Creating good content should be the cornerstone of any brand’s marketing strategy. You want to have something that people will find impressive. You want to wow them when they come across what you publish.
To achieve content marketing success, you first need to know what to create. Every business owner wants their target market to choose them over the competition but standing out, and establishing yourself as an authority in the process, doesn’t happen overnight.
The best content marketers are always striving to stay a cut above the rest.
They generate ideas like crazy. They have a strategy that’s agile – they keep up with trends that their target market loves and act on them fast.
At the same time, they see to it that everything they do is aligned with their goals. They experiment with content in search of what will resonate with their audience. They embody the voice and image of their brand to make sure it looks and feels familiar to their customers.
In this blog, we look at four brands with successful content marketing stories. They use content in genius ways that allow them to reach a far greater audience, even on a global scale.
But they don’t just get their name out successfully. They also engage their ideal customers, leaving them with a memorable experience that makes them want to subscribe to the brand.
Organisations like MND Australia, the national body committed to raising awareness for Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and John Deree, a manufacturer for agricultural equipment of more than 100 years have used content to stay relevant and get important messages across.
We also review how Airbnb, perhaps the most popular online booking platform today, and Payless Shoes, an international discount footwear chain, have succeeded in content marketing through creativity and innovative ideas.
Case studies: How four brands used content to their advantage
The following case studies show how content marketing can raise awareness, establish a brand, and generate leads. Each example will show you ways you can use content for your brand to succeed:
The Ice Bucket Challenge
The Ice Bucket Challenge was a viral social media phenomenon in 2014. Participants of the challenge would dump a bucket of freezing water over their head (or ask someone to do it for them) while filming the action for social media. Then, they would nominate others to do the same.
The challenge was done to raise awareness and encourage donations for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS (in the US it’s better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease and in Australia, motor neuron disease or MND).
It first received media attention after ex-professional golfer Greg Norman challenged NBC Live anchor Matt Lauer to do it. Lauer accepted the challenge on air and did it live.
This sparked a trend on social media that led to millions of people posting their own videos doing it and challenging their friends to follow suit.
More than 17 million participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge worldwide, and it gained even more popularity when more and more celebrities began doing it too.
Kim Kardashian did it live as a guest on The Ellen Show. Others like Matt Damon, David and Victoria Beckham, and Justin Bieber posted their videos on social media. Even Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Oprah Winfrey joined in on the viral dare. Former US President, Barack Obama, on the other hand bowed out of the challenge but donated to the cause.
The brilliance of this content strategy was in the fact that it used personal video content, mostly shot on a mobile phone and posted on Instagram, to push out a message at minimal cost. It was shareable content, because people enjoyed watching famous personalities do the challenge. Overnight, it was trending on Twitter, and millions reshared the videos on Facebook.
The campaign had massive reach, because it was promoted through a challenge that anybody could participate in without much effort from the brand itself. And though at first the dare was to get yourself wet or else you’d need to donate $100 to MND research, it became a symbol of advocacy support. Thus, people began doing the challenge and donating either way.
In Australia alone, more than 60,000 supporters helped raise more than $3 million to MND Australia and state MND associations. This money funded new research grants as well as enhanced care and support services.
Payless Shoes pulled off a controversial stunt that tricked social media influencers to pay big bucks for low-cost footwear. In one of the most over-the-top marketing ploys that put the brand back into the public’s eye, Payless branded their shoes under a fake name, “Palessi,” and anonymously invited 80 influencers to visit its grand opening.
The launch party took place in Los Angeles, and everything was set up exactly like a real opening. Camera crews were set up, velvet ropes were in place, and people were looking forward to Bruno Palessi unveiling himself.
Videos from the event showed guests gushing over the shoes. They spent hundreds of dollars, excitedly shopping as the first people to visit Palessi.
When they finished shopping, they were brought to a room where they were told the truth. After the big reveal, Payless refunded the money but let them keep their shoes.
One reason why the campaign worked is that the videos taken of these influencers being overly enthusiastic about the shoes and then being told they were pranked were posted on social media. These commercials showed genuine reactions from them, shocked and in disbelief.
It became a shareable piece of content reaching millions of users online. It was a daring move that shifted the perception of social media influencers and their apparent “power” to sell.
They were a wise target for Payless, because the campaign underscored the role of these individuals who generate hysteria online for their product posts and endorsements. Many times, they aren’t knowledgeable about what they were selling online, and they’re drumming up noise based on absurd premises. Many influencers recommend what they know, what they like, what’s good based on what they’ve been told which puts a question mark on how trustworthy they really are.
This entire stunt had a simple goal: to draw attention to the Payless brand. They wanted to be relevant in the market, and the publicity they received from the event helped remind people of who they are.
But the campaign had a lasting effect.
It began to ignite conversations among marketers and business owners. It brought to light how a luxury brand name so easily pushed buyers to pay more.
This type of marketing strategy is often referred to as Guerilla Marketing.
It’s a complex type of strategy, because it only works when a new element is introduced into the target market’s environment without disrupting it. This new element is noticeable and represents the brand, bringing awareness and often, virality.
The real investment in this type of marketing tactic is a creative, intelligent idea. Then, it transcends into various content mediums, the way Payless succeeded in gaining attention on social media with Palessi.
Stories from the Airbnb community
Sometimes, the best branded stories don’t come from the brand at all. They come from its passionate supporters, such as the Airbnb community.
Stories from the Airbnb Community is a social media content campaign that showcases the hosts of Airbnb homes. In an interview-style video, these property owners talk about what somebody can do in the area where their house or apartment is located. It’s a guided tour of the area, with commentary from someone who knows the place best. They talk about what they love about it, whether it’s because they’re a quick walk from parks and lakes or they enjoy having a selection of diverse cuisines to try in the area.
Airbnb teams up with local directors and photographers to bring these stories to life. The videos take audiences to the streets of the neighbourhoods and show them its famous landmarks giving them a glimpse of what life is like there.
Part of the videos are spent showing the property of the host. It gives them a chance to showcase its best features that you can expect when you stay. This way, viewers get the opportunity to know the owner and the property and decide if they want to stay there.
But these stories go beyond what makes the location stand out. It’s also their story, and why they were encouraged to share their property with others through Airbnb.
Despite being a platform for connecting travellers with lodging hosts, they don’t sell their brand story from a tech point of view. Instead, Airbnb does it with a hospitality perspective in mind, and they do it by having a human on screen tell their story to pull more potential customers in.
This kind of approach to content proves the power of storytelling. It taps into the audience’s emotions as they follow the life of the narrator, listen to their experiences, and develop a connection. And while all this is happening, Airbnb successfully shows what kind of brand they are.
John Deere’s The Furrow is a content marketing trailblazer.
The agricultural magazine for farmers was the first of its kind, born generations before content marketing became mainstream. And it’s still in circulation today.
Started under the direction of Charles Deere, the second son of John Deere, The Furrow’s first issue was printed in 1895. Originally conceptualised as a journal for American farmers, its readership grew fast.
It quickly became a globally distributed resource for farmers, providing a mix of current issues in local and international farming. It also sheds light on emerging industry practices and latest news.
Today, the magazine reaches more than two million globally in four languages across 115 countries.
They also have an online magazine with an annual subscription and more recently, a podcast called “On Life & Land”. According to David Jones, manager of agriculture publications, the podcast gives listeners a greater sense of the people being interviewed.
Each content channel has the same goal: to tell stories that people will enjoy and that will provide them with knowledge they can apply in their work.
The success of The Furrow can be attributed to how it has stayed faithful to its goals. Their writers are in tune with what their readers want to know about. They avoid too much corporate messaging, and instead, make the magazine about what their market finds interesting.
No matter the industry, content works. But strong, engaging content will provide even better results for your brand.
It can raise awareness like how the Ice Bucket Challenge reached millions worldwide to tell them about a pressing health issue.
It establishes a brand’s identity, the way Airbnb uses storytelling through their community of hosts or the way Payless used an experience to introduce themselves to audiences.
And content can generate leads, the way The Furrow uses their material to encourage readers to check out their products.
When you do content marketing right, you can expect these benefits for your business. And when that happens, you’ll quickly be a brand wanted by many.