Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Content Marketing: Wins, Fails, and WTFs

Content Marketing

Sweet Sweet free content. How great is it to get something for nothing? The pervasiveness of the contemporary marketing tactic is ever spreading, and is only poised to increase. Free content is the absolute best way to drive traffic to your website. Tied in ever so closely with the sharing nature of social media and internet communications in general, brand name content has been injected into the public consciousness in order to improve recognition, avoid irrelevance, and engage audiences the world over.

Sometimes it’s done with immaculate grace, incalculable cool, and enviable mass appeal. Other times it’s thrown together like a last minute Halloween costume.

And still more examples of the content marketing genre pop up that are straight up strange.

So what separates a good content piece from a bad one? And what keeps either category from inducing an involuntarily reflexive interrogative acronym peppered with an abbreviated expletive; aka: WTF?

Elementary my dear Watson, the answer is three fold:

Purpose, substance, and performance. These are the three determining characteristics for the categorical quality of content marketing.

A piece of content must first serve a purpose in order to be labeled quality. That purpose can be to inform, entertain, or educate. To be more specific, content should either:

  • Inform an audience about a brand

  • Entertain an audience for the sake of engendering good will

  • Or to educate the audience about an industry, niche, or some derivative thereof.

In any case, all of these purposes can be summed up under the umbrella of engagement. An effective piece of content is one that engages its intended audience.

Next, quality content must have substance. It has to have an application that lends itself to the intended purpose of engagement. Substantive content is that which is authoritative and applicable. If your aim is to educate, it must be accurate. If your aim is to entertain it must be funny, dramatic, or dynamic. If your aim is to inform, then you’d best have your logo plastered on there somewhere.

Finally, good content is that which performs. Does it meet the intended goal? If not, you’re falling into “Fail” territory.

Today we’ll look at some famous examples of content marketing. Some which have fallen flat, others that have passed with flying colors, and a few that are just plain weird.

Content Marketing Wins:

I like to start off with the good stuff right away. A good meal is always better with a solid appetizer right? So let’s begin way back in the beginning. The beginning of what you might ask? I’m talking about the early days of content marketing, the dawn of the 20th century.

The Furrow

John Deere may be best known for tractors and lawn care, but it’s an interesting slice of trivia that the biggest landscaping supplier is also a progenitor of modern content marketing. The Furrow is a quarterly magazine featuring handy information for landowning agrarians so common to society in 1895.

These days you can read the articles online in between updates on your Farmers Only profile, as you giggle about how “City folks just don’t get it.” Because you’re right. We don’t. Getting up before the cock crows and milking irritable bovines doesn’t make a lick of sense to this city slicker.

The Furrow is on the Win list because it does all it’s intended: educates farmers, engages its audience, and spreads the already universal John Deere logo even further across the globe. And it’s been doing so for a hundred plus years.

The old school is sometimes the best school.

The Furrow

Red Bulletin

What goes together better than sugar, caffeine, and EXTREME SPORTS. Despite the fact that there is a distinct lack of stories involving Jaeger-bombs on the front page, Red Bulletin does a phenomenal job of reaching the energy beverage’s target market. They do this by appealing to activities known for elevating heart rates past 125 BPM, other than drinking their crazy stimulant soft drink that is.

Just like the Furrow, Red Bulletin is available in print and online. They actually charge for the print version, which is a bit against the spirit of this article, but I’m less concerned about that when I’m watching Kiteboard championship highlights. Red Bulletin is fun, free, entertaining, and genuinely seems less interested in promoting its brand and more interested in promoting awesome hobbies.

Red Bulletin

Content Marketing Fails

They can’t all be zingers. For every effective email campaign, there are a dozen nonstarters. So let’s look at some of the biggest content flops in recent memory.


It’s scary how stupid this is, but on the very same day as the horrific bombing that occurred during the Boston Marathon, foodie website Epicurious, released this unholy hell upon itself via Twitter:

Tasteless, tactless, and terrifyingly capitalistic. This hardly needs to be restated, but YOU DON’T TWEET FREE RECIPES IN RESPONSE TO TERRORIST ATTACKS. You’ll note that the shock value of these messages completely eradicates any purpose or substance this content may have had. And you can just imagine how it performed.

General Electric

GE is a gigantic company. They have thousands of employees, and even more products. So you would think that perhaps they might have somebody savvy in charge of their marketing. Well, maybe they do, but the ecomagination website isn’t their best work.

It’s basically a series of pages dedicated to patting itself on the back for being such helpful and socially conscious company. Unfortunately, it fails to be anything other than a labyrinth of ineffective advertisements.

And crazy slow page load times. Is there anything worse?

Browsing this website is like going on a date with someone who won’t shut up about themselves. There’s no focus on the audience member, just one fabulous GE feature after another.

I get it. You’re a big freaking corporation with a ton of money, and neat technology. Good for you.

Now explain to me why I shouldn’t bounce?

GE Eco

Content Marketing WTF

Yay! Strange things are my favorite. We only have one offering in this category. But It’s so ridiculous, so surreal, and so damned beautiful, that it stands alone in a realm of insanity all its own.

Let’s take a look at the weirdest, wackiest, and biggest WTF brand name around.

Old Spice

Old Spice never ceases to amaze. From Terry Crews viral videos to the wolf that they put in charge of marketing. They’ve got a handle on quirky advertising to say the least. But nothing quite does it like the series of fake websites that lead to a lecture from the man your man could smell like.

Terry Crews

It’s so strange, that words don’t really do it justice. Watch and be amazed.

I can’t think of anything that could possibly top a fake website dedicated to cologne with protein in it. So that’s all folks. Let us know what your favorite pieces of content are in the comments.

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Content Marketing: Wins, Fails, and WTFs

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