Quality, cross-channel content is increasingly being recognised as the most effective way of creating meaningful relationships between brands and consumers (and as a powerful tool for internal communications). It’s a rewarding time for content producers of all kinds – particularly those of us who have been involved in branded content since the heady, print-centric days when custom publishing was king. As the following examples show, 2013 looks set to be the year that content marketing moves from a niche discipline to core marketing activity for brands of all sizes – the question is, have you got the strategy and the team in place to help you stand out from the crowd?
1. Fizz, fuel, and ‘phenomenal’ traffic – big brands using content to earn bigger audiences
Coca-Cola‘s new ‘Journey‘ site is at the heart of its ‘Content 2020’ strategy, which aims to double the size of its business by the end of the decade through (you guessed it) content. Jonathan Mildenhall, Coke’s Vice President of Global Advertising Strategy and Creative Excellence (and current holder of the award for longest job title ever featured on this blog) described the brand’s motivation for the project thus: “We want to give the audience the most compelling content — and earn that disproportionate share of popular culture. That’s the power of content.” The jury is out on just how compelling Coke’s content will prove to the site’s visitors – for now, it looks to us more like a souped-up ‘About Us’ section than, say, a bold stab at editorial engagement along the lines of Red Bull’s feature-packed Red Bulletin magazine – but there’s no doubting their intent.
Nike is also putting significant resource into relevant, useful content for athletes of all levels – most notably via Nike+. The Nike+ website has been running since 2007, offering users a range of free fitness resources aimed at keeping you motivated while you train. You can use Nike+ to share and compare workouts, pick up tips and monitor fitness goals. There’s also an app for runners that uses your smartphone’s motion sensors to monitor every aspect of a workout, as well as the Hyperdunk basketball shoe that has built-in sensors and Bluetooth capability to link up to your iOS device to record in-game performance. All this comes alongside the huge amount of other content Nike produces, such as iPad magazines and their customisable NikeID range.
Most recently there’s the Nike+ Fuelband that promises to monitor and convert all the wearer’s athletic activity into Nike Fuel, a sort of exercise-based ‘Universal Credit’ – only without the gloomy implications for single-parent families. And of course, all these different ways of using Nike+ are easily shareable on social – every time a consumer uses a branded product, you can be sure that their friends and followers get to hear about it too. A double win for Nike.
In the retail sector, meanwhile, Sainsbury’s has just announced it will be amalgamating its digital and content departments as part of its overall aim of placing content at the heart of its marketing efforts. The supermarket has already made great strides in the content realm. Sainsbury’s has reported “phenomenal” traffic through the website for their in-house clothing brand ‘Tu’. The site offers style-guides, fashion articles and fun features like in-store photo shoots. Marketing director at Sainsbury’s, Sarah Warby said of the new approach “If you are not feeling and acting like a publisher, you are missing a massive trick.”
2. Packing a punch: smaller brands using content to drive growth
So there’s obviously a growing recognition among bigger brands about the effectiveness of content marketing – but what about ‘the little guy’? As we said in our story on ‘How great content drives e-commerce‘, there are some great examples of smaller brands enhancing user experience in unexpected ways. One of the businesses we picked out then was clothing retailer ModCloth – a fashion brand that produces great, innovative content that builds their business without compromising their cool, vintage-inspired ethos. Sure enough, at the end of 2012 ModCloth announced (in neat Infographic format) that their company had grown by 50% and over 17 million users had voted on their ‘Be the Buyer’ feature.
Another small brand making big waves in the content pool is Speak Media favourite, Poler; working with just three full-time staff Poler has taken its ultra-hip range of camping gear to the masses – shipping to six countries and stocked in, amongst others, UK retailer Snow and Rock. Poler branded content includes photo essays (collected under the heading ‘Adventures’), a team of sponsored athletes and a sumptuous Tumblr account that will have you mentally packing your rucksack and planning your next foray into the wilderness before you can say ‘reasonably priced sleeping bags’.
3. Are you ready to start producing great brand content?
All these are great examples of brands large and small embracing ‘the Content Way’ but there are still thousands of brands and businesses out there that are either producing no content at all or are doing so in fits and spurts, without a real strategy, and without real editorial standards. Indeed, as Econsultancy’s “Content Marketing Survey Report” shows, just 38% of companies have a content marketing strategy in place – despite the fact that 90% of marketers believe content marketing will become more important over the next 12 months.
The signs are encouraging though, with big guns leading the way and smaller brands showing that great content doesn’t have to cost the earth. So, expect to see more brands devoting resource to content and more chief content officers appointed over the course of 2013. The message is getting through that creating great content is the most effective means of strengthening your brand and creating engagement with consumers.