There's little disputing that Content Marketing represents the present and future of marketing. With so many marketers - 93% in fact - now concentrating on content as a vehicle to grow their brands, we thought we'd pick out ten companies who we think are really doing a great job.
1. Red Bull
Red Bull are perhaps the kings of the content marketing castle, and it's hardly surprising, with a team of 130 people working exclusively on creating and publishing it! They have a record label, a magazine that reaches 5 million people and even a clearing house for their most epic content.
Of course, the Red Bull 'product' is simply a fizzy energy drink - once upon a time, we might be more likely to associate it with heart attacks and insomnia than awesome content. But, as with any high-concept marketing strategy, the product isn't really what's important. It's about the message - which is ostensibly that Red Bull helps you do more, push your limits, go further and achieve more than you thought possible.
The Red Bull website pulls together a staggering amount of content around a range of exciting subjects. And perhaps the most famous example of Red Bull killing it with content was Felix Baumgartner's death-defying world record freefall from the edge of space. Red Bull gives you wings!
As a cosmetics company, Dove occupies a marketplace that's often accused of conceitedness, haughtiness and pomposity. Dove's point-of-difference is it's inclusiveness - it's mission statement is to be the cosmetics brand that promotes and celebrates natural beauty. In a world that's increasingly weary of the unhelpful promotion of unhealthy 'stick-thin' body images, that message has been very well-received among consumers.
And it runs nicely through all the brand's content, too. The Dove website features a Tips, Topics & Tools section with a range of resources, articles and advice. And the company's 'Real Body Sketches' video (below) underscored the brand story in such an emotionally resonant way that it's garnered over 63 million views on YouTube - and made us all feel better about ourselves at the same time!
3. Virgin Atlantic
Sometimes, particularly for smaller businesses, the greatest thing about Content Marketing is it's power as a differentiator from your competition. It's so flexible that every aspect of it can be sculpted to showcase your uniqueness - subject matter, tone-of-voice, design, the whole deal.
It seems crazy to mention Virgin in the same breath as the term small businesses but, certainly in the States, the brand is still a relatively small fish. We really love how Virgin has used content to carve out its niche as an airline that does stuff differently. The most obvious example is their superb animated safety video, the exact polar opposite of the stuffy demonstration you used to expect on your flight.
More than this, the Virgin Atlantic website features a number of really useful resources for customers, like Airport Guides and a Blog with tips on what to do on your travels. They offer a great service, and do things differently - the same can be said about their focus on content.
We're unashamed Wistia fans! Not only do they offer a great business video hosting package which we use ourselves, they've well and truly recognised the power of content - and they're doing an amazing job of it.
If the first rule of content is that it must add value, then consider that the first giant 'tick' in Wistia's content box. Every piece of content they produce - whether it's a blog entry, infographic or video - is focused on helping businesses to grow. In fact they offer a whole Learning Center with a range of helpful resources, many of which we've found useful ourselves.
This approach is clever on two fronts. One, it fosters a really positive brand image, an authoritativeness and trustworthiness that couldn't possibly be achieved by traditional advertising. Two, it helps businesses better understand and utilise the power of video marketing - indirectly creating a demand for the Wistia product, and, theoretically, helping to boost revenues. Everyone's a winner!
5. Dollar Shave Club
When Dollar Shave Club opened it's doors in 2012, they were pretty much going toe to toe with not one, not two, but three industry giants. Of the $12.8 billion market for men's shaving products, Gillette controlled 66%, Wilkinson Sword 12.5% and BIC 5.2%.
CEO Michael Dublin knew the Dollar Shave Club brand had to be different to stand out and make an impression, and that's exactly what they did. Much of the company's early success was down to its much-loved intro video, starring Mr Dublin himself, (below) which was anarchic, humorous and did a great job of summarising the product and its benefits. It's been viewed over 14 million times on YouTube!
Dollar Shave Club's commitment to content didn't end there. They have a regularly updated blog, which ties in with a number of other beautiful pieces of content including infographics and amusing video content. These pieces are helping to spread the word about the DSC brand, giving it great traction in an extremely competitive marketplace, and raising awareness of their unique service.
Yammer is essentially a work-based, internal social network that allows companies and work groups to communicate in real-time. It's all about business, communication, organisation and efficiency - and these core values run consistently throughout the brand's content.
Yammer 'gets' B2C content and has developed fun, sharable content like the below video which encourages viewers to love their work.
But, unsurprisingly given the nature of its product, Yammer thrives when it comes to B2B content. They produce helpful, engaging infographics full of interesting data on relevant issues. And the company blog is split into categories to deliver a diverse range of great content, from product updates and tips, to guides and customer stories, news, events and more.
They also offer a Resource Center, featuring a veritable feast of analyst reports and business trends.
By providing SEO friendly content that appeals to the interests of their target market - how do I make my business more efficient? How do I get my teams to communicate more efficiently? What are the issues affecting collaboration in the workplace? - Yammer's content philosophy is right on the money for raising awareness, generating leads and boosting revenues.
7. Metro Trains, Melbourne (The Dumb Ways to Die guys!)
If any single campaign sums up the power of branded content, maybe it's Metro Trains' Dumb Ways to Die campaign. It started out with the phenomenally popular animated video (below) which has been viewed by over 83 MILLION people on YouTube. The song was launched on iTunes, and the message was later translated into a book, a smartphone game, and interactive outdoor posters.
In order to understand the success of this content-based campaign, check out the brief. To paraphrase slightly, accidents and deaths on Melbourne's train system had been on the rise for years, but public safety messages don't work on young people. As such, they looked for another way to stress the message, turning to entertainment and branded content to engage that target market. And the result? From a marketing point of view, pretty good. As well as the 83m views (with no paid media support) it was also the most shared PSA in history, with 3m+ Facebook shares, giving it an incredible reach. Most importantly, it convinced 1 million young people to pledge to be safer around trains - and coincided with a 21% reduction in accidents and deaths. How good is that!
The Shutterstock blog has set a pretty high benchmark for other business blogs. The brand's mission statement is to 'connect creative business professionals with the best photos, vectors, illustrations and videos from thousands of contributors around the world.' As you'd expect, then, the blog is packed with insight and useful info for both parts of that connection - helping business owners to understand the impact of these assets and how best to use them, while providing support for artists and contributors, too. The content is interesting and engaging enough to retain quite a broad appeal - and it's also very keyword friendly.
The blog really is first-class, but there's other stuff too. We particularly love their 'Wordplay' video which features stock footage (all of which, of course, is available to buy and download through Shutterstock.com.)
GE's success is fairly typical of how bigger brands are starting to treat content - it's about storytelling, and increasingly, those stories are told primarily by consumers rather than brands. For example, check out the video below. GE used Vine to challenge their fans to fit as much science as possible into 6 seconds, and turned the results into a branded video which is fun, dynamic and highly sharable.
Of course, GE still participates in creation and outreach like the rest of us. Take Pi Day for example - that's 1:59pm on March 14th (or 3:14:59) for us non-math people! Not only did GE really take 'ownership' of the occasion with content like 25 Geeky Maths Jokes To Celebrate Pi Day which they published on BuzzFeed, they also sent 314 pies to random tweeters. Amazing!
GE's company strapline is 'Imagination at work' and their content philosophy is certainly celebrates that ethos - whether it's the brand's own imagination, or the imagination of others.
This particular content strategy may not be particularly conversion-driven, but it does help to create an incredibly healthy brand image, and a loyal customer base.
The tourism marketplace is pretty saturated, and a growing number of operators are turning to content to help add value to their customers. The guys at LateDeals.co.uk offer 'last minute' holiday deals - they're also operating a pretty slick content marketing strategy.
Firstly, they offer a regularly-updated blog with really nice, interesting articles. They're well-written, with engaging titles that help capture the reader's attention.
They also offer travel guides, giving readers the lowdown on popular destinations. Not only are these resources useful to potential customers, they're great for SEO, too. Every article written is a potential landing page for a visitor browsing search engines for holiday ideas.
The LateDeals guys don't just focus on written content. We also love how they use visual content in their marketing. They produce awesome, fun and sharable travel-related infographics like The Art of Holiday Packing and Weird & Wonderful Festivals, which subtly introduce the brand to their audience. Because they're so much fun, they're likely to be shared - and, with every share, the brand travels further.