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Content Marketing Gets Creative

Brands have used content marketing for years to attract, engage, educate, and convert customers. But the relatively simple content marketing efforts of the past (e.g. advertorials) are being replaced by more strategic campaigns and initiatives that leverage digital channels to drive engagement, referrals, and purchase. Businesses as disparate as the Four Seasons Hotel, audio manufacturer DTS, cam­era and video lens manufacturer Sigma Corp. of America, and LasikPlus corporate parent LCA Vision are using content marketing in creative ways that drive measurable results.

1. Social influence

Social media sites and online com­munities present compelling content marketing opportunities for compa­nies that can effectively leverage them. One such company, Chicago’s Four Seasons Hotel, worked with Freebie—a company whose app allows users to redeem products available to them based on their social influence rat­ing—on a pilot program to use the influence of socially connected customers to drive more business to the hotel’s Allium restaurant.

Allium offered a free lunch or dinner to patrons who, based on a Freebie algorithm measuring social influence, would be able to generate more than 50,000 social media im­pressions for the restaurant. About 130 par­took in the lunch and about 50 in the dinner.

“A lot of [companies] say that they can help us with social media marketing, but they’re not able to measure the results,” says Jann Kaiser, the hotel’s director of food and bever­age. “The idea is similar to Groupon or daily deals. [Freebie] bring[s] us business.”

However, unlike Groupon or similar cam­paigns offering deeply discounted or free (typically buy one, get one free) meals but no measurable return, according to Kaiser, the Freebie offer resulted in a measurable 30% increase in restaurant business directly tied to those patrons either returning for an­other meal or from a guest Freebie tracking showed they had influenced through social channels while having a dinner at Allium.

2. Creating a moving experience

YouTube is one of the most power­ful video forces in the world, with more than one billion viewers each month, according to the company’s blog. DTS, which makes high-quality, high-defi­nition audio for the OEM market, is using a content marketing strategy developed by Ignited that features YouTube videos high­lighting DTS’s products. As an “ingredient” brand, DTS is seeking to position itself as a component consumers want, like the Intel In­side campaign. The videos are more effective than print for gaining an emotional response from consumers, according to Ignited CEO and Founder Eric Johnson. Sponsored vid­eos featured on Internet entertainers Rhett & Link’s channel on YouTube already have more than one million video views, twice the number the channel had promised.

“We’re an ingredient brand,” says Geir Skaaden, DTS senior VP of products and platforms. “All technology companies like us have a challenge. Consumers don’t care about the technology, they care about the experience.”

The experience DTS promotes through YouTube is the quality of its audio compo­nents. The idea is similar to the Intel Inside campaign that the computer chipmaker ran a few years ago. The DTS videos show peo­ple hearing something unexpected via DTS audio technology, which offers surround-sound type audio. For example, one spot features a consumer using a DTS headset, then flinching when hearing an apparent dog attack from behind. However, the video shows someone holding a docile cat behind the person with the headset. The reach of the videos DTS posts on YouTube is double what would be expected for the investment, says Skaaden, who adds that the videos do a better job of reaching its young target au­dience than does a typical television ad or homemade YouTube videos.

Broadcast and cable program impressions are gone once an ad has aired, Johnson says, but YouTube videos stay on the Internet in­definitely, so the one million impressions can do nothing but grow. The monthly visits to the company’s Facebook page have doubled since the campaign began earlier this year.

Subway takes a more brand-focused ap­proach to video. The sandwich chain is using a miniseries, 4 to 9ers, to raise brand awareness. Its videos, which originated on Hulu, feature the typical teenage Subway worker who works a 4-to-9 shift. The videos target teens, some of who work at Subway themselves or have friends who do. More than 380,000 hours of the videos have been watched since the launch late this summer, according to Stuart McLean, CEO of Con­tent & Co., which created the videos.

The videos also have a life outside of Hulu; viewers have shared them 25 million times on YouTube and via Facebook and Twitter.

3. Using action to drive reaction

Customers get 10% of their knowledge from reading and the other 90% from video and audio, according to research from the Visual Teaching Alliance.

With so many options available to its custom­ers, Sigma Corp. of America decided to use video as a primary source of product informa­tion on its website. The videos, produced by video services provider Invodo, show potential consumers’ different uses for its lenses. Do­ing so helps prospective customers determine which is best for their needs. The videos help customers assess lens performance in a way that photographs or product spec sheets simply can’t, according to Jack Howard, new media specialist at Sigma Corp. of America.

In addition to using the videos as compan­ion pieces to online product information, Sigma has repurposed them to run as fillers between streaming videos from conferences. “They provide us with another video asset,” Howard says.

The videos also have led to an increase in online conversions. According to Sigma’s metrics report, visitors who watch a product video are 83% more likely to click the “find a dealer” button than a visitor who doesn’t view a video. There are no figures available for the sales from those visits, but Howard believes the correlation is high.

4. Sourcing expert information

When potential patients seek health-related advice on the Web, they want information from medical experts. Marketing medical- or health-related products or services by just focusing on price or product features isn’t enough for today’s consumer, notes Mark Stevens, director of digital marketing at LCA Vision. “People today want somebody to in­form them before they sell them,” he says.

That’s particularly true when it comes to procedures like Lasik surgery. “Someone may not be in the market right now, but as their eyesight starts to wear down, they’ll start doing research,” Stevens says. “We want to be seen as the authority on Lasik surgery.”

LCA Vision teamed with Empower Media Marketing to develop See For Yourself, an in­dependent editorial platform with physician-authored articles, testimonials, and other information regarding Lasik surgery.

The site launched late this past summer; while it’s difficult to correlate sales directly from the See For Yourself effort, Stevens says the company has seen an increase in online and phoned-in bookings, and increased pa­tient time spent on the company’s website.

Such a marketing effort isn’t designed for immediate purchases, but rather to position the company for when the prospect is ready to buy, Stevens says. “We aren’t seeing a lot of additional sales this year, but we expect to in the next year or two.”

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