Successful Content Marketing: Past and Present
Brands have been doing Content Marketing for decades. While the term has been thrown around a lot more in the past couple of years, the practice of utilizing branded content to reach customers is definitely nothing new. So what’s changed? Clearly the way we live our lives and the way we consume content has evolved with technology, but when I took a step back and looked at some of the most successful content marketing from the past it was easy to find some principles that still ring true today. These are some of my favorite examples from the past paired up with present day content marketing pieces that use the same, old-school principles and still having success.
Tell Stories that Evoke Emotion
The Past: Soap Operas (1930’s)
When radio advertisers like Dial and Proctor & Gamble wanted a better way to capture the attention of their target audience, radio Soap Operas were born. Housewives across the US began tuning in daily to the dramatic ups, downs and cliffhangers that kept them interested and left them wondering what would happen next.
Companies saw how great these shows were at connecting with American housewives, and began producing and sponsoring dramatic, daytime radio shows left and right. The emotional reaction and connection that they found with their target audience was so powerful, that the concept of soap operas lived right on through the transition to television and for decades beyond. (Image credit)
The Present: Chipotle’s ‘The Scarecrow’ Video (2013)
Chipotle seems to have mastered the art of telling an emotional story through an animated video. First with Willie Nelson covering Coldplay, and now with ‘The Scarecrow’, they've been able to successfully create viral videos that tell the story behind their core brand messaging. The video tugs at your heart, and aligns perfectly with Chipotle’s slogan, “Cultivate a better world”.
The results? A combined 15 million YouTube views, maybe a few tears, and a lot more second guesses when thinking about ordering a Big Mac.
Focus on Your Target Personas’ Needs
The Past: The Furrow (1895)
John Deere knew exactly who their audience was when they started publishing The Furrow in 1895, which was a magazine that sought to teach farmers how they could be more successful business owners. The focus of the magazine was not a direct sell of John Deere products, but rather to serve as an educational resource that helped readers become more equipped to meet the challenges of running a farm.
Focusing on the needs of your target persona rather than the direct sell of your product or service is a challenge for marketers, but the when done effectively it is extremely powerful. John Deere struck gold with The Furrow, which was first published 118 years ago, and still exists to this day. (Image credit)
The Present: American Express’ OPEN Forum (2007 - present) https://www.openforum.com/explore/
Small business owners are a very important target market for American Express. By hosting the OPEN Forum, AmEx has created an online community that is truly focused on the needs and challenges that small business owners face. Through a variety of resources and tools, the OPEN Forum provides information and education that helps people grow their businesses.
AmEx has successfully created a thriving community filled with quality content and resources that all revolve around the needs of their customers, regardless of whether or not those needs have anything to do with using credit cards. Within 3 years of launching, the site was receiving more than 10 million pageviews annually in 2010, and the OPEN Forum has continued to thrive since.
Create Content for the Mediums that Your Personas Use
The Past: GI Joe Comics (1980s)
In 1982, Hasbro teamed up with Marvel to re-invent the way they were marketing their GI Joe toys. Even though Government Issue Joe (GI for short) had been around for decades, the new GI Joe comics brought new life to the franchise. Hasbro knew that comic books were extremely popular with the exact demographic that they wanted to sell to, so they decided to leverage that to help drive interest in GI Joe toys.
After launching the new comics with Marvel, GI Joe saw about $600 million in sales in the early 80’s, and became one of the most popular children’s toys ever. (Image credit)
The Present: Home Depot DIY Videos (2006 - present) http://www.youtube.com/user/homedepot/
Where do people go now for tips when working on home improvement projects? Today, YouTube is one of the first places to look for instructional and DIY type content. Knowing this, Home Depot has been actively creating instructional videos for years that keep homeowners coming back from project to project.
Home Depot knows that YouTube videos are a medium that their target personas use regularly, so they have been creating useful, creative content for it since 2006. To date, they have over 40k followers and nearly 40 million views.
So while the landscape has changed (drastically), some of the concepts behind successful content marketing tactics remain fundamentally the same. People are still people, and on a basic level we will still have similar reactions when it comes to our emotions, needs, and why we make one choice over another.
Next time you need a fresh perspective, take a look back at some old school content marketing tactics and see why they were so successful. Ignore the difference in technology, or what might make "then" different from "now", and instead try to find out what made those tactics successful at a more fundamental level. You might just find yourself creating some pretty awesome idea that lives on longer than you do!