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In today’s state of marketing, competition is stiff and audiences are far more informed than before when TV, radio broadcasts and above-the-fold newspaper headlines reigned supreme. In times like these, of short attention spans and a demand for quality, how do you manage to build brand awareness, let alone stand out from the crowd? The answer: through clever content marketing strategies.
With content marketing strategies, cultivating strong relationships and strengthening trust are the ultimate end goals.
Over the years, many businesses have come up with genius strategies that sent their brand awareness (and some other crucial KPIs) through the roof. There is a multitude of valuable lessons to be learned from these in terms of solid, intelligent and effective content marketing strategies, so let’s dive in.
Breaking Down the Content Marketing Funnel
Knowing where your prospects stand in the buyer’s journey can help you craft the most suitable content asset, and bring them one step closer to converting.
Though there isn’t a universal consensus on this matter, several different sources and marketers agree on the following 3-stage content marketing funnel:
(Image Source: Single Grain)
Here’s what it means:
- Stage 1 (TOFU) — the ‘top-of-the-funnel’ section focuses on high volume and more frequency, and not so much on value. The goal is to make prospects aware of a problem they’re facing and its solution. This is done by leveraging blog posts, articles, infographics and social media activity.
- Stage 2 (MOFU) — at this stage, the ‘middle-of-the-funnel’ section, the goal is to convert the problem-aware prospects into leads. For this, you can leverage in-depth guides, reports and other high-value educational resources.
- Stage 3 (BOFU) — at the final stage, or the ‘bottom-of-the-funnel’ section, you’re focused on driving solutions. For this purpose, you can leverage in-depth resources such as competitive comparisons, trials/demos of your solution(s) and personalized offers.
As such, the above funnel isn’t set in stone, and you don’t have to limit your content assets to a specific stage. The 3 Stages Funnel is simply a framework to help you structure a solid content plan or strategy, then experiment and iterate to craft a funnel that works best for your brand.
15 Content Marketing Strategies that Made an Impact
A brilliant content marketing strategy is one that fulfills a brand’s marketing objectives while also creating an experience for its audience.
To better understanding this notion, let’s take a look at some content marketing strategies that were a massive success.
1. GE’s “InstaWalk”
When it comes to leveraging Instagram for content marketing, a conglomerate that specializes in aircraft engines, turbines, healthcare and other heavyweight solutions is the last thing that would cross your mind.
However, back in 2013, General Electric, with the help of The Barbarian Group, launched the “GE InstaWalk.” It was a campaign that invited Instagram influencers (aviation geeks, photographers, etc.) on exclusive tours of their facilities.
Influencers and fans alike shared content showcasing GE facilities and its products in action, with the hashtag “GEInstaWalk.”
A year later, GE turned it into a proper competition and invited Instagram users to send in their entries to be considered for the tours.
As of the time of writing this post, the hashtag has more than 370 posts, which is impressive considering the audience and the platform.
The results? According to OptinMonster, the campaign helped General Electric:
- Receive over 8 million views on their Instagram account
- Grow followers by 3,000
- Reach over 3 million people on Instagram
Needless to say, #GEInstaWalk is a textbook example of how to leverage user-generated content to build your brand.
It’s also a good case study on how social media influencers can help grow your business.
2. SitOrSquat App by Charmin
If you’re in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector, and on top of that, are a brand of toilet paper, you have to pump some extra gas into your marketing tactics to stay relevant.
That’s what Charmin, a household favorite of many, executed in order to maintain their brand’s awareness.
Instead of relying on plain old videos, discounts and TV ads, the company developed an innovative mobile application: SitOrSquat, an app that helps users locate clean restrooms nearby.
Using data collected from other users, the app evaluates the cleanliness of those toilets, and advises users whether to “sit” or “squat.”
Since its inception, the app has received over 100,000 downloads on Google Play alone.
The brand also claims that the total number of searches for SitOrSquat, across all platforms, has exceeded 7.2 million.
All of the this, coupled with the media coverage the app has received so far, has helped Charmin build a dedicated community of fans and users who frequently upload photos and reviews – effectively bringing the brand to life and adding an entirely new use to customers for interacting with Charmin.
Ultimately, this shows that you don’t necessarily have to limit yourself to traditional mediums to reach out and genuinely connect with and provide value to your audience.
3. Superdrug’s “Unrealistic Beauty Norms” Campaign
Superdrug, one of the leading health and beauty retailers in the UK, came up with a creative way to garner attention by touching upon a sensitive subject.
Their “Perceptions of Perfection” campaign was centered on exploring the ideal versions of a woman’s body in different countries.
The company asked 18 graphic designers from around the globe to turn this picture of a model into what they thought was the perfect body – according to the beauty standards in their countries.
As you can imagine, the results were surprising, and not to mention, outrageous:
The study immediately gained traction and went viral on social media.
Platforms, like The New York Times and BuzzFeed, to name a few, were quick to cover the study’s unrealistic outcomes.
The BuzzFeed article alone received almost 400 comments and earned the website’s famous “trending badge” (an indicator of high engagement).
Furthermore, according to OptinMonster, the original study received 3 million views and more than 1 million social shares.
This campaign from Superdrug is a good example of content marketing strategies that have the ability to go viral and add value to your brand by positioning yourself as an innovator in discussing controversial, yet important, topics.
4. “Beyond Silence” Documentary by Be Vocal
Be Vocal is a nonprofit organization — launched by Sunovian Pharmaceuticals Inc. — with the mission to encourage people to speak up about mental health, increase awareness and offer support.
To provide a different angle on this sensitive subject, Be Vocal joined forces with Shaul Schwarz, an esteemed photojournalist, and Demi Lovato, a Grammy-nominated singer, to create a 29-minute long documentary called “Beyond Silence.”
The piece sheds light on the importance of speaking up about mental health.
It ties the stories of 3 individuals together, suffering from different complications, who changed their lives by breaking their silence.
According to CMI, the documentary received over 416 million impressions and was covered in more than 240 articles.
These figures speak volumes for the campaign’s success, and is a good example of using storytelling as one of your content marketing strategies.
5. Blendtec’s “Will It Blend?” Videos
Back in 2007, when YouTube was still young and the trend of short viral videos was at its peak, Blendtec came up with a unique way of cutting through the noise by launching the “Will It Blend?” series.
To appeal to Millennials (and incorporate the humorous elements of infomercials), Blendtec started a series on YouTube starring YouTube’s founder, Tom Dickson.
Every now and then, they uploaded videos demonstrating the sheer strength of their blenders.
How? By “blending” various day-to-day items, ranging from iPhones to batteries.
Here’s a screenshot of one of their first videos, in which they blend/destroy an earlier version of the iPhone:
As of now, their YouTube channel has received over 288,883,261 views and has more than 874,000 subscribers.
Additionally, the company experienced a 700% increase in sales that can be attributed to these videos. This is a perfect example of a super-simple-yet-powerfully-effective content marketing strategy.
6. Orlando Magic’s Custom Emails & In-App Messages
According to the 2018 Accenture Pulse survey, 91% of consumers were more likely to buy from brands that provided personalized offers.
In an age where access to data analytics tools is easier than ever, an increasing number of brands are investing in personalization as one of their main content marketing strategies.
One of them is the Orlando Magic — a professional basketball team.
By using WordSmith, a software that uses AI to find hidden patterns in language, the NBA team creates both personalized emails and messages for their mobile application.
Besides offering users special discounts and offers (based on their interaction with the app and buying pattern), the platform also sends out relevant articles and bits of information about the team, individual players and their history.
These messages fit perfectly within the “content core” — a sweet spot between what the audience cares about and what your business has to offer.
(Image Source: CoSchedule)
According to Automated Insights, this personalization resulted in a significant boost in the loyalty program, along with an 80% positive response rate for emails.
7. The “Money Talks” Finance Crash Course by NerdWallet
Offering educational content for free is another example of one of the most useful content marketing strategies.
However, this isn’t limited to B2B marketers — even B2C brands can incorporate educational resources in their content marketing strategies.
A good example is the “Money Talks” crash course on finance by NerdWallet.
This four-episode course will take you through everything you need to know about the basics of finance, helping you make better decisions about investments, savings and borrowing.
And the best part about this course is that it’s all un-gated — users don’t have to sign up or fill out any sort of form to access these lessons.
That, combined with all of the other educational resources and free tools that the website offers (such as the credit card finder, credit score calculator, etc.) has established NerdWallet as a go-to source for tips on personal finance.
8. IKEA’s “Place” App
IKEA has always remained in the spotlight for its trendy furniture and innovative marketing.
However, there has always been a problem.
Customers often complained of having to go through the hassles of assembling the furniture, only to find out that it didn’t fit or match with its surroundings.
To tackle this problem, the Swedish company developed a mobile app called “Place.”
Using augmented reality and smartphone cameras, the app lets users test out 3D models of IKEA products, and allows them to see if they fit with the surroundings or not — all without having to purchase or assemble anything.
With the help of technology and content, IKEA solved a big problem for buyers in the consideration stage (or BOFU, bottom-of-the-funnel stage).
The brand received significant coverage from famous outlets, such as the Huff Post and The New York Times, to name a few.
On Google Play, IKEA Place currently has over 100,000 downloads.
Additionally, on the App Store, it’s one of the most popular apps built on Apple’s ARKit (beating hundreds of apps to claim the 2nd position in 2018).
9. HubSpot Academy
HubSpot has always remained at the forefront of providing innovative marketing and sales solutions.
Apart from their premium software, the company is also known for its free tools and resources.
In 2012, they went one step further and launched the HubSpot Academy — an extensive library of free short courses and in-depth certifications on inbound methodology, content marketing strategies, SEO and other in-demand skills.
Over time, as the academy grew, HubSpot certifications began receiving global recognition within the digital marketing industry.
Today, it’s one of the most (if not the most) recommended platforms for anyone wanting to learn about inbound marketing.
HubSpot Academy is yet another great example of using educational content to build your brand and provide a memorable experience with your content marketing strategies.
According to SimilarWeb, the academy currently receives an estimated 248,500 visitors each month.
However, the interesting bit is that a major chunk of that traffic usually ends up on the main HubSpot website:
Although there isn’t any concrete data that shows the relationship between the academy and actual conversions, it’s safe to say that some of these customers will go on to buy something. The Academy worked wonders for HubSpot brand’s authority, visibility and following.
10. “Batkid Begins” Documentary by Make-A-Wish-Foundation
From helping a terminally ill kid pin his favorite wrestler, to finding the dream pet for a girl in a wheelchair, the Make-A-Wish foundation is on a mission to make the impossible happen.
From time to time, they document their efforts to show the difference they’re making.
One such example is the “Batkid Begins” documentary — a story of how a child with leukemia got to be his favorite superhero for a day, as hundreds of people gathered to cheer him on.
The elaborate act involved the Batkid heroically driving his Batmobile (a black Lamborghini) with Batman to deal with a hostage situation.
The little superhero became a sensation on social media, as celebrities rushed to thank him (and Make-A-Wish foundation) for keeping Gotham safe.
Also, actors who played Batman on the big screen, including Ben Affleck and Adam West, responded in turn:
On YouTube, the official trailer alone has over 1.7 million views. The documentary itself is currently available for rent or purchase.
What makes Batkid one of the best content marketing strategies is the fact that it leverages the emotional factor to raise awareness about the organization’s efforts. And it clearly worked.
11. Intrepid Travel’s “The Journal” & User-Generated Content
Staying relevant in a highly competitive industry, such as travel and tourism, can be tough.
There’s more to maintaining your market share than offering discounts and exclusive tours.
The marketers at Intrepid Travel, a travel company providing small group adventures, understood this and as a result, they launched The Journal — a travel blog and source for adventure news.
The company uses this platform to share real stories of avid travelers, exclusive tips and relevant news/facts.
One of their top 5 ranking pages is a blog post on facts about Guatemala, which, according to SEMrush, ranks for 172 keywords on Google and receives an estimated 2,600 visitors each month.
In fact, the blog posts collectively account for the majority of the traffic that comes to their website.
These efforts assist Intrepid Travel in establishing itself as the go-to authority for content on travel and tourism and generates much-welcomed additional traffic.
In addition to The Journal, the company also welcomes travelers to share their stories on their official Facebook page.
As of now, they have more than half a million likes.
By leveraging user-generated content, Intrepid Travel has managed to build a strong following on social media (much like GE), which goes to show that similar content marketing strategies can work for two completely different industries.
12. Bodybuilding.com’s Authority on Fitness
Whether you want to shop for workout gear or are in search for supplements, Bodybuilding.com has everything a gym goer needs.
But that’s not all the website is known for.
Since its launch, the company has been publishing in-depth articles on fitness, how-to videos, and other useful content assets on their website.
To provide you with a glimpse of the sheer volume of resources on the website, here’s a screenshot of the navigation menu for their articles:
Aside from articles, they also provide extensive workout plans for different fitness goals, from renowned trainers and scientists, such as Jim Stoppani and Kris Gethin.
Further, along with having the ideal domain name, Bodybuilding.com went all in to dominate the fitness sphere on both search engines and social media.
As of now, the website ranks for some highly competitive keywords on Google.
This is a great example of turning a simple e-commerce business into a huge resource for relevant information by employing effective content marketing strategies.
13. Wistia’s “One, Ten, One Hundred” Series
Wistia is a video marketing software company that provides video hosting solutions to over 300,000 businesses.
To connect with their audience, in 2018 the company created a high-level episodic documentary on a challenge that all video makers struggle with: budget.
Called “One, Ten, One Hundred,” this 4-episode series explores what video marketers can accomplish with budgets of $1,000, $10,000, and $100,000.
The series does a fantastic job of portraying budget-related bumps and barriers in the way of creativity, and how to overcome them.
On YouTube, the official trailer for the series has over 610,000 views, whereas the original landing page still receives more than 400 visitors per month.
Wistia could have turned this into a 5,000+ word guide, but thanks to the brilliant minds on their team (and a good marketing budget), they decided to take a different approach and it paid off.
14. Zillow Porchlight
Founded in 2006, Zillow has been the go-to platform for buying, renting and selling properties in the US.
To maintain their position, they launched the “Zillow Porchlight,” a blog for homeowners, tenants and realtors.
From providing tips on decorating your home for Halloween, to professional advice on saving up to buy a house, Zillow Porchlight blog covers a wide range of topics on real-estate.
According to SEMrush, the blog alone brings in an estimated 174,700 visitors each month.
This is another classic example of creating content that your audience cares about, while indirectly promoting your solutions (i.e. staying within the content core).
15. Airbnb’s “Things To Do” Guides
Apart from helping travelers find a place to crash, Airbnb also utilizes content marketing to share detailed travel guides.
These include places to explore and things to try in famous cities across different continents.
Each city has a separate page, similar to a listing, that tells you about the famous landmarks, eateries and more.
The “Things To Do” guide is a result of both research efforts of the Airbnb team, as well as user-generated content.
As of now, their main resource page ranks for around 712,200 keywords and receives an estimated 101,100 visitors each month.
From finding a suitable place to stay all the way to making a list of things to do and places to visit, the end-goal is to help travelers plan their entire trip, right there on the Airbnb website.
Do’s and Don’ts of Content Marketing
As you can tell from the examples above, content marketing is about thinking outside-the-box.
In fact, long-term strategies are being replaced with short-term tactics. The rest is all governed through frameworks that allow you to identify room for improvements depending on the circumstances (such as using an innovative content format or medium).
However, there are certain ground rules that must be followed to make your content marketing strategy stand out.
Here’s what you have to do to make your content marketing strategy a hit, regardless of your goals, budget or industry:
- Focus on Providing a Solution — if the end-user isn’t gaining something, there’s no point in proceeding. Whether it’s useful information, entertainment or any tangible solution, the audience must gain something without paying (i.e. HubSpot Academy, Bodybuilding.com, Airbnb Things to Do).
- Keep the Content Relevant — don’t get carried away with your pursuit of providing solutions. In the end, the content should be relevant to your brand and your core message (i.e. Superdrug’s body image campaign).
- Leverage the Correct KPIs — it’s important to start off with clear goals. This can help you pick the right KPIs to measure your strategy’s success (i.e. response rates for Orlando Magic’s email marketing campaigns or monthly page visitors for Airbnb).
In the end, remember that your goal is to provide value and benefit to your audience.
On the other hand, you should avoid these classic content marketing mistakes:
- Avoid Blatant Promotion — instead of focusing on the product, talk more about the problems and their possible solutions. Depending on your strategy, you may also subtly mention how your solution is better.
- Don’t Start Without Clear Goals — as implied above, it’s advised to start with clear goals (for example, boosting brand awareness or raising monthly visitors to 50,000). This will help you narrow down your focus, come up with suitable solutions and choose the best content formats.
- Don’t Shy Away from Experimenting — unless you come up with something groundbreaking, you won’t make an impact with traditional formats. Because of this, it’s important to experiment and try new things. For example, instead of writing a plain blog post based on text, go for an in-depth infographic or video.
Wrapping It Up
From engine manufacturers to a toilet paper company, all of the examples that we just went through prove one thing: Content marketing is for everyone — you just have to find the right way to connect with your audience.
With a strong, innovative or creative content marketing strategy, anyone can send their brand awareness skyrocketing.
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