By Jodi Harris published August 15, 2014

Killer Content Creation: Learning from Inspiring Brands

kiss-o-meter image-kissing couple in heartBy now, you’re likely familiar with the statistics: Over 93 percent of B2B marketers use content marketing; yet, only 42 percent of them feel that they are being successful at it, according to CMI’s 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report. It’s a troubling disparity — and one that CMI is highly motivated to help close the gap on.

However, plenty of businesses are achieving great success through their content creation efforts, and their triumphs serve as encouraging proof that storytelling can be a powerful means of engaging customers and driving them to take action. Organizations, like Red Bull, American Express, and Coca Cola certainly lead the charge, but there are plenty of others that are taking the content marketing ball and running with it in exciting directions — though perhaps more quietly than some of their higher-profile business brethren.

Until now.

I asked a group of our blog contributors, Online Training instructors, and Content Marketing World speakers to tell us which brands they think are killing it in the content game and talk about the kinds of campaigns that are inspiring them to become better content marketers themselves. Take a look at what it takes to turn their heads. 

Content that champions a cause

Political brands are kicking butt in the content marketing arena, especially on Facebook. The best examples are the organizations fighting for marriage equality — the battle to give same sex couples the exact same protections afforded opposite sex couples. According to a U.S. General Accounting Office study, there are some 1,138 tangible benefits, protections, rights, and responsibilities that marriage affords U.S. citizens — and that’s just at the federal level. Myriad equality minded nonprofit and for-profit groups are using social media channels to share amazing stories of love and commitment that are having a positive impact on public opinion. These are real stories about real humans; people you can relate to.

We need more content marketing about people and their stories of love and achievement. Best examples include:

Facebook’s Data Science Department also has some interesting data on the issue. Scott P. Abel, Content Marketing Strategist, The Content Wrangler, Inc. | @scottabel

Prioritizing value over virality

I love any company that values creativity and consistency over volume/spam and trying to force virality. Three stand out:

  • Wistia’s Learning Center of form-free resources and wildly creative videos, all of which build its subscriber base (watch a video until the end)
  • First Round Capital: First Round Review is consistently interesting, and they’ve made longer-form blog content work well in an era where we’re all too distracted to finish writing a single sent…
  • Price Intelligently: Here’s a “boring” product niche with “boring” design that is absolutely killing it with content. They’re a bootstrapped start-up that blogs 1–2 times per week and uses bold opinions, data, LinkedIn content, and Zapier to create a marketing machine. Jay Acunzo, Director of Platform & Community, NextView Ventures | @Jay_zo

Delivering on expectations

I really love what Buffer is doing with its blog. Almost every day they are coming out with data-backed advice and counsel for social/digital marketers and their traffic is absolutely soaring. They very much understand what their audience wants, and they give it to them. (disclosure: I’m an investor in Buffer) Jay Baer, Author; President, Convince & Convert  | @jaybaer 

Minding your mixes (both media and method) 

Verne Global: Verne Global, a small start-up in the Green IT industry, has an excellent content marketing strategy that is based around its news site, Green Data Center News. The company wanted to gain online visibility and provide quality content to customers in its industry. To do this, the company created a site that distributes both curated and created content about technology and services for Green IT and data centers. Fifteen percent of all traffic to Verne Global’s site is sourced from Green Data Center News. The frequently updated site has become a global destination for industry-specific news.

IBM: On a larger scale, IBM provides similar information for its industry. Through the Big Data and Analytics Hub, IBM gives readers information about Big Data that is optimized for sharing. The site delivers content of all types such as blogs, videos, podcasts, reports, infographics, and animations. IBM also uses a mix of curated and created pieces, adding objective content to the conversation, rather than focusing on the company’s product offerings. Pawan Deshpande, Founder and CEO, Curata | @TweetsFromPawan

Sharing your personality

Bumps for Boomers, a very small ski instruction business in Aspen, Colorado, has mastered content marketing, sharing literally everything they know. It’s run by Joe Nevin, an ex-Apple exec, so maybe that shouldn’t be surprising.

And Lings Cars is inspired madness. It’s not all pure content but there’s lots of wacky entertainment and tons of personality. Doug Kessler, Co-Founder and Creative Director, Velocity Partners | @dougkessler

Creating a converged culture of content

Media convergence — the melding of paid, owned, and earned media — is here, real, and happening. So I’m impressed most by brands that recognize this and rise to meet the challenge of creating a visually and narratively unified customer journey across all these screens, media, and channels. It’s an immensely tough job, as it requires coordinating so many stakeholders — internal as well as external. I’ve seen strong examples of this from brands ranging from Intel to Whole Foods. Rebecca Lieb, Analyst, Altimeter Group | @lieblink 

Competing on your own terms — and territory

For sure [I'm inspired by] London real estate agency Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward, especially with their custom print magazine, Completely London. This magazine has completely changed how I approach any brand and their content production, especially how storytelling needs outstanding visual support.

A solo entrepreneur, a proofreader from Slovenia who calls himself Abecednik, fascinates me with his Twitter account and eNewsletter that show how well he knows his target audience. He observes and really tackles language issues and, as such, is extremely useful. His target audience is small; he is only one person working in a ruthless market where low price is, for the most part, a criterion for landing the job, rather than expertise and knowledge. Yet, he has been able to make a name for himself by basically doing what Marcus Sheridan preaches. Nenad Senic, European Editor, Chief Content Officer | @nenadsenic 

Leading by example

Marketo does an excellent job of developing content across the spectrum from engagement to closing the sale. Marketo’s Definitive Guide series is a great example of early engagement content. Eloqua was a source of inspiration to my early interest in the value of content marketing. I still refer to their Grand Guides as inspiration for educational content. Of course, without wanting to be too sycophantic, Content Marketing Institute is certainly leading by example in marketing its business with pure content marketing. Bruce McDuffee, Interim Content Director at Boeing Digital Aviation Marketing | @brucemcduffee

For more inspirational content marketing insights and examples, don’t miss Content Marketing World 2014. Our biggest event ever hits Cleveland, Ohio, on September 8–11. Register today!

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski

Author: Jodi Harris

Jodi Harris is the editorial content manager for Content Marketing Institute. She also runs an independent content strategy and management business: Jodi Harris Content Consulting. Jodi has developed and managed print and digital content projects for marketing, entertainment, automotive, health care, and biotech publishers, as well as for entertainment industry and media brands. You can follow her on Twitter at @Joderama.

Other posts by Jodi Harris

  • rogercparker

    Dear Jodi:
    Many inspiring choices. Best of all, your emphasis on “Prioritizing Value over Virility.” A good reminder for all.
    Roger

  • Mary-Frances Makichen

    Jodi,

    I appreciated this post because it’s always great when someone can highlight B2B content marketing–thank you for these examples. However, I noticed that at the beginning of this post you say, “..businesses are achieving great success through their content creation efforts, and their triumphs serve as encouraging proof that…

    I’m curious how you are defining success or triumphs and even engagement. Are the examples you’ve shared generating leads or have they increased traffic volume significantly? One of the things I am most curious about is how other content marketers define and measure success. Thanks.

    • Emily W

      This is an excellent question, thanks for asking it Mary-Frances.

  • Nancy Nevin

    Jodi, Hello and thank you for mentioning Bumps for Boomers in your article! We’d like to advise, however, that our program is based in Aspen, not Vail! For more information, please check out our website at http://www.bumpsforboomers.com.
    Thanks again! Hope you’ll come ski with us this year!

    • Jodi Harris

      Hi Nancy. Appreciate your pointing this out. I apologize for the oversight, which we’ve now corrected.

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