers of every ability. Check out this infographic guide to buying the right wetsuit and blog post about making sure your wetsuit fits properly. Hansens understands that surf gear is a big purchase for the average consumer, so equipping him or her with adequate knowledge is the first step toward conversion.
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