There is content marketing that sells and there is content marketing that strengthens the brand. B2B marketers use content to drive demand and lead generation. IBM does this with their various Smarter Planet content efforts or their C-Suite reports.
A few brands are expanding how they use content to communicate about the brand or the business behind the brand. More than glorified media rooms, these new sites-plus-social reflect a more sophisticated approach to storytelling and multimedia production.
For the longest time, Cisco Newsroom was held up as a ‘best practice’ examples of what a corporate media site could be. That site remains strong today.
Three other brands are doing some interesting work and worth checking out: Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo and Basecamp.
Ashley Brown and his team at Coca-Cola have created a storytelling platform for the corporate brand called Coca-Cola Journeys. Written with a more sophisticated editorial voice, you will find stories rolling through their ‘big picture carousel’ on:
- How to Host an Easy Mother’s Day Brunch – a simple ‘how-to’ for those of us who need to honor mom but don’t know what we are doing in the kitchen.
- May 8, 1886: The Birth of a Refreshing Idea – a doorway into the heritage of Coca-Cola from the simple beginnings at Jacob’s Pharmacy to the present.
- Pitch Perfect Photo-opp: Coke’s Happiness Flag – a profile of an ambitious art project that combined the images of thousands (millions?) of profile pictures to form the poster art designed by Brazilian and Argentinian artists.
The ‘beats’ at Journeys are clear: Company news, Empowering women, Water issues and their signature sponsorship which right now is all about 2014 FIFA World Cup. They are also covering Food and Music. These reflect a move to more lifestyle content – a focus they learned by doing. Their brand pages simply aggregate what you can find on the social channels for that brand like Fanta.
There is a ton of content. Not only that but you can get to know the communications team behind it through the Unbotteled Blog as well as the “staff picks” for articles within the site.
Contently, a partner with Coke, published a useful look inside their strategy
“In 2013, Journey published 1,200 articles and attracted 13.1 million visitors who averaged an impressive 4:40 time spent per article, according to Journey Co-Managing Editor Jay Moye. With JourneyOn (conference of communication folks), Coke’s global team tried to spread its secret formula to the eight countries that had launched their own Journey sites, as well as a few others that would be up-and-running in the coming months, including Great Britain, Ireland, Spain, France, Italy, Austria, Nigeria and Kenya.”
On the team:
“The Coca-Cola Journey team is helmed by Ashley Brown, the company’s 35-year-old Director of Digital Communications and Social Media whom AdAge credits for thrusting Coca-Cola into the digital age. Journey is co-managed by Moye and Ashley Callahan, a former TV journalist. The staff also sports a social media editor, graphic designer, analyst, and a third editor. An Atlanta-based video crew produces Journey’s videos, and the team leans on freelance writers and photographers for its non-Coke focused content (which — full disclosure — Coca-Cola hires and manages via Contently).”
A simple favorite
While they are creating and curating a ton of content, I only have to look at how they handled the recent shareholder meeting. Instead of publishing out financial reports or boring minutes or nothing at all, their article was simplified into: “10 Takeaways from Coke’s Annual Shareowners Meeting”. Brilliant.
Wells Fargo Stories
Simpler than Coca-Cola Journeys, the Wells Fargo stories delivers three types of stories into a clean, tile-based design:
- Helping our customers succeed
- Helping our communities thrive
- Living our values everyday
Essentially the site is a well-designed blog. This is over and above the official Wells Fargo news blog which continues to churn out business news about the company and the long-running Wells Fargo blogs which are collection of special blogs. In “Stories,” Wells Fargo covers customer success stories like their work with Urban Outfitters. They share about their community commitments including their telethon volunteering in Phoenix. Values come to life in stories like the one covering their contributions to a St. Louis food bank.
A not-so-simple challenge
The different blogs are confusing. Wells Fargo Stories is strong content. No doubt there is strength in the ‘Guided by History’ blog which connect us with the enduring legacy of a great brand just as there is in the “Beyond Today Blog” which offers useful content on retirement. But it’s a confusing landscape of content. At the heart of all of this lie two types of content – useful content meant to of-service to stakeholders (e.g. retirement ‘how-to’s’) and brand content meant to demonstrate the character of the company (e.g. their employee volunteerism). All of this great content can help customers and investors answer the question “Why Wells Fargo?” when selecting a financial partner.
I expect that Wells Fargo will connect these great storytelling resources going forward and that Wells Fargo Stories will serve as the more contemporary way to serve that content up. I also suspect they will profile and promote this content from their core customer site. Even though that site is commerce and service-first, their great stories are more reasons a prospect might choose the brand. These stories ought to be highly visible on their main web site.
Basecamp, The Distance
Basecamp makes for an odd comparison and that’s why it’s worth taking a look at. 37Signals, now Basecamp, has been making software for 15 years. They are proud of their connection to their users and customers. Founder Jason Fried contributes to Inc magazine generally sharing his own first-hand experiences at the company.
While they have had a blog for some time, they recently launched a new editorial site called The Distance. Unlike Coca-Cola, this is no barrage of stories nor is it the typical aggregation of social media nuggets. They do one story a month. The Distance is long-form storytelling focused on businesses that have been around for 25 years or more. Clocking in at 2500+ words, this ain’t your average 300 word blog post. Their first story profiles the Horween Leather Company, Chicago’s last remaining tannery and maker of some beautiful leather goods (including Wilson footballs).
“Everyone talks about how hard it is to start a business. It is hard, but it’s not as hard as staying in business. Every business is new at least once, but very few actually survive to old age (or even adolescence). We want to celebrate those who’ve figured out the hardest thing to do in business: how not to go out of business.”
A simple connection
The story is well told, illustrated by images and a simple video of Nick Horween talking up the distinction in their leather. Basecamp doesn’t get all that much credit for The Distance. There is no link to The Distance from their Web site. If you didn’t follow their blog, you would never know it’s from them. But that is kind of what we expect from Basecamp/37Signals. Their users will talk. Word will get around. And they will get credit as a 15 year-old company who takes the time to profile even older companies and shine a light on what it takes to stay in business.
Three different brands committed to storytelling and content marketing to support the promise behind their brands. Three brands who believe the character of the company matters to their business and the customers who buy their product.