You read plenty of articles about content marketing that tell you what you should be doing with your campaigns. You also find plenty of articles telling you which content marketing tactics you should avoid. Instead of telling you what to do and what not to do, this post is going to show you examples of terrific content marketing in action. Without further ado, let’s review 10 of the top content marketing campaigns of 2014.
1) The Lego Movie
Parents take their kids to the movies because it seems like something a good parent would do. Even when they know they’re facing 90 minutes of sheer torture, parents buy tickets, purchase popcorn, and tough it through every last animated belch. “The Lego Movie,” released in February 2014, had both parents and children cheering. In addition to delivering clever, funny, fast-action goodness, “The Lego Movie” also provided an ingenious vehicle for marketing Lego products.
Thanks to its smart humor and its commentary on parent-child relationships (not one parent kept a dry eye during the scene with Will Ferrell and his fictional son), Lego created extraordinary good will with this film. The film will live in DVD collections for years to come, where it will be introduced to new generations of Lego fans.
2) The ALS Association Ice Bucket Challenge
The Ice Bucket Challenge began as a way to contribute to a person’s charity of choice. Chris Kennedy, a golfer in Sarasota, Florida, nominated a relative, Jeannette Senerchia, who lives in Pelham, New York, to participate in the challenge. Senerchia’s husband suffered from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease), so she accepted the challenge, shot a video, and nominated more friends using the hashtag #StrikeOutALS. Anyone who was nominated could either write a check for $100 to the ALS Association (ALSA) or pour a bucket of ice water over their heads and send in a $10 donation. Pelham residents started to send donations to ALSA, and they nominated their friends. Throughout the summer, millions of self-made Ice Bucket Challenge videos appeared on YouTube and in social media feeds.
In total, ALSA received $115 million in donations from a campaign they didn’t even start. They harnessed the momentum by setting up a website and encouraging participants to use the #StrikeOutALS, #icebucketchallenge, and #alsicebucketchallenge hashtags. By the time the campaign concluded, participants including former President George W. Bush and Weird Al Yankovic had poured freezing cold water on their heads.
3) Stanford’s Graduate School of Business Tumblr Page
Many organizations that start their own Tumblr pages have no clue what to do with them. They try to run them like traditional long blog platforms, or they post visuals that have little to do with their mission. Stanford University has created a Tumblr for its Graduate School of Business that appeals to altruistic millennials. Through the page, it entices Tumblr’s youthful audience — Tumblr is the fastest-growing social network for people ages 18 to 24 — with gems of wisdom from Stanford grads and world business leaders.
Stanford GSB’s content comes in the form of pull-quote images or brief descriptions of Stanford graduates and what they’re doing in the world. The site also has an “Ask Away” feature that allows Tumblr users to submit questions about the school. Overall, Stanford GSB’s content is slick, digestible, and easy to share. It also positions Stanford as a forward-looking, people-focused, socially responsible place to earn a business degree.
4) Whole Foods “Whole Story” Blog
Whole Foods customers already have a strong interest in organic and ethically sourced food; however, their food preferences tend to be part of a larger quest to live a more natural, holistic life. Whole Foods’ blog, “Whole Story,” captures its customers’ ethos perfectly. In addition to featuring posts about recipes and healthy eating, the company creates content about parenting, gardening, local community issues, and beauty advice. For example, a recent “Gifts From the Garden” post suggests ways to turn garden bounty, including herbs, produce, and flowers, into beautiful, inexpensive, and thoughtful gifts.
5) Google’s “Behind the Scenes: Street View”
Fans of “Arrested Development” know that Michael Bluth traded his Bluth Company stair van for a not-very-well-disguised Google Street View car during the fourth season. It’s just one way that Google is promoting its Street View service, which shares panoramic photos of locations on all seven continents. Google’s “Behind the Scenes: Street View” page shares how the Google team collects images, matches images to their appropriate locations, and transforms images into 360-degree street views. Through the website, businesses, venue owners, tourism boards, and not-for-profits can request a visit from a Street View car.
6) Thai Life Insurance Ads
Thai Life Insurance, based in Bangkok, takes the life insurance commercial to a whole new level. Its long-form ads don’t focus on what happens after life; they focus on what it means to have a life worth living. One ad, entitled “Unsung Hero,” portrays a young man who walks through the city every day doing things that seem too generous. He gives his lunch to a hungry stray dog, donates money to a young girl who is begging on the street corner, offers his train seat to a pretty girl, and leaves bananas for his elderly neighbor. The commercial asks what he receives for doing this, and concludes that he “receives emotions, witnesses happiness, reaches a deeper understanding, feels the love, and receives what money cannot buy.” In the end, the dog follows him home, the young girl ends up in school, and his neighbor embraces him and invites him into her home.
This commercial and others like it have become YouTube sensations. Best of all, they’ve positioned Thai Life as a business that cares about more than just selling insurance. Instead of scaring customers into purchasing life insurance, it encourages them to think about the way they live now.
7) “The Fault In Our Stars” Movie Campaign
The team behind “The Fault in Our Stars,” a movie based on the young adult novel by John Green, created a social media strategy focused specifically on targeting influencers. The film’s marketers chose five specific influencers, which they discovered by using analytics tools and advanced audience targeting, and they asked those marketers to attend the film’s premiere and share their experience with their audiences. In addition, the film’s marketers created promotional posters with NFC tags that, when tapped by an NFC-equipped phone, gave users free tickets to the movie. In total, the miniscule campaign earned over 350,000 engagements, and the film grossed over $170 million.
8) Wyzowl’s FIFA Offside Rule Video
During the 2014 FIFA World Cup, people who had never watched soccer briefly became soccer enthusiasts. One of the most complex soccer rules to explain to newbies is the offside rule. In soccer, attackers can’t go behind the defensive line until the ball is kicked to them. The offside rule prevents the team that’s trying to score from parking an attacking player beside the goal. Players are called offside when the attacker is in the opponent’s half of the field, closer to the goal line than the back two opposing players and the ball, and participating in the play by either controlling the ball or interfering with an opposing player.
To clear up the confusion surrounding the offside rule, Wyzowl created a video to explain how the rule works. The video lasts less than a minute, and it provides much needed relief to dedicated soccer fans tired of explaining the offside rule to rookie viewers. The video received over 17,000 views thanks to its simplicity and its clever tie-in with the World Cup.
9) New York Magazine’s Approval Matrix
When marketers produce infographics, they usually create them to present statistics or to simplify complicated ideas. Infographics have a high share rate, but they aren’t always interactive. New York Magazine’s Approval Matrix takes infographics to a whole new level. In the graphic, stories are plotted on both a vertical and horizontal axis. The vertical axis ranks stories from “Highbrow” to “Lowbrow,” and the horizontal axis orders stories along the “Despicable” to “Brilliant” line. It’s a table of contents presented infographic style. Most of the Approval Matrix infographic items link to a related New York article.
10) Home Depot’s #SpringMadeSimple Vine Channel
Vine is a video-sharing social network that Twitter acquired in October 2012. The network allows members to share six-second GIFs, or looping videos. Home Depot harnessed its Vine channel to present spring projects for home and gardening. Using the hashtag #SpringMadeSimple, Home Depot posted animated Vines of gardening ideas, craft projects, and home improvement visions. The channel radiates inspiration and approachability with Vines that are fun, well produced, and infinitely shareable.
These examples come from many different industries all over the globe. They target audiences young and old. Some are text-centered, some are video-based, and others make excellent use of images. Despite their differences in format and delivery, they have one essential quality in common: connection. At the end of the day, no matter what you share or how you share it, your content has to build connections and create engagement. These content marketing campaigns of 2014 reached their intended audiences, positioned brands, built relationships, and inspired customers to buy products and services.
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