Most brands worth their salt will have some sort of marketing plan; the blueprint to bring their business to the next level. Increasingly, companies have embraced content marketing as the fuel to power their plans—and adjusted budgets, distribution and a whole lot besides to make the very most of that content, too.
Of course, content marketing can mean different things to different people—and when you’re talking about brands across a wide variety of industries, utilising an almost endless range of formats to connect with their customers, even a veteran cat-skinner would marvel at the range of options.
There are two things you can count on, though; the companies achieving the greatest success have figured out what’s right for them, and then put their money where their mouths are. Need some inspiration? Here’s a handful of brands leading the way…
Weapon of choice: User Generated Content (UGC)
The action camera company is loved by surfers, snowboarders, divers, drivers, and a whole host of others living considerably more exciting lives than your average marketer—and GoPro realised this quickly. Nothing conceived or created in their offices could possibly compare to the real-life exploits of their customers…so why not use those instead?
UGC isn’t a new concept, but GoPro is an incredible example of what it can achieve. For one, it demonstrates the capability of the product in an authentic and trustworthy fashion; these are real people using the camera in their real lives. It’s also helped make the company synonymous with extreme sports and embedded the company within the community; their customers are brand ambassadors, eager to share their content with the world.
One of the key benefits of UGC is that it’s self-perpetuating. Even outside of the company’s own efforts with sponsored athletes, there’s a constant stream of content hitting the net; consumers see what their peers are doing and leap at the chance to have a go themselves, a legion of happy customer advocates doing the brand’s job for them. GoPro will never have to scrounge for material because there’s more and more available with every passing day.
Oh, and one final point; just look at it. Content marketing doesn’t get much more captivating— and downright cool—than this.
Weapon of choice: Multiplicity
OK, so a marketing and sales specialist making a list of top marketing seems like a bit of a cop-out. But there can be no question that HubSpot, in practising what they preach, have built one of the most effective content marketing operations in the game.
It’s widely acknowledged that a customer’s path from awareness to purchase contains multiple touchpoints. Different research has turned up a range of exact figures but suffice to say that a customer journey is just that; a journey, summed up in the epic saga of a stand mixer. Stumbling across the brand in the first place, checking out blogs and social media, engaging with email marketing and testimonials, a consideration period with demonstrations and samples, and finally getting to the decision; it’s a whole thing.
And HubSpot decided they’d be there every step of the way.
Their SEO-driven blog content creates a super-wide funnel; their walled resources—requiring an email sign-up to access—help solidify a base. A meticulously crafted system of follow-up emails, free software offers, and ever-present CTAs move you further down the line, all the while building trust, demonstrating expertise, and giving the company the best indication of how to get their eventual sale over the line.
Again, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see sales and marketing experts in an article like this—but the fact that they’re drinking their own champagne says something about just how good it is.
Weapon of choice: Personalisation
The largest music streaming platform in the world boasts 345 million monthly active users (as of Q4 2020); that means a whole lot of user data. As luck would have it, the music industry—with its genre definitions and trend watching—has been segmenting audiences long before buyer personas were a thing; Spotify knows how to use that wealth of information to its advantage.
First is the aforementioned grouping like-minded listeners into genres—a process that’s been turned up to 11. Forget Rock, Pop, Jazz or R&B; how about Vocaloid, Catstep, Freakbeat or Stomp & Holler? This mind-bending exercise of division and delineation is the foundation of playlists, which—whether curated or algorithmic—serve customers with ever-increasing precision.
The greatest party piece, though, arrived in decidedly unflashy style in 2015. In fact, it took a few years to find its feet, but what was then Year in Music is now Wrapped—and it’s proven a sensation. Tallying personalised listening stats, using them to generate customised quizzes and playlists, and delivering the goods in an attractive and user-friendly package, it’s a masterclass in how to use the information you have on customers in its purest form.
Every customer values personal service, and Spotify has found a way to offer each user something that’s uniquely theirs, different from the 344,999,999 other iterations. Cutting through the numbers, and the noise, it’s a strategy that hits the right notes…
Weapon of choice: Advanced Technology
From their colours to their creative, IKEA has succeeded in establishing an instantly recognisable brand—and while the labyrinthine aisles and familiar flat packaging are part of the customer experience, the Swedish brand has never lost sight of the fact that their products are going to be embedded in people’s homes and lives long after they leave the store.
From inspiration videos to Pinterest mood boards, their social channels are stacked with the type of content that customers want and need, but it’s their forays into AR technology that have really changed the game. Their future-living lab, SPACE10, has produced pioneering programmes that allow users to place furniture around their home (via a device screen, of course), instantly answering the perennial question of, “How would an Ektorp look here?”
The technology has advanced impressively, too—with the ability to design entire rooms, and future plans for an integrated buying platform to make their app a literal one-stop-shop—and the firm is clearly streets ahead of its competition.
Why such commitment to the strategy? Because it’s a single stroke of content marketing genius. It’s purposeful, providing tools that add value for a user. It’s engaging, far surpassing a TV ad or print display when it comes to connecting with the customer. And, by infiltrating the very rooms they hope to one day place their products, they’ve taken “meet the customer where they are” to a whole new level.
Weapon of choice: Show, Don’t Tell
A start-up that’s revolutionised its sector in a decade, the Australian graphic design platform allows users to create incredibly impressive posters, presentations, newsletters, videos, and just about anything else you might fancy. And the secret? Well, we just told you; they allow users to give it a go—quickly, and for free.
When content marketers preach the edict of “show, don’t tell,” it usually means utilising real-life testimonials rather than self-congratulatory waffle, or providing real and purposeful advice rather than a constant hard sell. But in leveraging a freemium model, where significant amounts of their magic is at users’ disposal free of charge, Canva is essentially backing its own product; trusting its quality, and the work that results from its use, will do the heavy lifting.
Now, all of this works as part of an outstanding overall marketing mix – including advanced SEO, massive backlink outreach, and a sophisticated email and social media strategy – but it’s in placing the product, the ultimate value proposition, at the heart of everything that the company has won customers all over the globe.
Oh, and the fact that it’s a handy tool for content creators means it’ll always have a place in our hearts!
The brands above might be global giants, but their tactics can be adopted and adapted by just about any business. The next time you consider your content marketing strategy, ask yourself these five questions, inspired by some of the biggest and best players in the game, that could help guide you on your journey.
- Could customer stories, experiences and feedback help to spread our message?
- Is our strategy tailored to address multiple segments of our base, in different places, and at different times?
- How can we use data to form greater connections with customers?
- What innovative ideas could bring our content to the next level?
- Can our customers see demonstrable value in our offering?