Five innovative examples of content marketing from the US
The content marketing industry in the UK is buoyant. According to a recent-ish report from Yahoo and Enders Analysis, it will apparently be worth £349 million in 2020, up from £125 million in 2014. It seems like we are finally catching up with the US which has over recent years witnessed a massive surge in investment in branded content. In fact, according to a report published last November by market research firm Technavio, the global content marketing industry will grow at an annual rate of 16% per year through 2021, reaching $412 billion by the end of 2021.
It would however be churlish of us not to admit that some of the best examples of how companies harness content come from the other side of the pond. So here is a selection of great examples to inspire you.
At first glance the Future of Customer Engagement and Commerce looks like a standalone editorial site, and a great one at that. It is brimming with insightful thought leaderships articles and state of the industry surveys. The site, however, is an important lead generation tool for SAP Hybris, a company which creates customer engagement software and has partnerships with many of the world’s biggest enterprises.
SAP Hybris’ strategy is to encourage potential customers to dip into the website’s high quality content and then to shift them along the funnel. Perhaps firstly to signing up to an email, but then moving them along to SAP Hybris’ more salesy content which they hope will create paying customers. The site is a textbook example of how to harness quality content and SEO techniques to creates sales leads.
One of the big questions the founders of startup Away Travel had to grapple with was ‘how do you make luggage interesting?’ How do you shift the dial from being perceived as a bag maker to emerging as a lifestyle travel brand. The solution for Away has been content and in particular its excellent content portal here. It’s a first class travel magazine that mixes advice – like improving your travel selfies – with guides, such as finding the best restaurants in Madrid. The content is short, pithy and engaging and accompanied by high quality images.
In 2017 Away followed in the footsteps of Airbnb and ASOS and created a printed version of Here. It has a high ticket price of $25, but for that investment its readers are able to revel in some glorious photography and excellent long form content.
A few years ago Venture Capitalists realised that if they wanted to attract the hottest tech startups they would have to create great content to underline their approach and thought leadership. First Round does this on an almost industrial scale and is reaping the rewards for its diligence.
It boasts a suite of nine online magazines, from sales through to fundraising, which offer insight and advice for growing tech companies. The quality of the content, much of which is verging on longform, is uniformly excellent. In the last year the company has also innovated ensuring it is where its customers are on social channels like Medium, but also creating First Search, a comprehensive database of articles about companies compiled from across the web. Users offer up a little information about themselves, and the search engine optimises the features it delivers to them.
General Electric is a content marketing innovator which has over the years delivered a huge content portal, experimented with emerging social platforms and pioneered the use of technology such as drones in branded content creation. In many ways its flagship content site, GE Reports is the gold standard of branded tech content – an inspired mixture of forward looking technological articles and videos often illustrated by company case studies. The roundup of The 5 Coolest Things On Earth This Week which focuses on brilliant innovations from the world of academia, is unmissable.
Tomas Kellner, the editor in chief at GE recently told Forbes that the quality of branded content has to be really high now to enable any kind of cut through with audiences. “GE Reports’ competition isn’t IBM or Boeing or Intel,” Kellner says, it’s really The Wall Street Journal. His mission is to break through the noise and distractions of cell phones, incessant notifications, media saturation. It’s not easy. “People don’t set aside 10 minutes each day to read branded content,” Kellner says.
One of the key issues for many established companies is ‘how do you change culture?’ There is often a clear demarcation, with the majority of the management teams from Generation X and employees being Millennials. Yet it is important that the attitudes and tastes of the younger employees are communicated, not just to the management, but across the business and indeed reflected to the outside world. And this is an issue that content can help address.
A really great example is the Diversity and Inclusion blog from Bloomberg. It is an inspired mixture of help and advice for employees from all backgrounds on how to increase workplace inclusivity. So, for example there are articles on the power of mentorship, LGBT+ inclusion in Asia and why a multigenerational workforce is a competitive advantage.
The content is helpful and insightful but sometimes challenging too with calls to action to Bloomberg employees to create a truly diverse and inclusive workplace.
It will be interesting to see if other larger enterprises adopt a similar approach.
Ashley Norris, Content Consultant, The CMA