Long before I began my content marketing career, I worked in a bookstore. One of my favorite parts of my job was helping parents choose books for their children, which eventually led to me returning to school to study children’s literature. At the bookstore, one group of books that always stuck out was a series about math and Hershey’s candy. That’s right, these were children’s books about math that were branded and promoted by a candy company. I always shrugged the books off, not realizing at the time that they were actually really good content marketing examples.
Years later, after completing a couple of degrees in children’s literature, I went to work as an editor in the math department of a textbook development house (I never said my career went in a straight line). My team was working on a project for a client that wanted us to find trade books related to very specific math concepts, at specific age ranges, and within a certain publish-date range. Oh, and they needed more than 30 books without overlap.
So what did I do? I searched online and combed through library catalogs; I became best friends with my local children’s librarian; I reached out to my friends who were booksellers, editors, and parents. And eventually, I went back to the books that I had once written off because they were sponsored by a candy company.
As luck would have it, they were actually pretty good. The academic snob in me was surprised. The math editor in me was even more surprised that the book on ratio and percentage—notorious for being one of the hardest subjects to write about—was not only accurate, but also fun. The plot of aliens coming down to Earth to trade their knowledge of ratio and percentage for Twizzlers is so off the wall that it’s hard to resist. Not only were these candy books actually teaching content correctly, but they were fun to read, to boot.
When I started thinking about content marketing examples that were outside of our normal definition, I remembered these books. We talk a lot in content marketing about telling great stories and creating content that is valuable to the reader. These books certainly added value to my life by helping me slot books into my client’s list. They also helped some kids learn about percentages, and any time you can get kids excited about math, that’s a win.
In retrospect, I shouldn’t have let the fact this was, essentially, sponsored content stop me from giving the books a fair shot. These content marketing examples were actually written by Jerry Pallotta, who has written a number of other successful children’s books about math and other subjects. Like other forms of brand journalism, this was an example of an established writer creating quality content for a brand.
So, what I’m saying is don’t write off content just because it may be associated with that word “brand,” and that if my next article is about aliens coming to trade their content marketing knowledge for some kind of delicious treat, you’ll know where I’m stealing my ideas from.
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