B2B companies are making significant investments in content marketing, but they aren’t always successful in ensuring that it reaches their target audience. Finding creative ways to position and promote content can help elevate your ideas above the noise. For inspiration, here are four successful campaigns from the marketing and advertising world that demonstrate the power of combining great ideas with innovative promotional strategies.
“Van Gogh BnB”
In conjunction with the Art Institute of Chicago’s 2016 exhibition “Van Gogh’s Bedrooms,” the museum teamed with designers from local advertising company Leo Burnett and Airbnb to create an apartment in the likeness of Van Gogh’s “The Bedroom.” The design was inspired by the painter’s own sleeping quarters at the “Yellow House,” which he rented during his late 1880s stay in Arles, France. Van Gogh painted this version of “The Bedroom” and two others after a water damage mishap destroyed the first version. The Art Institute’s exhibition, which included 36 drawings and paintings by the artist and other memorabilia belonging to him, was the first time all three versions were shown in the United States.
“I’m charging $10 for no other reason than that I need to buy paint,” the Airbnb “host” (supposedly Van Gogh himself) wrote on the website post. “However, I will be happy to provide you with tickets to my exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago.”
Enthusiasts flocked at the chance to travel back in time and envision life as Van Gogh. The first wave of nights for the Airbnb replica, located in the River North neighborhood of Chicago, sold out within five minutes. The museum’s online sales were up 250 percent, and it also saw its highest attendance in 15 years.
Strategy: Collaborate with experienced leaders from different departments, sectors, and industries to generate creative ideas and partnerships.
“Own the experience”
A host of articles in newspapers, magazine, and online news sites, be they surveys or opinion pieces, have concluded that millennials (typically defined as people born between 1980 and 2000) are difficult for marketers to reach for varying reasons—including they prefer not to be targeted at all and they are “miserly.” But given the huge spending power of this generation, companies of all stripes continue to court them—including Groupon. In fact, the Chicago-based digital deals company geared its 2016 “Own the experience” campaign toward millennials.
Chicago ad startup O’Keefe, Reinhard & Paul created the 30-second spot that was distributed across digital, television, radio, and other media. The ad emphasized the main difference between the “haves” and the “have dones.” The “haves” are cast as older, white, hoity-toity types who are fixated on material possessions such as exotic pet birds, fur coats, and extravagant jewelry. The “have dones” are vibrant millennials of different races that prefer go-cart racing with their children, taking an acroyoga class with friends, and diving into a pool of mud on an obstacle course. The message clearly played on millennials’ preference for experiences over spending money on material possessions.
Strategy: Get to know your audience so that your message resonates on a personal level.
“My Block, My Hood, My City”
Inspired by his work at the Cook County Jail, in 2013 Jahmal Cole founded “My Block, My Hood, My City,” a nonprofit movement to expose teens from underserved communities to Chicago’s neighborhoods, cultural experiences, and the value of giving back. Cole, the 2012 recipient of the Chicago Ideas Award, took to Kickstarter to raise money for the cost of his organization’s web series. Cole exceeded his goal of $9,850, and the subsequent “My Block, My Hood, My City” production captured him exploring 10 different neighborhoods—engaging with community activists, publicizing local and mom-and-pop businesses, and connecting with area residents.
The visibility he gained from listing on Kickstarter was key to this success. Cole made several local and national television appearances and was able to expand “My Block, My Hood, My City” from leading four “explorers” on field trips to hundreds.
Strategy: A crowdfunding campaign ensures the progression of a purpose-driven mission, helps to identify the intended audience, and, in succession, provides a level of exposure to the project or insight itself.
“Fly the W”
Almost a decade before the late, incomparable Harry Caray began calling Chicago Cubs game in 1945 and belting out his hearty “Cubs win! Cubs win! Cubs win!” catchphrase, the raised W flag at Wrigley signaled the team had defeated its opponent. Not only does this long-standing tradition remain unchanged at the Friendly Confines, but the flag is still viewable for passengers on the red line El train.
These W flags gained further popularity for a few reasons. One influencer, obviously, was ending the long-suffering 108-year World Series drought. Another was that Schafer Condon Carter, the local agency behind the “Fly the W” campaign, featured the Cubs win flag—for the first time ever—in an ad for the team’s 2015 playoff season. A third was that around this same time, the hard-luck franchise promoted the slogan on social media: reportedly, #FlytheW “was being tweeted better than once every second, the day before the Cubs played the Pirates in a wild card game.”
Strategy: Social media, already widely acknowledged as a valuable amplifier, can fuel engagement around a popular idea or insight.
Collaboration, understanding your audience, and engaging followers, be it through crowdfunding or social media, are effective strategies. However, these promotions draw upon two major distinctions. One, unlike traditional marketing, content marketing focuses on the long term, not immediate growth or limited time frames. Two, budget is a key factor. Executing large-scale campaigns costs more than implementing more targeted content marketing tactics. That said, sometimes campaigns (such as the four highlighted above) successfully marry both content marketing and traditional marketing strategies—suggesting a middle ground for companies to get more out of their content marketing investments.
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