Every time you read a new hiking article on your favorite outdoor store’s blog or watch a yoga tutorial uploaded on YouTube, you’re consuming a form of content marketing. Surprised? That’s the point.
Good content marketing does not appear to be advertorial at all. Instead, it informs or entertains consumers, while making little to no mention of a brand or product.
As expert Joe Pulizzi states for the Content Marketing Institute, “Your customers don’t care about you, your products, your services…they care about themselves, their wants and their needs. Content marketing is about creating interesting information your customers are passionate about so they actually pay attention to you.”
All forms of marketing share the goal of increasing business, but content marketing is a subtler, more effective way of achieving it.
These three examples demonstrate brand storytelling done right – whether or not you realized it was content marketing in the first place.
Disney: From “Disneyland” to “Frozen”
Although it’s one of California’s biggest attractions today, building Disneyland in the 1950s was a huge financial risk. To draw crowds and ensure his investment would pay off, Walt Disney marketed the amusement park with a new show on ABC named “Disneyland.”
In the beginning, the show told the story behind Disneyland and gave viewers a glimpse at its construction. It was heavily promotional, but over time, the episodes incorporated theatrical releases, behind-the-scenes clips at Disney studios and even the popular miniseries, “Davy Crockett.”
Since the dawn of “Disneyland,” Disney has mastered the craft of content marketing and understands that in order to sell products like dolls and games, it has to tell a story first.
Will Burns breaks down the Disney marketing strategy in the Forbes article “Disney proves that profitable marketing is about brand stories,” using the company’s latest break-out movie, “Frozen,” as an example.
“Imagine if ‘Frozen,’ the movie, never existed. And a toy maker came up with the idea of an ice princess doll named Elsa. What would most marketers and ad agencies recommend that the toy maker do to increase sales?” Burns ponders.
While many toy companies have to find ways to market their latest creations, Disney can just sit back and let its movie do the work. Compelling stories that engage audiences are the secret to effective content marketing, and Disney is a master.
John Deere’s “The Furrow”
Often considered “the original content marketer,” John Deere understood the impact of educating audiences to increase business way back in 1895 when the company first published a magazine called “The Furrow.” This magazine was created to be a resource for farmers, advising them on how to run their business.
It seems to have worked, of course, considering John Deere’s success as a brand. And it’s no surprise that the John Deere marketing team continues to use this method. “The Furrow” lives on to this day, published in print in 12 languages and 40 countries and available online.
The LEGO Movie
“The LEGO Movie,” tells the story of a LEGO construction worker who joins a quest to stop an evil tyrant from destroying the (LEGO) universe by gluing it together. Unlike Disney, LEGO created a product first and told its story second.
While this strategy wouldn’t be as effective for brands creating new toys, it was a genius move for LEGO, which has been around for decades. Along with telling a fun story that drew in kids, LEGO created witty dialogue that also catered to both parents and nostalgic fans of the toy.
At a 2016 conference, LEGO CMO Julie Goldin said, “Just because [consumers] bought us last year doesn’t mean they’ll buy us this year … We’re always thinking about what we can create.”
LEGO doesn’t wait for a catastrophic event to employ content. It’s a consistent part of the LEGO marketing strategy, and it pays off. The year the movie came out, LEGO’s sales increased 11 percent in just the first six months, becoming the number-one toy company in the world.
Every day we’re consuming content marketing in some form or another. We often just don’t realize it. If you’re starting to use content marketing techniques at your own company, keep in mind that educational and entertaining content like the examples above are more effective, and form a stronger connection with consumers, than traditional advertising strategies.