The 3 Gifts of Content Marketing

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Content brings dialogue, emotion, and relevance to the brand-customer relationship.



The Gift of Emotion

Not all brands have budgets the size of Barbie's Dreamhouse. But even brands with a small budget can drive big results when they leverage emotion and the right channels. Womenswear company Wren proved this to be true when it launched “First Kiss” on YouTube in March.

Video has been a marketing mainstay for Wren. Traditionally, the brand created character- and plot-based productions that specifically targeted fashion communities, explains Melissa Coker, Wren's founder and creative director. The company would upload clips onto video-sharing platform Vimeo, distribute them within fashion communities, such as Style.com, and then publish them on YouTube about a year later without promotion.

But after watching BuzzFeed's and Upworthy's growth skyrocket—the publishers report 130 million and 50 million monthly uniques, respectively—Coker wondered if she could replicate their success by following a formula for sharability.

“Both of these content [companies] are built on sharable content,” she says, “with the hypothesis that what makes content really sharable is that it's engaging and emotional.”

Making a (subtle) statement

With a new goal in mind, Wren's marketing team produced a film for Style.com's fall 2014 Video Fashion Week documenting the reactions of strangers—all in the brand's clothing—kissing for the first time. Coker considers “First Kiss” to be engaging and emotional because viewers can relate to moments in the film. “Some are sweet, some funny, some awkward,” she says. “Some probably remind us of moments from our own lives.”

Coker's casting was strategic. She asked people she or colleagues knew to appear in it for free. But instead of casting random friends, she selected influencers with prominent followings within music and fashion communities who would share the video with their followers.

Additionally, Coker aimed to put the content directly into the hands of core prospects (18- to 35-year-old women), as well as broader audiences who might influence them. So, in addition to uploading the video to Style.com, Vimeo, and social channels as it had previously done, Wren went straight to YouTube.

“Part of being a very, very small team with a shoe-string budget [is that] it forces you to be nimble, creative, and [to] experiment….Sometimes things work, sometimes things don't,” she says. “This worked beyond our wildest expectations.”

Sealing it with a kiss

“First Kiss” cost $1,500 to create and was uploaded to director's Tatia Pilieva's YouTube channel on March 10. By March 13 the video had 42 million YouTube views, according to The New York Times. Today it has close to 84 million. Wren also experienced a 14,000% sales increase a few weeks after the video's release compared to the same time period the year before.

However, not all chatter around the video was favorable. Some viewers didn't realize the video was an advertisement, even though it included “Wren presents” at the beginning. “To me that was so surprising,” Coker says. “It was almost like…they felt confused [because] they're used to ads being something that they don't want to watch.”

Yet, Coker says being a part of the conversation—whether positive or negative—kept “First Kiss” in the limelight. “You have to make something worthwhile if you want to truly reach people,” she says.

The Gift of Relevance

Myriad consumer brands are known for their creative content. But B2B can be just as engaging. Many of the same principles, like leveraging different story aspects to appeal to different audiences, are also applicable to B2Bs. Volvo Trucks learned this lesson in its Live Test series campaign.

When Volvo Trucks launched its new 2013 truck line, the company wanted to appeal not only to its target audiences of truck drivers and enthusiasts, but also to the general public. “We have great channels in reaching already loyal customers….But we've had more problems reaching prospective customers,” says Per Nilsson, director of public relations for Volvo Trucks. “We also realized that there are a lot of influencers for business-to-business buyers that influence a purchase.”

So, Volvo Trucks launched the Live Test series campaign on YouTube in August 2012. The campaign comprises six stunt videos demonstrating the truck line's features, as well as behind-the-scenes clips and interviews with the dare devils who participated.

In addition to driving awareness, Volvo Trucks wanted prospects to take further actions, such as contacting dealers or seeking more information. So the company included links to its launch site in the video descriptions.

While the first five videos all generated between approximately one million to 9.7 million views, it was the company's grand finale that garnered the most attention. On November 13, 2013, Volvo Trucks uploaded its sixth Live Test video, “The Epic Split.” In the video actor and martial artist Jean-Claude Van Damme performed a split between two trucks reversing in parallel to show the precision and stability of Volvo Dynamic Steering in the new Volvo FM. Within 48 hours, the video had 10 million YouTube views. Today it has about 73 million.

Different audiences drive different stories

Nilsson attributes a few factors to “The Epic Split's” success. First, it leveraged Van Damme's celebrity—making it appealing and sharable to influencers invested in Van Damme, pop culture, and stunts, in addition to truck and automotive enthusiasts, Nilsson says. The company even reached Enya fans, he says, whose song Only Time plays in the background.

“There are many levels of stories to tell,” Nilsson says. “It's easier to get the impact if you have more resources to preach the word.”

Along with spreading word through those influencers, Volvo Trucks promoted the videos through PR and social. Nilsson admits that Volvo Truck's previous stunts helped grow its media presence and a fan base by the time “The Epic Split” was released. For instance, Volvo Trucks had about 3,500 YouTube subscribers in June 2012, before it launched the campaign; now it has almost 95,000. Volvo Trucks also ran a teaser for the video a few days before it aired.

“Damme” good results

But did “The Epic Split” help the company sell more trucks? Nilsson says that the campaign's main objective was to raise awareness and that it's “impossible” to determine whether the video led to a direct increase in sales. Other factors could have impacted sales. Not only were the promoted trucks from a new line, he says, but a new emission standard was put into effect for January 2014—leading many people wanting to buy cheaper trucks with earlier emission standards.

“2013 was a very, very good year for us,” he says. “Hopefully, we created some extra demand.”

It seems like Volvo Trucks did just that. The company conducted a survey of 2,200 truck owners—half of whom own Volvo Trucks, half of whom own other brands—who had seen the campaign videos and found that 46% were more likely to purchase a Volvo Truck next time they bought a truck. In addition, 50% of the truck owners said that they took further steps—such as contacting a dealer—after watching the videos.

Splitting content between on- and offline channels

Volvo Trucks uses more than video to capture customers and prospects' attention. The truck manufacturer also relies on traditional channels, like its customer magazine—available in digital and print—to share technical information and customer stories.

Integrated marketing is important, Nilsson says, because customers want engaging content regardless of channel.

“The actual communication of face-to-face will always be the best way of communicating,” Nilsson says. “However, it's when you…have a great mix, [that's] really the best part.”

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