Not every company has mastered branded content. No wonder: The rules keep changing, technology is evolving, and customers are hard to pin down.
Despite those challenges, some companies are, in fact, achieving success. Here are three megabrands that stand out for consistently delivering masterpiece after masterpiece of branded content.
The Customer Experience Guru
Red Bull’s 25-year content marketing strategy has made the brand synonymous with extreme sports. It seems that no stunt is too daring for Red Bull Athletes: windsurfing, air racing, free-climbing, kiteboarding, freerunning, cliff diving, B.A.S.E. jumping, and how about Felix Baumgartner’s 2012 jump from space? Each one more daring than the last, these sponsored stunts give exceptional meaning to the energy drink’s longtime slogan: IT GIVES YOU WINGS.
Throughout the brand’s history, Red Bull has sponsored countless athletes and events–from the first Red Bull Crashed Ice downhill race in 2001, to the Red Bull Flugtag, a fan favorite in more than 40 countries challenging everyday folks to pilot homemade, human-powered flying machines off of a 20-foot platform. Just remember, Red Bull is not selling a beverage; it’s selling an adrenaline-filled brand experience, and we’re all buying into it. Whether you watched the live broadcast of the 2014 Red Bull Air Race, were rooting for Red Bull Athlete Lindsey Vonn at the 2013 Alpine Skiing World Cup, or are tuning into the five-part Web series featuring Red Bull’s latest whitewater expedition, you are undeniably part of the brand’s globally engaged customer base.
Red Bull is a lifestyle brand associated with world-class talent, determination, and intensity. Serving up thrill after thrill, Red Bull has the entire world watching to see what its band of international athletes will do next–not what new flavors they plan to release or the latest features of their can.
Advice to marketers: Focus on creating an out-of-this-world customer experience, and your audience will be on the edge of their seats eager to engage with you.
The Storytelling Genius
Every brand has a story, but uncovering it and finding the right audience is often a challenge for B2B companies. For example, finding an expansive audience interested in hearing about Intel’s 45-year history in the semiconductor chip business might be difficult. But telling a story all about the benefits and challenges of technology in everyday life–now that’s compelling.
Priding itself on making conversations, not advertisements, Intel launched iQ by Intel in 2012. The online magazine features content curated by thousands of Intel employees, exploring technology as it relates to culture, news, trends, and the people behind today’s innovations. By focusing on entertainment value and content that relates to readers, Intel has upped its brand equity by connecting with a broad, less-obvious audience.
U.S. media director David Veneski said, "People don’t buy processors…they buy experiences." Perhaps that’s why Intel, alongside Toshiba, has seen such success with its three interactive social films: "Inside," "The Beauty Inside," and "The Power Inside." Each film delivers a cohesive story that sparks engagement and solidifies the company’s position as a technology leader without ever delving into commercially boring chat about computer chips.
“It all comes down to the exchange of value with the audience. If you're giving them something of value, then it's a winner,” said Intel marketing manager Billie Goldman in an interview with Ad Age. “Also, taking risks is a good thing. We need to do more of that–the audience rewards you for it.”
Advice to marketers: Storytelling is more than marketing’s latest buzzword. To succeed in creating purposeful brand image to attract and retain a loyal following, you must develop a central content strategy focused on enhancing the customer experience. And don’t be afraid to use your company’s collective intelligence. Every company can be a publisher. Find your platform, prepare your message, and tell your story.
The Social Media Maven
As far as B2B brands playing in the social media sandbox, General Electric (GE) is one of the best in the business. Getting its feet wet with virtually every social platform, GE perfectly understands what it takes to engage an audience: visuals. Check out the company’s social media landing page, which curates each of its posts from across multiple sites to reveal a beautiful collage of visual after striking visual.
Of course, branded content can take many forms, but in the context of social media, photos, graphics, and videos are content royalty. According to Wishpond, posts with visuals receive 94 percent more page visits and engagement than those without. Visuals have certainly helped GE break through the overwhelming clutter of online content. As one of the first among B2B brands to truly master Vine, GE won fans over with its incredibly visual and engaging #6SecondScience campaign in 2013, which showcased user-generated content across Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook. The campaign was innovative, sharable, and relevant to GE’s brand.
Advice to marketers: Creating custom branded content is the key to expressing your company’s ideas. Through quick visual snapshots, you can distribute content that is both visually impactful and perfectly aligned with your core message. Take a lesson from GE and stop shopping for stock photos. Time constraints holding you back? It’s time to reprioritize. Content marketing depends on social sharing. GE has shown the world how it’s done–time to roll out a new and improved social media strategy and kick it into action.