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3 Content Marketing Examples That Surprise and Delight (Plus Our Hot Takes)

This week is all about the unexpected. A writer creates a sticky wicket for finding other creatives. Ronald McDonald House sponsors content that has nothing to do with itself. And NEA Member Benefits turns ‘boring’ content into a hoot.

Killer croquet ad hits an unexpected wicket

A 686-word description of a croquet set for sale sat in Craigslist’s used sporting goods category.

CMI community member Doug O’Bryon tipped us off to his unique and verbose creation.

Why did he go to such lengths? Doug says he wanted to flex his mental muscles and bring a little joy where levity is in short supply, and just maybe catch the eye of someone looking for a true original to tell their brand story.

Here are a few of our favorite snippets from the ad:

“The Croquet Caddy pictured represents the low-water-mark in Post-Modern Design. Originally molded by a first-year community college Manufacturing Tech drop-out, this over-engineered abomination has all the structural integrity of a Vacation Bible School Noah’s Ark constructed with toothpicks, marshmallows, and guilt …

An image showing a vintage croquet set.

“(I)t’s clear that the designer of this manufacturing miscarriage was driven by one all-consuming desire – REVENGE. The result is a deceptively malicious amalgam architected to entice unsuspecting buyers by combining an aesthetically pleasing ensemble of wood, metal, steel, and Elmer’s glue – all fashioned into a unique, yet criminally-fragile, industrial artifact guaranteed to fail …

“And speaking of stakes, this final insult comes complete with the cascading anticipation of a tumultuous journey, as the bottom portion of the shiv has been planed into a blunt, pancake-flat, head – incapable of piercing any soil by simply applying body-weight – and thus guaranteeing the rapid escalation towards a more torque-requiring maneuver, leveraging the now-compromised mallet as a force-multiplier, with players one-by-one attempting to “pile-drive” the flat-faced post into the unwelcoming turf. Statistically, the first two whacks will miss the target, injuring both thumb and big toe, before stepping back and going full Paul Bunyan on that little striped Satan stick.”

As of this publishing, the croquet set is still available. Mention this post, and he may take $1 off the price.

WHY IT’S HOT: What’s this got to do with content marketing? We asked Doug to explain: “There are only a handful of true creative originals and cutting-edge thought leaders – and they don’t live inside the boxes of corporate org charts,” he says. “If you want to capture this rare, free-range, story/brand talent, don’t look for them in the same old places using the same old methods.

“Create an inviting environment and let them find you.”

That’s a great idea. If you want really creative, out-of-the-box content marketers, look for them in out-of-the-traditional-way places. That’s what Doug hopes brands searching for creatives do and will find his Craigslist post.

To find rare talent, don’t look in the expected places. Create an inviting environment and let true creative originals find you, says @DougOBryon via @CMIContent. Share on X

Sponsored content doesn’t have to be the sponsor’s

Ronald McDonald House Charities has a sponsored content program on The Washington Post’s site. But it isn’t using the paid space to tell stories about its nonprofit. Instead, it’s curating articles from The Washington Post’s editorial side that tell a positive or inspiring story.

In this seven-article collection, the No. 1 story tells the tale of an airport pianist who was flooded with tips after an Instagram influencer posted about him. The second story features students who built a device to help their teacher’s husband, who uses a wheelchair, stroll with the couple’s new baby.

WHY IT’S HOT: Sponsored content can be a valuable vehicle to get your brand in front of audiences on high-profile sites like The Washington Post. But no rule says you can only publish content related to your organization or that you should only promote content you create.

All the stories have positive messages and inspiring themes, which ties well to Ronald McDonald House Charities’ mission. Also, it’s worth noting that The Washington Post content being promoted was at least a few months old. So chances are they wouldn’t be resurfacing on the editorial side of the site. But because the articles are evergreen topics, they can still attract readers.

No rule says sponsored content has to be about your organization or that you should only promote #content you create. See the @RMHC spot on @WashingtonPost site example via @CMIContent. Share on X

NEA Member Services turns ‘boring’ content into a hoot

In a recent #CMWorld Twitter chat, Jill Golden shared an example from her job as a content strategist for NEA Member Benefits. “We got a little silly to promoting a ‘boring’ topic,” Jill told us. “We made a great audience-specific retirement guide, and we drove people to it with punny animal videos in social (and later, related postcards),” she says.

Here’s one of the Facebook videos, which features a white owl:

The first text overlay asks: “Did someone say free retirement guide?” followed by another overlay: “Owl take one.”

The Facebook video description? “It’s always the right time for educators to give a hoot about retirement planning.”

As Jill explains: “I figured if I liked it, the audience probably would too. Based on that success, we made a few other videos that have been up since summer and also are driving a lot of engagement and traffic.”

WHY IT’S HOT: Almost all of us have to tackle less-than-exciting subjects at one point or another. While the content piece might have to follow a traditional format, like this retirement guide, you can get creative when it comes to content promotion. Just make sure your choices fit your brand’s voice.

Your helpful #content might take a traditional form – but you can still get creative when it comes to content promotion as @_goldengrams did for @NEABenefits via @CMIContent. Share on X
Intrigued, puzzled, or surprised by an example, news, or something else hot in content marketing? Share it with us by completing this form. Your submission may be featured in an upcoming Hot Take.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute