Content marketing is heading for exciting new territory in 2016. A new survey finds that 64% of PR and marketing pros will increase content marketing efforts in 2016. Content expert and author Ann Handley predicts that content marketing will truly “grow up” in 2016, as content strategists tell “bigger stories with a braver focus and a bolder voice.”
Content made headlines in 2015 for greater adoption and better results. This year, 70% of B2B marketers created more content than they did a year ago, and in our own 2015 State of Marketing research, we discovered that 31% of marketers were using content marketing and 32% planned to pilot it sometime during the year.
I think it’s safe to say that more marketers now do content marketing than don’t. But more content is not always better, and improving quality will be key to content success next year.
With so many ways to publish content as a brand, inspiration always helps. That’s why we created this list of our 20 favorite content marketing examples of 2015. Whether it’s an individual campaign, a new podcast, or an overall blog property, these companies demonstrate what it means to be customer-focused in every content creation effort. As you plan content marketing campaigns for 2016, consider emulating the spirit of these brands who already do it well.
1. Hipmunk: Traveler’s Guide to Tipping. Travel booking site Hipmunk creates a wealth of content to answer common traveler questions and conundrums. One blog post called Traveler’s Guide to Tipping is a fantastic resource for tipping practices in countries around the world. It includes guidelines for restaurants, taxis, and hospitality. Other excellent posts from Hipmunk include How Travelers Can See the New Star Wars Movie Two Days Early, 48 Things to Do in Asia, and How Much Does a Disney Vacation Really Cost. The takeaway is simple: know your demographic and answer their questions. None of these posts are interactive or flashy, but they provide important and relevant information.
2. Huffington Post: Easy recipe videos. Videos and cooking are a match made in heaven; that’s why we have the Food Network and Top Chef. Huffington Post shows Facebook fans how to craft delicious dishes via descriptive videos — all 60 seconds or less. In 2016, attracting and maintaining customer attention will reach new heights of importance. Take a cue from HuffPo and focus on conciseness for your content.
3. Farmers Insurance: Inner Circle. According to Kapost, Farmers Insurance “features an extensive library of helpful tips around home maintenance and repairs, budgeting, auto care and insurance, and more. The content is easily navigable, succinct, engaging, and well designed.” It’s a perfect example of a brand prioritizing being helpful to people (anyone — not just Farmers customers) instead of selling to them.
4. Birchbox: Personal grooming videos. Beauty subscription service Birchbox regularly publishes excellent how-to grooming videos for men and women on two different pages. These videos often have a seasonal component (like Valentine’s Day makeup or keeping skin moist during dry winter months), encouraging customers to come back and learn more. Here’s a great example of helpful tips for guys seeking to keep long hair healthy.
5. GE: A leader in B2B content. GE is truly a content-focused company. It publishes content in almost every format imaginable, with a variety of content properties with unique focuses. One great example is GE’s online magazine The Txchnologist. According to Kapost, the mag offers “an optimistic, but not utopian, take on the future and humanity’s ability to tackle the great challenges of our era.”
6. MOZ: Smart thinking for doing business digitally. I’ve turned to the MOZ blog for years when I have a question about the latest Google search algorithm or mobile search statistics. MOZ continues to innovate and use data to provide readers with knowledge, not just conjecture. I love this infographic showing 2015 year-in-review-data about the volatility of search.
7. New York Times: Journalism virtual reality. If you’ve followed journalism at all over the past five or ten years, you know the news industry is constantly looking to revolutionize itself to stay relevant and, of course, profitable. (Watch the movie Page One if this interests you.) NYT experimented with virtual reality (VR) in 2015, launching an app you can use on Google cardboard (ideally) or your smartphone. The app fully immerses you in news stories like never before. I recommend you check it out and ponder the implications for all-immersive content marketing in 2016.
8. Lush Cosmetics: Fresh and handmade blog posts. Lush runs a lovely blog with tips for beauty and green living — a perfect match with their eco-conscious and all-natural brand. Check out this post on celebrating a less wasteful holiday.
9. For Dummies: The ubiquitous yellow books go B2B. The For Dummies brand is recognized the world over, so Wiley’s marketers and product team capitalized on that with a new content marketing venture. Dummies’ B2B offering gives companies the chance to craft their own branded Dummies content, and from the looks of the case studies, it seems to be working. For example, Glassdoor used the Dummies solution to create a custom “Employer Branding For Dummies” piece.
10. Betterment: Finance and investing content goes interactive. Investing service Betterment has a great blog and resource center with useful content for investors. But I’m especially enthusiastic about the interactive content Betterment creates — the best being quizzes to test one’s knowledge of finance and investing, as in this example. Quizzes are definitely not just for BuzzFeed; even financial services can get in the game.
11. House of Cards: The alternate Frank Underwood reality. Netflix’s political drama House of Cards adopts the marketing mindset that Frank Underwood and HoC characters are totally real. With a full election website and commercial that aired during a presidential debate, you forget that these people are acting — and isn’t that the whole point of TV? House of Cardscreates a steady stream of content build-up to generate excitement for the new season. It’s a great example of how a few key content pieces released strategically can drum up anticipation for a big launch.
12. Bon Appetit Magazine: Foodcast. Bon Appetit’s podcast “features interviews with chefs, writers, and, well, anyone who has something cool to say about food.” Topics include holiday baking, why chefs hate brunch, and FAQs for Thanksgiving dinner. Not every company needs a podcast, to be sure, but if you can schedule great guests and figure out the tech specs, this can be a meaningful channel to engage with storytellers over the long term.
Think about it: the average podcast is 35 minutes long, much longer than Bon Appetit’s readers probably engage with a single article on their site. If the content is good, people stick with a podcast much longer than they would linger on a webpage, and they subscribe to receive this content right on their smartphone every week. (If you dig podcasts, check out Salesforce’s new marketing-focused podcast launched in 2015 — the Marketing Cloudcast.)
13. Jack Daniels: The Single Barrel Standard. Jack Daniels’ blog the Single Barrel Standard shows an innate understanding of its core audience and the content they want to read. Seven Steps to Master Drinking Outside? Sounds like a winner. And what goes better with cocktails than snacks? Jack’s team penned Best New Ballpark Eats of 2015. Jack Daniels is committed to a regular cadence of content, showing customers with every piece that they share the same values and pastimes.
14. Square: A Town Square for small business owners. Credit card reader Square’s “Town Square” is a resource center for growing businesses. Many small business owners rely on Square readers for credit card readers, and now they can also rely on Square for super valuable SMB content, like how to do better social media marketing and whether a company holiday party is tax deductible. Compared to many other companies’ blogs, it’s very frequently updated.
15. Basecamp: Signal V Noise on Medium. Signal V Noise is “strong opinions and shared thoughts on design, business, and tech. By the makers (and friends) of Basecamp.” Why Medium? According to the team, “When Jason Fried a few months ago suggested that we should start posting articles on Medium, I was skeptical. What possible gain could we have from sharing our stories on someone else’s platform rather than our 15 year-old blog? Turns out, quite a lot! First of all, the writing and formatting experience on Medium is just excellent. I’ve yet to find another web editor that makes it as easy to produce great looking articles. … Second, Medium has a wonderful community and readership that reaches far beyond our natural sphere of influence.” Great advice if your brand is considering Medium for content creation in 2016.
16. Method cleaning products: Soap Dish blog. Method’s blog contains tips and tricks for house cleaning, cooking, and eco-friendly living. It all ties in with Method’s mission of natural-minded cleanliness, organization, and comfort within the home. For example, check out this post about keeping your hands soft while keeping a house clean. The topic of cleaning a home is so broad, but Method manages to narrow it all down to a tight content focus.
17. Bumble and Bumble: Video style guides. Regardless of if you use Bumble and Bumble’s hair products, its website answers a multitude of questions about blowdrying, dealing with curls, straightening hair, and much more. The company’s robust library of step-by-step videos show how to create any look with any type of hair imaginable. It’s free content that’s as useful as it is memorable when you want to buy your next styling product.
18. Nasty Gal: Behind the scenes on the Nasty Galaxy blog. Nasty Gal is the glamorous and unreasonably hip fashion brainchild of #GirlBoss Sophia Amoruso. Its blog, Nasty Galaxy, takes fashion fans behind the scenes of company parties and even photo shoots. Guess what lurks behind the scenes of this cool company? Even more enviable coolness, increasing affinity and likelihood to purchase even more.
19. American Express: Departures. Departures is a content brand that encompasses travel, fashion, shopping, arts, and culture advice for American Express cardholders. It’s available in both print and digital formats. I personally enjoy receiving the print version every season; it’s a photogenic taste of what’s of the moment around the world, and it gives me aspirational ideas of where I’d like to visit.
20. Petsmart: Parent resource center. When getting a new pet, the questions can seem never ending: how do I properly train, feed, and otherwise care for this animal? Enter the Petsmart Parent Resource Center, which has articles and how-to videos about major pet-parenting topics.