Content marketing has become something of a buzzword (buzz phrase?), and if you work in any kind of business at all, you’ve probably seen it tossed around as an alternative to traditional advertising. But that’s not exactly what it’s there for — instead, content marketing (which is just content, including social media accounts, blogs, real-world campaigns, or basically anything that isn’t a traditional commercial that adds value in some way other than simply advertising a business or product) is designed to draw attention to a company or the things they make in an interesting, useful way.
Still, it can be hard for some businesses to wrap their heads around what, exactly, that might look like for them. That’s why really great examples, from the very in-depth to the extremely simple and actionable, can be really useful in planning your own content marketing pursuits.
Here are just a few of the companies who did a great job with content marketing in 2014.
IBM Conquers Tumblr: If I’m being perfectly honest, when someone sent me the IBM Tumblr, my first response was “eh? IBM is still around?” Then, immediately, I Googled to see what they’re up to.
Because, of course, the tech giant — huge in households in the 80s and 90s — has mostly become an industrial force, no longer dominating the desktops of American homes. However, by creating a surprisingly beautiful, well-curated, smart Tumblr, IBM has harnessed the exact biggest strength of content marketing: They’ve reminded people that they exist, and that they still make things, and that they’re a company I shouldn’t forget. It’s doubtful that the Tumblr makes any money, but the amount of brand awareness it provides is surely substantial.
AMEX Opens Wide: You can’t really talk about content marketing in 2014 without a mention of AMEX’s OPEN Forum, a combination blog/community that allows entrepreneurs to share their insight and advice with each other. Users can ask questions, interact with each other, or share their own perspective on subjects that are important to business owners and managers, ranging from smart web design to leadership skills. And, because OPEN Forum users are largely members, AMEX is also cleverly capturing email addresses and engaging with an audience who otherwise might not spend much time thinking about what credit card they use for their business expenses.
Fun fact: a bicycle bell, when used incorrectly, doubles as a bottle opener. #TheMoreYouKnow #SnapshotWheat pic.twitter.com/AsSc7DLfSi
— New Belgium Brewing (@newbelgium) December 16, 2014
New Belgium Runs The Gamut: Lots of companies want to have a blog, but few manage to pull it off really well. Colorado-based New Belgium Brewery is one that does a pretty great job with extremely focused content that speaks straight to their audience. Company announcements, recipes based on the beers, and other seasonal, timely updates keep their fans looped, while providing a sort of central spot for their campaigns — like Find a Ranger, which smartly uses Vine — and gives them extra stuff to tweet about. Their Twitter, too, hits the brewer’s target demographic, offering jokes, conversations with other beer makers, and the occasional Instagram link.
Charmin Makes An App For That (Yes, That): Another most-discussed piece of savvy content marketing this year was Charmin’s brave decision to address what it is that they actually make, then turn it into a not-boring, not-gross, actually-useful app. Entitled Sit or Squat (yup), the app is sort of like a Yelp for restrooms — which, remarkably, wasn’t something that previously really existed.
Sure, Charmin could have designed an app that was really just about toilet paper, but that’s pretty dull — and probably wouldn’t get nearly as much use as Sit or Squat. Plus, the boldness of the app itself was enough to drum up tons of free publicity, which is one of the number one goals of excellent content marketing. Make it well, make it useful, and make it something that people just have to share with their friends.