As we got into our Uber outside the Cleveland Airport, our driver turned toward the back seat and said, “You must be here for the convention.”
“What gave it away?” I asked. (None of us, for the record, were wearing anything orange.)
“Oh, everybody I’ve picked up today has been here for the convention,” he answered.
And he’s right—this week some 4,000 marketers are descending on Cleveland for the largest event of the content marketing world, appropriately named Content Marketing World. In the conference’s early years, the name was hyperbolic, but today it’s very nearly literal.
The Content Standard editors have been agonizing over the jam-packed agenda. What to attend? What to cover for the publication? It’s the marketing nerd’s answer to the kid in the candy shop, gluttonous for everything but heartbroken by the reality that I simply can’t have it all.
So we did what every procrastinating content creator does and fell down the Google rabbit hole. Several marginally productive hours later, we were no closer to a cure for heartbreak (what I wouldn’t do for a Time-Turner!), but we did know what brands on the agenda we couldn’t possibly miss.
In truth, I was excited for GE CMO Linda Boff’s keynote before I’d even begun my research. She’s been making headlines since her appointment to her previous role as executive director of global brand marketing.
As number 13 on the Fortune 500, GE could conceivably let their name recognition do the work, but in fact they do anything but. Linda’s attitude towards their history is refreshingly unstuffy: “It’s not being known, it’s being relevant and current . . . the idea is to have people see us in a new and unexpected way,” she told Wharton Business Radio. Under her leadership, content marketing at GE has become as innovative as the company itself, experimenting with branded publications and sci-fi podcasts and building the kind of social media presence you’re more likely to associate with a hip startup than a multinational conglomerate over a century old.
In short: Don’t pay attention to the brunette in the Skyword tee-shirt visibly geeking out during GE’s session. She’ll be fine.
The energy drink? Isn’t it Red Bull that has the amazing content marketing?
Actually, we’re talking about the other Monster—the employment website, not the neon-colored caffeine bomb. Once the only game in town for online job search, Monster.com now has to contend with a plethora of competing job sites. Their content hub of career resources plays no small role in their competitive differentiation.
Monster lands on our brands-to-watch list for two reasons: First, because they’ve fully embraced a newsroom approach to content marketing. Their brand newsroom, led by former executive editor of Money magazine Margaret Magnarelli, is staffed by ex-journalists. Second, because they thoughtfully exploit their treasure trove of proprietary data—gleaned from thousands upon thousands of job seekers—to anchor their storytelling. “Story without data equals empty claims, data without a story is just meaningless numbers,” Margaret told the Content Standard.
And if we had to add a third, their recent rebranding campaign is pretty darn adorable.
Home improvement—sexy, right?
You may scoff, but Lowe’s is undertaking one of the most innovative video marketing strategies of any content creator out there. Their episodic DIY show The Weekender (think HGTV, but owned by a home improvement retailer) streams on Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV, directly targeting cord-cutting millennials buying their first homes with content that truly feels like entertainment.
“I think content marketers are . . . just beginning to recognize our true potential—to not only compete with our primary competitors, but with the media industry itself,” Jonathan Stanley, manager of video content for Lowe’s content studio, told the Content Standard. Lowe’s is stealing the tactics of entertainment media to engage and retain loyal customers: “With episodic content you’re encouraging the viewer to binge on your videos and keep coming back for more. The more time they spend with your content the more likely they are to move down the funnel and become a new customer,” said Jonathan.
SAP was the dark horse of our brand research. The B2B software giant may lack the glamor of the B2C brands on this list, but scratch beneath the surface and you’ll find SAP at the forefront of B2B influencer marketing.
What differentiates SAP from the many other brands dipping their toes into influencer marketing? Their sophisticated, holistic view of the role of the influencer. They recognize that influencers are not just an opportunity to amplify their message but more importantly a way to provide additional value to their audience. “If somebody is going to parrot what you’re saying, I don’t look for that,” Amisha Gandhi, head of influencer marketing for SAP, explained to the Content Standard. “I look for an influencer to come in and bring some sort of outside-in perspective or value, because that in the end is going to create a two-way relationship. It’s a win for them, it’s a win for us.”
This round-up would not be complete without one of the world’s most iconic and beloved brands: Coca-Cola.
Coca-Cola’s content marketing journey has been in the public eye (or at least in the eyes of marketing nerds) since they released their content strategy way back in 2011. Their content is heavily branded—which many in our field would point to as a relic of interrupt advertising—but Coca-Cola may be the rare brand that is so beloved that that level of branding does not impede the audience’s enjoyment of their content.
It’s that love and personal connection that shines through in Coca-Cola’s marketing today. Kate Santore, who leads Coca-Cola’s creative content, told the Content Standard that a whopping 80% of online content for Coca-Cola is produced by their fans. In her words, “We must embrace the idea that we are no longer the only narrator of our story. Our fans and the content they produce are chapters to our stories as well.” The wildly successful “Share a Coke” campaign is perhaps the pinnacle of user-generated content stories.
Coca-Cola’s timelessness is an asset they celebrate without letting it weigh them down. Kate explained that every creative brief begins by looking at their archives, exploring how past storytellers addressed similar problems. From that springboard, they consider how their brand values intersect with current popular culture, allowing them to “create timeless stories told in a timely way.”
In summary: We can’t wait.
At Content Marketing World? Say hello and learn more about Skyword at Booth 95.
Featured image attribution: Aeroplanepics0112