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How to Get Customer-Centric Content Right (and Wrong) [The Weekly Wrap]

Content marketing should put the audience first, right?

This week, two brands showed that they understand that approach better than most. One sends personalized content surprises to customers; the other lets people put themselves at the heart of an interactive, relevant augmented reality. Unfortunately, one brand reminded us how often marketers get this wrong ­– by forgetting who it’s writing to (and even what it claimed to be writing about).

Surprise paintings delight Chewy customers

WHO: Chewy, online pet supplies company

WHAT: Every week, the company sends more than 1,000 free paintings of their pets to their customers. It keeps the selection process a close-held secret. Yes, customers can request one on social media – and some receive the paintings. But that’s not the only way. Some seem to be prompted by exchanges with customer service reps, as in this example:

WHY IT MATTERS: “I just want to buy everything from them,” one recipient told the Associated Press. “They’re a big company. I was shocked they did something so personal.”

Does any content marketer need further explanation to understand the impact of these surprise personalized gifts? A quick scroll through Twitter reveals all sorts of people showing and talking about their pet portraits – and tagging Chewy. One person mentioned she was so thrilled that she took the paintings to a socially distanced picnic to show them off.

We’ve written about how Chewy’s personalized content (including how they send condolences to customers whose pets died) sets the company apart. Its customer service “set the standard,” according to Phillip M. Cooper, a pet industry consultant quoted in the AP article. That’s what he credits for Chewy’s stock price tripling in 2020 and the growth of its customer base by 28% in 2020 (to nearly 18 million.)

HOW IT WAS DISCOVERED: We spotted the AP article making the rounds this week, though the free pet paintings aren’t new – Chewy’s been doing them since 2013. (But don’t be too hard on the AP – the holidays are traditionally a slow time for news – and nearly everyone enjoys a lighthearted article like this one.)

Netflix lets visitors create and send holographic messages

WHO: The Midnight Sky, a Netflix movie

WHAT: Netflix created a microsite that promotes the movie The Midnight Sky and gives it an interactive opportunity to engage prospective audiences. Built by production studio Unit9, the AR site lets visitors record their hologram and share it with friends and family. They can even involve the movie’s director and star George Clooney, who recorded a hologram for the site.

WHY IT MATTERS: The hologram is not only a timely way to help people cope with isolation from friends and families, it’s also relevant to the movie, which shows characters watching holographic memories to cope with being alone in space. The interactive microsite lets viewers not only experience augmented reality but also take part in its creation.

HOW IT WAS DISCOVERED: CMI alum Jodi Harris shared it. “I’ve seen AR features like this before, where you can place a giant AR skeleton or a zoo animal in your living room and take a photo,” she wrote, “but this is the first time I’ve seen the ability to record a personal message and send it directly from the app/site.”

.@Netflix #ContentMarketing for @midnightskymov lets visitors create and share holographic messages (and even includes George Clooney) via @CMIContent @joderama. #Weekly Wrap Share on X
HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT: Great Content Experiences Powered by Tech

A pretty sad happy holidays message from IKEA

WHO: IKEA, a multinational conglomerate of home-related products

WHAT: In a holiday email to customers, IKEA reflected on what it’s thankful for – the company’s employees and the loyalty of its customers. At least that’s what the opening paragraph said. Too bad the rest of the email strayed from that message.

In the next paragraph, every word is about IKEA. Here’s a particularly egregious about-us sentence: “Never has our vision resonated with us so strongly.” Wow!

An image of a poor holiday email from IKEA to its customers.

WHY IT MATTERS: This letter offers all sorts of what-not-to-do lessons. Nearly every sentence puts the company first, and it can’t seem to decide on its message (is it a thank you to loyal customers, an opportunity to thank its employees, or a vehicle for COVID-related shopping instructions?)

But there’s a more subtle takeaway, too: When you promise your audience something in an email, blog article, e-book, etc., you’d better deliver. In this case, the simple subject line (Happy Holidays!) set up the audience for disappointment.

HOW IT WAS DISCOVERED: CMI’s Kim Moutsos received this email and shared it as an example of how not to do a holiday email.

First they take away the beloved annual catalog. Then they send an awkward holiday #email about how strongly their vision resonates with … them. @IKEA marketers, are you OK? via @CMIContent @KMoutsos. #WeeklyWrap Share on X
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 Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute