Content about content

(By Marco Pilkington)

I really like content strategies that drive value and boost sales creatively It’s almost like product placement, but instead of placing products you imbue your proposition, or value, or purpose, or blah into whatever bit of content you’re producing. Sometimes they don’t even feature the product or brand!

And what constitutes ‘content’ is so broad – which is partly why I like it so much, it can be almost anything! Here are a few example of some good ones:

Brand as entertainment

The Lego Movie was a massive piece of content marketing that was so good people paid to see it. It iterated the brand’s values to a whole new generation of kids whilst making over $400m at the box-office, winning a BAFTA and getting nominated for an Oscar! (According to one insider it achieved everything Lego had been briefing their agencies to do for the previous decade.)

Collaborating with voices who know the target audience better

UBS wanted to let young rich people know about wealth management. But they’re an old, boring bank, and probably would’ve stuffed up by talking about disengaging financial stuff. So instead they’ve got some of coolest kids on the block (Vice, Vanity Fair, Future Labs etc) to do it for them – creating a collaborative magazine that (in a roundabout way) sells their value proposition by telling people that “there’s way more to life than money dude, chill out, let UBS handle it, you go focus on figuring out what this crazy world is all about…”

Building a culture (around the product)

Red Bull are pretty much the corporate Gatsby – they love throwing parties and making other people happy. But they’re not too overzealous – they’re a presence but don’t chat about themselves too much, focusing more on making sure everyone else has fun. They’ve dropped someone from space, they’ve shaken up the Bundesliga, won Formula One, trained over a thousand musicians, and consistently provided the foundations for numerous extreme sports that’ve been neglected by mainstream funding. They produce content and push culture in a way that’s earned them the authority to place their product at the heart of lots of niche cultures.

Growing a category by creating another category

Content strategies are nothing new. The Michelin Guide is a classic. In 1900 there were fewer than 3,000 cars on the road in France. So in order to boost demand for cars (and tires), Michelin produced a guide that listed nice restaurants and hotels to visit around the country. This eventually led to the Michelin Star system – one star meant worth a stop, two stars meant worth a detour, and three stars meant worth a journey. Who would’ve thought that a tire company would end up spearheading gastronomy?

Drawing attention to a market need

My favourite bit of clever content is from a B2B internet security company called NetScout. They knew that the internet was never built to be an ‘internet of everything’, they knew that it’s an incredibly precarious thing that’s still growing and needs to be protected and guided – in this they realised that their business wasn’t dealing strictly with commercial or technology issues, but with societal issues. They told Werner Herzog this, he loved it and ran with the idea, making a feature length documentary that has the power to completely change your perception of what the internet ‘is’ and what it ‘can become’. It presents the aforementioned ‘precariousness’ which is exactly the message NetScout needs out in the world. The film smashed Sundance and has a 93% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes – ads that achieve this level of advocacy are few and far between.

All of these strategies solve business problems whilst providing genuine value to people. If done right, commissioning/facilitating/creating content can cause waves and move mountains – far more than any ad campaign could hope to achieve.