Content We Love: Expert Marketers Share Their Favorite Branded Content
Every day, the internet is flooded with branded content. Some of it’s great, some of it’s awful and a ton of it dwells somewhere in between — a sort of content purgatory if you will.
But when something stands out, we want to share it. So this post is a collection of content that we (at Brandpoint) love, representing all types of industries. Some of it entertains while some educates, and some tell emotional stories or help improve consumers’ wellbeing.
Use these examples to inspire your brand’s content creation efforts and better engage your audience.
Lake Elmo Inn
This notable restaurant in the suburbs of the Twin Cities has been around “forever,” according to Laura Malm, Senior Writer. But despite their solid reputation in the community, they are still working on nurturing their fans while growing new ones through their social media efforts.
Laura called out Lake Elmo Inn’s “Inside Scoop” video series on Facebook, which features the restaurant’s chefs walking viewers through step-by-step instructions of a cooking technique such as making the perfect hardboiled egg, the best method for cutting onions, or how to peel fruit. They also reveal how to create some of their own recipes. “This shows you don’t have to have a big budget or a large internal marketing team to do some modern content marketing strategies,” explains Laura.
Videos are a hot topic in content marketing, and Lake Elmo Inn has mastered it by showcasing the expertise of their internal chefs. Fans not only learn the best way to cut an onion, but they get a behind-the-scenes look at the restaurant and the person who might be cooking their dinner.
Headquartered in Bloomington, Minnesota, Salsa Cycles is a bicycle manufacturer that describes itself as, “Dedicated to keeping the spirit of adventure alive in bicycling. We make bikes to help you get there.” This mission is central to their brand identity that is evident as soon as you enter their website or social media pages.
Salsa Cycles uses content to communicate that mission. The first thing you see when entering the Salsa Cycles website is a featured video. Kate Ankofski, Senior Copy Editor (and endurance cyclist), chose to highlight their video, “I Ride For Her.” “This is a great example of powerful content marketing,” says Kate. “Subtle brand references, excellent storytelling and a rock-solid understanding of target audience.”
The video has a cinematic quality to it, but its major theme is simple: Feature the struggle and triumphs of the athletes who competed in the 200-mile Dirty Kanza gravel race in the Flint Hills of Kansas. Shots of the riders slugging through mud (and even falling) are featured between short, but emotional interviews with the racers.
“I can’t even begin to tell you what it means to win,” said the top finisher. “I’m dedicating this win to my wife. … She’s battling stage 4 colon cancer and she’s four years clear. So I ride for her.”
The grocery chain partnered with Funny or Die to create a video that features Jeff Goldblum. He makes an unusual trip to the local Ralph’s grocery store (“I always have three cameras whenever I go shopping”) to pick up items — using Ralph’s mobile app, of course. He then uses the ingredients to cook a meal in his kitchen with actress Bryce Dallas Howard.
Copy editor Karla Wennerstrom chose this video because though the video doesn’t hide that it’s sponsored content, it “goes at it in a really fun and unscripted way,” she says. “Watching Jeff Goldblum do just about anything is a home run, but the famously tactile and expressive actor is particularly perfect exploring all aspects of cooking here.”
This was a new marketing initiative for Kroger. “… it’s the first brush with Hollywood celebrity and ‘a big pivot’ in its marketing,” said Stuart Aitken of Kroger’s analytics firm for AdWeek. In the same article, Brian Toombs, VP of digital at Funny or Die, said that it’s “ultimately a talk show,” that showcases a charming and witty host who interacts with Ralph’s employees in a hilarious way.
Paper & Packaging
Warning: This video, “Letters to Dad,” is a tear-jerker. It’s only one minute long, but it tells a full, emotional story — even without dialogue! The video also successfully features the brand’s products without disrupting the story or the message so it doesn’t feel like an ad. When I think of the term “storytelling” as it related to marketing, this is the video I always reference.
Business Development Manager Matt Hall loves this quiz from Fidelity, which helps consumers measure their financial health and improve their personal finances. Quizzes can be time-consuming to get through — it’s easy to lose the attention of people who want a quick outcome. But Fidelity’s quiz is short and quick — you can see your progress on the left part of the screen.
To keep users engaged, statistics and graphics appear after you answer each question to show how your finances compare to others. These stats provide a feeling that you’re not alone or motivation to start working toward a stronger financial future.
The highlight of the quiz is the results page that they call your “Personal Action Plan.” Rather than providing a score, it first shows you the area of your finances that you need to prioritize. Then it brings you to a window with a “Smart Next Action.” Here, there is a link to a relevant piece of content to help improve this area. In the “Debt Reduction” section (pictured below), the content is a two-minute video that provides easy-to-understand tips.
The content is interactive but quick to get through, it’s helpful and it breaks down the complexities of personal finances. In addition, it’s an excellent showcase of Fidelity’s expertise and trustworthiness as a service that can help.
Email newsletter content
Smile Direct Club
“Their email nurture campaign is excellent,” says Brittney Domeier, Client Success Manager. “Once you engage with Smile Direct Club you will not be shorted email coupons, promo codes or testimonials from happy customers.”
Smile Direct Club sells clear retainers to straighten teeth at a lesser cost than traditional braces or invisible retainers. In addition to Smile Direct’s engaging emails, they post sponsored ads on social media. It seems every time I browse Instagram, Smile Direct is there. It’s a smart place to be when Instagram is a visual platform that boasts ideal, but often false and unattainable, versions of beauty. Regardless, they know their audience and the best platforms they are on.
Even if you’re sending emails to subscribers who have not yet become customers, sending special offers and content that they read (make sure to measure your CTR) can prove your company’s value.
“For me, Seth Godin’s blog is required reading. I’m sure every content marketing writer in America says this,” Senior Writer Jodi Rogstad comments. Long known in the industry, Seth is an accomplished teacher and author on marketing and writing (and has even earned a spot in the Marketing Hall of Fame).
He has built a brand for himself that marketing pros and writers admire. He practices what he preaches with a genuine tone and care for the reader. “His daily doses offer these great nuggets of inspiration, philosophy, humor and resolve. He makes a believer out of me. I watch for his email every morning in my inbox to start my day!” adds Jodi.
For solopreneurs, contractors, freelancers and anyone who is trying to build a business by your lonesome (kudos!), Seth is a great example of how content can bolster your online identity. His newsletter helped build a loyal audience and make him a respected figure in the industry.
Social media content
Digital Marketing Manager Andy Krall is a fan of Dictionary.com’s playful — and at times cheeky — Twitter posts. They’re a bit lucky considering they have A LOT of material to work with (it’s unknown how many words are on Dictionary.com, but the second volume of the Oxford English Dictionary contains 171,476 words).
Rather than randomly citing definitions of words, the creators behind Dictionary.com post interesting and relevant facts about the English language. For example, did you know that the word candy comes from Arabic? The link leads to a blog post with other ancient Arabic words.
— Dictionary.com (@Dictionarycom) August 11, 2018
They also employ curiosity tactics. Where DOES the phrase “raining cats and dogs” come from!?
— Dictionary.com (@Dictionarycom) August 11, 2018
And they also comment on societal and political issues. Here’s an example.
Dictionary.com attracts and nurtures users by offering educational content about the English language. Connecting to current events makes their posts timely (and they seem to be the most engaging posts to users). And at the very least, Dictionary.com’s content might help someone dominate a Jeopardy category on etymology someday.
Another of Andy’s favorite brands on social media is one that he also enjoys consuming. One of the top local Twin Cities breweries not only has good beer, but they also have good Tweets (Disclaimer: The wizard behind Summit’s social media is a former Brandpointer.).
One area where Summit’s Twitter shines is their use of user-generated content. And it’s refreshing to see a brand highlight an OK-ish review and do so with tasteful humor.
"Maybe a little conservative and not very exciting" is a way to describe your father-in-law who wears khakis and listens to Jimmy Buffett, not a beer that's won six @GABF medals in ten years. Five stars. https://t.co/NSQdnlz42w pic.twitter.com/WeGRpt85ih
— Summit Brewing (@summitbeer) August 10, 2018
And Summit’s response to the haters and unqualified advice-givers is nothing short of amazing.
— Summit Brewing (@summitbeer) October 2, 2018
Digital and Content Strategist Elinor Bradbury loves Betty Crocker’s approach to content marketing. “They seamlessly integrate General Mills brands and products throughout almost every piece of content on their site and other distribution channels,” says Elinor. “The average consumer would never know GM was actually aggressively pushing products on them. It’s truly native!”
Betty Crocker is also an excellent example of a timeless brand that hasn’t hesitated to go digital and adapt to the latest technology trends. For instance, they’ve implemented Alexa skills so consumers can ask about recipes and measurements while in the kitchen. Betty Crocker continues to assert itself as one of the most helpful home cooking brands in the industry through making sure they stay in consumers’ kitchens — whether as a cookbook or a digital assistant.
Clue is a female tracking app with an option for women to share information about their cycle with partners, friends and family to “make it easier to connect with the important people in your life and open up the conversation about period, fertility and health.” This mission is supported throughout the content in their app and on their website, which takes front and center on the homepage.
The blog posts are an excellent example of high-quality content. They excel at including E-A-T principles by including author bios (which include titles like “science content producer” or “researcher; science and education manager”) or publishing content created by doctors. If a post is written by a writer, it includes research cited by medical studies and certified professionals.
This same high-quality content is also seen in the app. Depending on the time in a woman’s cycle or the symptom she selects, Clue offers a piece of content to educate about what’s going on. This prevents women from needing to do additional research outside of the app. Every so often, Clue will also display a pop-up with statistics about how symptoms compare to the rest of Clue’s users to help women see if what they’re experiencing is normal or might require medical help. From my experience as a user, the content makes this app more valuable than its competitors.
Put simply, the best content educates and entertains consumers or provides them with useful tools to help them solve a problem. While the brand and product may be present in the content, the main messaging isn’t about the product. Whether it’s a special discount, emotional video, witty tweet, or thoroughly researched and credible article, quality content will give your brand an edge over competitors and help you better connect with your audience.
See more examples of high-quality content:
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in March 2016 and has been completely updated for quality, timeliness and relevancy.