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Adapt a Top-Tier Content Strategy and Make It Your Own: 3 Key Ideas

top tier content strategy-skyfall
“Skyfall” at the London Olympics

As the content marketing specialist for USB Memory Direct, it’s my responsibility to improve our brand identity, discover new niche audiences, communicate the value of our services, and generate new leads.

But occasionally, I find that I’ve gone through so many different content marketing strategies and projects that I’ve completely run out of new ideas. Maybe it’s “marketer’s block” or just a common burnout, but there are times when I feel as though I’ve tried everything.

During these periods, I find it helpful to look at businesses outside of our industry for inspiration.

I seek out notable ad campaigns, brands, product launches, and marketing strategies that seem to be very effective with their customers, and from there, I try to ask myself how I could adapt that strategy for use in my own industry. I’m constantly surprised by where I’ve found some of the most unique tactics being implemented.

However, my conscience always makes me wonder whether or not this is stealing. Am I stealing if I “copy” someone else’s marketing strategy? What about if I’m emulating the contests, product campaigns, and strategic partnership models that I see other businesses using? Should this make me feel like a big, fat phony who steals creative marketing ideas?

When I have these nagging thoughts, I consider the words of Isaac Newton, who once said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

Thousands of successful companies throughout the years have improved their marketing strategies by taking a good idea and making it great. Sure there’s a big difference between copyright infringement and putting your own creative spin on an idea, but the principle is the same. Your own strategic thinking will only go so far before you may have to look elsewhere for ideas. The trick is to fuse the various tactics that you encounter into your own industry and improve on them as you go.

Through my research, I’ve discovered three marketing strategies from top-tier brands that I could apply to my own content strategy. When going through these ideas, it’s important to ask yourself how you can adapt strategies like these and make them unique to your own brand. But first, let’s take a look at what not to do.

JC Penny copies Target’s “shops” campaign

Late last year, JC Penny decided to roll out an interesting strategy that was going to “revolutionize” the customer experience. The idea was to redesign its stores into a sort of “faux main street” that had different sections covering distinct clothing brands, like Levi’s and Liz Claiborne.

"shops" campaign

The only problem was that Target had released a similar ad campaign, titled, “Introducing The Shops at Target,” way back in January 2012.

This Target ad also featured casual shoppers walking through a “faux main street” and stopping at shops that featured its clothing brands. It’s one thing to make an idea your own, but it’s quite another to just copy your competitor as a way to keep up with them.

Let’s take a look at another example.

The “Apple Syndrome”

Whether you like the company or not, you can’t deny that Apple has built one of the strongest brands on the planet. What makes its brand so captivating is how it’s presented to customers. You’ll hear about how Apple delivers an “experience,” instead of just products. Through its marketing and content strategy, the company has constructed some of the most successful packaging, retail stores, and customer relationships imaginable. But what’s just as interesting is the trouble its competitors have gone through to seem more “Apple-like” in their content marketing efforts.

Microsoft recently released a number of its own retail stores to help promote its Windows phones and Surface tablets. But when I visited one of these stores for the first time, I had to do a double-take. Does this look strangely familiar to you?

microsoft stores

From the light wooden tables and white walls to how the employees dressed in blue shirts, it’s pretty clear that Microsoft wants to be just like Apple. The company really must have done its homework, because it felt just like being in an Apple Store. But that’s just the problem: Apple was the first brand on my mind when I entered the Microsoft store — not exactly a shining example of a unique branding experience, or customer experience, now is it?

From these examples, you can see that direct copying isn’t always a good thing. The key is to look at the core of what the strategy represents and then find a way to make it — clearly and unmistakably — your own.

Let’s take a look at three core ideas that can be used as the foundation of a unique content marketing strategy.

1. Build on your successes

Amazon prides itself on being the number one e-commerce retailer. When you think of “online shopping,” Amazon is usually the first brand that comes to mind. Part of the reason it’s had so much success is because of the content options it offers on its website.

Over the years, Amazon has continually introduced new tools — like customer reviews, a five-star product rating system, and related product recommendations — that made customers’ buying experiences quicker, easier, and more rewarding. Moreover, the company kept these tools in play even when it introduced new or updated features, thus building on a successful customer experience, rather than completely revamping it with each site update.

You can follow this same path for your content strategy: Determine the most effective content components you’ve implemented and build on them. Think about what has been most successful for driving consumer interest and conversions. Whatever those features may be, make sure you keep them part of your overall strategy as you test out new possibilities. For example, if your most successful content marketing tactic to date has been email blasts, don’t suddenly abandon them completely in favor of social media outreach.

2. Create a path for your customers to follow

In most large department stores, you can quickly find what you need without having to look through all the departments first. In theory, this speeds up the customer shopping experience, which makes the customer happy, right? But is that really the right goal for a retail brand to have? Do stores want customers in and out as quickly as possible, or do they want them to stick around and see everything the store has to offer, whether or not it was what they came in to buy?

In contrast, IKEA provides one of the most unique shopping experiences around: Its stores are designed to lead customers through all of its departments so that they experience the store in its entirety, picking up a few extra sales along the way.

In your own marketing strategy, think about how you can create a unique path for your customers to follow through the buying process. This could mean creating a strong landing page that all of your content marketing efforts lead to, or redesigning the navigation on your website so that customers can easily find more of the content you offer there. The point is to set your content on a path that you want your customers to follow — even if it’s not the path that they may have envisioned on their own. Take them on a storytelling journey, and make sure you reward them at the end of it with valuable information they need.

3. Team up with another brand

The latest James Bond film, “Skyfall,” grossed more than $1 billion at the global box office. Part of its great success had a lot to do with its marketing — ads for the film were everywhere on television and in movie theaters alike. But the real success in its strategy came from teaming up with other brands.

“Skyfall” partnered with several big-tier brands throughout its promotional campaign, and each of them contributed heavily to the level of exposure that the film received internationally. Most notable, from a content marketing perspective, was its collaboration with the London Olympics. The partnership resulted in a memorable opening ceremony stunt (starring the Queen of England, no less) that tied the James Bond brand story into the real-world excitement of the Olympic games

The partnership efforts that were part of “Skyfall’s” marketing strategy helped it become one of the biggest movie blockbusters of all time. For your own content marketing strategy, think about what brands you could possibly team up with to tell a compelling story within — and outside of — your industry. Celebrity endorsements are always good and attract a lot of attention, but think deeper. How can you reach out to new niche audiences while expanding the possibilities of your own brand? The potential here for ideas is limitless.

For more content strategy examples you can take from big-brand successes, read CMI’s Ultimate eBook: 100 Content Marketing Examples.