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This Week in Content Marketing: Lessons From Home Depot, KFC, and Google

Once upon a time, a child’s toy came to life inside a retail store. He stirred the paint, chopped the Christmas tree, and jumped into the driver’s seat of the forklift.

Elsewhere in the world, a man combines 11 herbs and spices in between romancing an heiress.

Catch those stories – and one more from Google – in these three things we noticed this week.

Home Depot corporate misses on Woody’s adventure

WHO: Employees at Home Depot in Plaistow, New Hampshire

WHAT: Woody from Toy Story was found dropped in the parking lot of a Home Depot. Instead of throwing the toy in a lost-and-found bin, the Home Depot crew took Woody on a series of adventures and turned it into a social media story. Employee Sarah Huberdeau captured his fun in a Facebook photo album – Woodys (sic) Home Depot Adventure.

Here’s Woody helping in the paint department.

Image showing Toy Story’s Woody stirring paint in a Home Depot Store

Here’s Woody operating a chainsaw (don’t try this at home, kids).

Image showing Toy Story’s Woody operating a chain saw in a Home Depot Store.


WHY IT MATTERS: Well, it’s a great story told authentically. Woody was reunited with his 2-year-old owner a few days after the posts went live. And the two went home with a new friend – a Buzz Lightyear toy a customer purchased and brought to the store so Woody wouldn’t get lonely.

You read that right – a customer got so engaged with the story, they spent their own money to become part of it.

Image showing Wood’s 2-year-old owner, a Home Depot employee and Buzz Lightyear.

You probably know how valuable employee-generated content is. You might even invest resources to entice or strongly encourage employees to create and share content. But don’t forget to be on the lookout for content they create and share organically. You might just find your brand’s own Woody’s Adventures.

Don’t forget to be on the lookout for #content your employees create and share organically, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. #WeeklyWrap Share on X

Though social and mainstream media picked up the heartwarming story, it appears the Home Depot brand didn’t. Its social channels are filled with beautifully staged holiday images and product promotions, but Woody is nowhere to be found. What a missed opportunity! (On the bright side, at least Home Depot didn’t get outraged that an employee created content about the brand.)

HOW IT WAS DISCOVERED: We saw CMI friend Martin Lieberman tweet about it.

KFC clucks in new Lifetime movie

WHO: Fast-food chain KFC

 WHAT: Lifetime mini-movie A Recipe for Seduction, featuring KFC founder Harland Sanders (aka the Colonel) as the lead male character, debuted last week. The character isn’t played by the real Harland (he died in 1980) nor is it the friendly older gentleman icon featured in KFC advertising. Nope, this Harland Sanders is played by Mario Lopez (shoutout to all you Saved by the Bell fans).

Here’s the description: “The Lifetime original mini-movie follows a young heiress as she struggles to pick between a rich suitor selected by her mother and the new house chef, Harland Sanders, who brings more than his 11 herbs and spices secret recipe to the table. In Lifetime fashion, things take a turn for the dramatic, with the heiress’s mother and the disappointed suitor seeking to take out the KFC mascot himself.”

Image source

Fortunately, the campy movie runs less than 15 minutes.

WHERE: Cable channel Lifetime

WHY IT MATTERS: The sudsy mini-movie is sure to become a holiday classic with repeat airings. And yes, our tongues are as firmly planted in cheek as the A Recipe for Seduction writers’ were. On the surface it sounds like a win – a brand icon is turned into the lead character in a holiday movie. KFC certainly got a big PR win with all the attention. (We just heard a sports radio show host laughing about it.) Does a holiday movie seem like a strange choice for the KFC brand? Sure, women may be the target audience for both, but fried chicken for Christmas? No way. Everyone knows Christmas is the holiday for ham or turkey (and, in a pinch, a Peking duck as Ralphie and his family learned in A Christmas Story).

HOW IT WAS DISCOVERED: CMI’s Monina Wagner and Kim Moutsos both saw and shared the news.

Google ranks the 2020 rankings

WHO: Google

WHAT: Google’s Year in Search is exactly what it says – content about the top searched items on Google detailed on pages in its site’s trend section. The company releases a version specific to each country. In the United States, it covers a ton of categories, including news, people, actors, athletes, babies, how-tos (multiple topics), losses, recipes, music, and bands.

Image showing Google’s Year in Search results for searches, news, and people.


WHY IT MATTERS: We think it’s cool for several reasons. People like lists and want to know what’s popular. If your brand site has a search feature, why not publish a blog post with the most frequently searched terms with your audience. (It’s also good info to inform future content creation.)

If your brand site has a search feature, why not publish a blog post with the most frequently searched terms with your audience, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. #WeeklyWrap Share on X

You also can look at the Google Year in Search for inspiration. What categories fit with your brand and audience? Are the results what you expected? Why do you think those were the most popular? Talk about them with your audiences. Plus, how can you create content that addresses those topics in a fresh but SEO relevant way?

Finally, look at the lists to better understand search intent. While Google doesn’t say why someone searched for the phrase, you can make some guesses if you’re familiar with the category. For example, of the most searched athlete names, Ryan Newman ranks first and Tom Brady ranks second. If I were to guess, Ryan Newman made the top of the list because he was in a horrifying crash in NASCAR’s Daytona 500 in February 2020 – searchers wanted to know who he is. But Tom Brady is one of the most recognized athletes in the world. Searchers in 2020 likely knew who he was, but wanted to know what he was up to after his contract with the perennial Super Bowl champs, the New England Patriots, expired.

HOW IT WAS DISCOVERED: Jeremy Bednarski shared it on the CMI Slack channel as one of his weekday morning prompts.

Notice something interesting in content marketing? Share it with fellow Content Marketing Institute readers. When you’re intrigued, puzzled, or surprised by an example, news, or something else in content marketing, share it with us by completing this form. Your submission may be featured in an upcoming Weekly Wrap.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute