What have you done today to ensure your survival? Gobbled down breakfast, wrapped up warm, downed some water. While we may have evolved from living in caves and hunting with spears, our survival is still governed by two raw emotions: need and desire. What’s this got to do with marketing?
Clever marketers can create needs you didn’t know you had, or sell you a lifestyle you didn’t know you wanted. Content marketing is a fantastic way to achieve this. It isn’t about pestering customers with phone calls, or littering their inboxes with emails. It doesn’t interrupt people going about their busy lives. Instead it guides and entertains through tantalising content.
At its core is the customer. In today’s talkative world, they’re more switched-on and less likely to swallow brand bragging, so where once marketing was about product pushing, it’s now about brand perception. Microsoft cottoned onto this by creating its “Stories” platform showcasing inspiring real-life tales. While it might not directly nudge readers into buyers, it does create a warm fuzzy feeling around a boring software brand.
At the root of a content strategy is the brand – what’s your reason for being and what do you stand for? You need to create a vision around your brand to build a customer journey. Remember that great content allows direct interaction with customers, and often makes them feel as though they aren’t being marketed to. It should be informative and useful, or entertaining and engaging.
Content can be generated as much by the brand as by the customer. Companies can produce videos and blogs that can be shared across social media. Equally customers can be enticed into sharing photos, videos and experiences. People tend to trust their peers more than a brand.
Below are six examples of companies spanning the retail, travel and FMCG sectors, that have nailed content marketing.
Everyone loves a heart-warming and inspirational story, and as a travel business connecting people and places, Airbnb is leveraging this basic human emotion. It's placing its globe-trotting band of customers at the core of its content strategy, using them to share engaging, real-life tales of travel and adventure, culture and community.
In 2012 it created a film called "Wall and Chain" that brought together former East and West German border guards in a united Berlin. It had 2 million viewers in four days. It's also started "Economic Impact" studies showing how much of an impact it's had in local areas. Then there's "Airbnb Neighbourhoods" that equips travellers with first-hand accounts, maps and local quirks.
Red Bull has embraced the power of content to become a publisher in its own right. It’s created the media company, Red Bull Media House, as well as its own online magazine, The Red Bulletin, that delivers compelling stories spanning sports and lifestyle, culture and events. Its Youtube channel plays action clips and has over 4 million subscribers. What it's doing is marketing the very roots of its brand - sports, adventure, and high octane fun.
Chipotle entertained customers on their coffee runs by printing musings and quotes from authors, comedians and thought-leaders right onto their cups, for them to enjoy whilst taking some time-out. The brand has also generated content to align itself with its mission to serve food only from responsibly raised animals and vegetables. For example, it produced a short film, "The Scarecrow", that used a cover of the song "Pure Imagination" to draw attention to farming practices. It’s had over 14 million views.
While it may be scorned for serving up greasy, artery-clogging grub, this brand has shown it's not afraid to speak to its lovers and haters alike. McDonald's started a campaign to answer questions from customers about its products, no matter how good or bad. And you really can't help but respect it for its transparency, honesty and willingness to tell the truth. I never thought I'd say it, but hats off to Maccie D's for not hiding behind corporate jargon.
Eurostar, like Airbnb, uses its customers to humanize its brand and forge emotional ties. Its "Stories Are Waiting" initiative shares videos, photos and travellers’ tales. It also includes inside knowledge from locals and short films to inspire you to go out and make your own memories.
The Birchbox is a wondrous little treasure trove of beauty samples, designed to help you choose your favourites. Realizing its core clientele are the tech-savvy, peer-driven millennials, this brand has splattered great content across social media. It shares photos, videos and articles of happy customers, how-to guides and insider tips on the latest "must have" beauty items. Its blog not only features beauty tips and tricks, product reviews and makeovers, it also offers lifestyle advice. What this shows is its awareness of what makes its customers tick. It’s a step away from pure product pushing, providing useful content to cement its place as an industry expert.