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What do infomercials, billboards, blog posts and whitepapers have in common? They’re all forms of content marketing.
“Content marketing is designed to educate your audience about the topic they’re trying to better understand so that they can make an informed decision,” says New Breed’s Head of Demand Generation, Guido Bartolacci.
Individual pieces of content can focus on informing, persuading or entertaining, but overall, any content marketing asset needs to effectively convey its intended message in the amount of time you have the audience’s attention.
Ideally by doing this, you’ll gain more of your audience’s attention with every subsequent interaction so each time they engage with your content, you have longer to make an impression.
For example, at first, a prospect might just glance at a display ad. Next, they might view a quick social media video. Then, they’ll read a blog post and eventually download a long-form PCO.
Why Leverage Content Marketing?
It’s really difficult to market a company without leveraging some form of content; it’s hard to even imagine a marketing strategy that doesn’t include content. Half of the four P’s involve content.
“Your product isn’t necessarily a form of content marketing. It just is what it is. Your price is not a form of content marketing. Any form of promotion is content marketing. Place can be [content marketing],” Guido says.
If your place is a website, it’s an example of content marketing. And, brick and mortar stores also have content marketing in the form of signs and decorations.
“What’s the difference between the purpose of a window display and a billboard? It’s just a matter of where you display it. One is meant to be seen driving down the highway, and the other is meant to be seen walking down the street.” Guido says.
So, to not leverage content marketing you’d need to put effort into avoiding it.
“You can’t really get away with zero content marketing today, but you don’t necessarily need to grow through content marketing alone,” Guido says.
Companies that leverage word-of-mouth marketing (WOM) and Product-Led Growth (PLG) can generate awareness without using content marketing, but they still need content to support the validity of their solution later in the sales cycle.
“Especially in a B2B setting, people are doing a lot more research before making a decision,” Guido says. “The more information you can arm them with, the better informed the decision will be and the more comfortable they’ll be with the decision they make.”
If your company has no online presence, then prospects will be suspicious about how legitimate your solution actually is. At the very least, you need a website and social media platforms for credibility, and the content on those platforms should help demonstrate that you’re the best option.
“When you’re creating content, it shouldn’t be content for the sake of content,” Guido says. “It should be content that’s intended to guide someone from their current state of understanding to how you help with that.”
Content Marketing Examples
There are infinite examples of content marketing, and naming them all could take forever.
To help attract people to your company, you can use content such as video, display ads, social media posts, blogs, podcasts and more.
“The first time people see you, it’s going to be really hard to get more than a minute or two of their attention. That’s where social posts, where people are just scrolling through and see you, are going to work really well along with display ads,” Guido says.
These shorter initial pieces of content aim to catch your audience’s attention quickly and make an impact to generate brand awareness.
Once a prospect knows who you are and is willing to spend more time with your content, you can leverage longer videos like educational webinars or product overviews, ebooks, guides, conversational marketing and interactive content experiences.
Finally, you can delight customers with content assets including case studies, testimonials, direct mail, knowledge base articles and more.
Delight stage content aims to demonstrate to prospects and customers alike that you know who they are and what they need, you can solve their challenges and they can trust you.
How to Stand Out
“Everyone’s doing content marketing today. Everyone has podcasts. Everyone has a blog, a website and videos,” Guido says.
Utilizing content marketing is the bare minimum. To stand out and be different, you have to use content to create an experience that resonates with your audience.
Here are five examples of companies creating an impactful experience with their content.
Eko Interactive Videos: Cook Together
Eko is an interactive storytelling platform that enables creators and brands to make videos that the audience can directly engage with. One example of an Eko campaign is the Cook Together series sponsored by Walmart.
Each Cook Together video features a professional chef teaching the viewer to make a recipe step by step. But what sets these videos apart is the viewer’s ability to customize each recipe. The viewer controls how many servings a recipe makes and can choose between a couple variations of ingredients. Then they’ll receive a personalized recipe based on the selections they made that includes Walmart brand products.
In addition to plugging the Walmart brand, these videos both entertain and inform the audience.
HubSpot: Battle of the Bots
This long-form educational piece about the role of automated chatbots in marketing from HubSpot reads more like a graphic novel than a blog post or pillar page.
Instead of dryly explaining the evolution of automated chatbots and plainly laying out the risks of prioritizing automation over genuine human engagement, HubSpot turned that information into an epic battle between technology and people.
The story still has many of the educational elements of a traditional educational content offer: sources, data and examples. But it has fun with the information it teaches by using a superhero theme throughout.
By turning educational information into a narrative with striking visuals that break up the content, HubSpot makes it easier for the reader to absorb all the information without getting overwhelmed.
Balancing technology with human interaction is a heavy topic to cover. HubSpot’s The Battle of the Bots makes consuming that information fun.
Denny’s Twitter exemplifies a brand that knows their audience and how to reach them.
The posts the Denny’s account makes do not appeal to everyone; they’re a combination of pop culture parodies, snarky comments and absurd shower thoughts. Denny’s tweets are also exactly the kind of thoughts that run through their customers’ heads when they’re visiting the restaurant in the middle of the night.
Instead of treating their Twitter like a company account, Denny’s shares content that mirrors what personal accounts post. They still will like and reply to posts from customers (as any good company Twitter should), but the majority of their posts don’t promote the company directly. While many brand accounts share commercial clips, links to their websites and promotional material about seasonal campaigns, Denny’s posts breakfast-inspired versions of the latest viral memes and stream of consciousness text posts.
This kind of snarky and irreverent content doesn’t work for everyone, but because it’s so in line with Denny’s customer base — or at least the portion active on social media — creating content in this voice and tone led to a 132% increase in Twitter followers in addition to cementing Denny’s as one of the best examples of brands on social media.
Extra Gum: The Story of Sarah and Juan
When the Extra Gum Commercial the Story of Sarah and Juan was first broadcast in 2015, the commercial went viral. Its haunting song and heartwarming story stuck with viewers and was lauded as “the Extra Gum ad that is bringing everyone to tears” and gained press coverage for “making people everywhere weep.”
Even now, years later, the commercial is referenced by the gum’s packaging with illustrations from the ad appearing on the underside of the flap.
When customers open a pack of gum, they’re reminded of what each piece of gum could represent: not just a sweet treat to chew on, but rather a potential memory waiting to be created or a personal connection waiting to be forged.
Barbie: Barbie Movie Series
In the late ‘90s and early 2000’s, Barbie was struggling to sell their dolls. They conducted research and found that girls were spending more time with their computers than with their dolls. So, instead of trying to release new types of career Barbies or attempting to further shift the doll’s brand to match modern societal expectations, they decided to make the doll more exciting with content.
They released a series of movies starring Barbie as the main character of both older fairy tales and original plots, with an abundance of merch to accompany each film. By creating storylines that children could act out with their dolls, the company was able to increase sales in the U.S. during a time that their global market share was declining. Furthermore, Barbie was able to make a lasting impact on the lives as young girls as the Barbie movies shaped those girls’ childhood dreams.
“The companies that really get [content marketing] right are the ones that understand their audience, what they need and how to help them,” Guido says.
Content marketing should entertain, inform and persuade audiences while guiding them toward your company’s solution. Leveraging it is essential for any modern marketer and not creating marketing content is next to impossible.
But remember, every piece of content you create should exist for the benefit of your audience. If you create content for yourself without thinking about how your prospects will gain value from it, your content won’t contribute to your bottom line.
Quinn is a writer and copyeditor whose work ranges from journalism to travel writing to inbound marketing content.