CCO March FINAL
Feeling ready to refresh and renew? Take inspiration from fellow marketing leaders: people to admire, programs to emulate, and examples to spark ideas.
CHIEF CONTENT OFFICER
<strong>In This Issue</strong>
Get inspired by your fellow marketers
A Refreshing Start
It’s been a year.
Last July, we changed up our annual research study to ask how content marketers had responded to the business changes brought on by the pandemic.
At the time, more than eight in 10 of those surveyed said their organizations made quick changes in response. And 86% said they expected some of the changes to stay in effect for the foreseeable future.
I’m not sure any of us thought the foreseeable future would last so long. It’s been a year.
These 12 long months of the pandemic have felt – at the mildest – like some form of limbo (and not the fun dance yourself under a bar kind, either). At worst, they’ve felt much darker.
Now, finally, there’s some metaphorical light on our faces. As the COVID-19 dust cloud slowly disappears, I’m feeling like starting again. Every day I ask myself:
What should we do more of? What should we stop doing? Where can we push our programs further?
What better place to look for inspiration than the CMI community? We’re sharing real stories of what real content marketers are doing, how they’ve gotten through this year, where they’re digging deep on existing programs, and where they suggest things can (and should) go next.
I hope you find the people, stories, and examples in these pages as inspiring as I do. Let me know what you think.
Make a Big Splash in the Livestream
Big brands, solopreneurs, politicians, musicians, authors, and seemingly everyone else goes live on social these days. What does it take to get noticed? We ask successful streamers for their advice.
Did 2020 Bring Meaningful Change?
The pandemic changed everything. A collective outcry for an end to systemic racism reverberated. 2020 forced brands to change the way they operated. Many pledged to work with more minority-owned businesses. Did anything change?
Trade Secrets: How Successful
Content Marketers Deliver Results
You can’t copy another brand’s content measurement strategy, but you can take inspiration from its philosophies and practices. Get ideas on measuring what matters from this panel featuring Women In Content Marketing Award winners and judges.
Who Needs Earned Media, Anyway?
Nutanix hits on an overlooked reason to build your own content brand: You can stop competing for the attention of uninterested journalists.
Why Can’t They Just Write Faster?
If you’ve ever wondered why writing takes so darn long, this peek inside a writer’s brain will explain why faster isn’t always better.
Content Marketing Shouldn’t Be a Dead-End Career
To move up, talented content practitioners must move on. That’s a problem. This career ladder will help you give team members a way up – before they look for a way out.
The Wrap Up
Marketers tap into the power of song and sound with a #SeaShanty, a sonic identity pop song, and a playlist for dinner prep.
Editor-in-Chief: Kim Moutsos • Creative Director: Joseph Kalinowski • Public Relations & Video Consultant: Amanda Subler • Feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org
<strong>Make a Big Splash
in the Livestream<strong>
<strong>What it takes to get noticed in the babbling brook of live video</strong>
Make a Splash With Livestreaming
Big brands, solopreneurs, politicians, musicians, authors, and seemingly everyone else goes live on social channels these days. We asked successful streamers what it takes to get noticed in live video’s babbling brook.
By Stephanie Stahl
How many times a day does your phone ding to notify you someone is “live?” As I sat down to write this article, I found myself struggling to resist the siren song of no fewer than six livestream notifications.
Data science. Goat farming. Cybersecurity trends. How to parent girls. Fast-growth companies. Creating better PowerPoints. There’s a livestream for everything that interests me (and probably everything that interests you, too).
Livestreaming isn’t a new technique, but it’s experiencing a surge in popularity.
“Livestreaming video has became a standard way to share ideas, information, and expertise,” says A. Lee Judge, CMO and co-founder of Content Monsta, which helps brands with video and audio content development.
The Content Marketing Institute's latest B2C Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends research bears this out. The number of B2C content marketers using livestreaming in their content mix almost tripled, rising to 35% in 2020 from 13% in 2019. (If you want more evidence, you'll find supporting statistics here.)
What’s behind the surge?
It’s not hard to figure out the livestreaming flood. Livestreams are relatively inexpensive and easy to produce. The tap of a button on a mobile device is all it takes to go live on multiple platforms at once.
One of the biggest benefits is the human connection livestreaming enables – with relatively few new skills required. People have had to participate in or lead more video calls as the pandemic carried on, and that's helped them feel more comfortable talking in front of a camera.
“CMI team members who never would have a year ago have been doing live video,” says Monina Wagner, CMI’s social media and community manager. “People have become so accustomed to being on video calls that taking it one step further doesn't feel scary.”
The number of B2C content marketers who use livestreaming in their content marketing mix almost tripled in 2020, rising to 35% from 13% in 2019.
The pandemic changed livestreaming's course
Before the COVID-19 pandemic drove many people to work from home, livestreaming typically occurred as an add-on to in-person events. And it often came with a high production value.
A Louis Vuitton livestream presentation of a collection at the Louvre attracted thousands of viewers.
A LinkedIn “Live with Marketers” talk show on the expo hall floor of Content Marketing World gave those who couldn’t enjoy the content in person a peek at what they were missing.
LinkedIn conducted a pre-pandemic livestream from the floor of Content Marketing World 2019.
But during the pandemic, livestreaming become the source of personal connection and interaction with audiences – without all the high-production fuss.
The closest thing to IRL
Goldie Chan, founder and head of content and creative for Warm Robots thrives on the real-time engagement it gives her livestream show Building Your Brand.
“You're able to respond to questions right away, especially when, say, somebody is telling a personal story, you get that response right away. It gets very visceral,” she told attendees of CMI’s Visual Storytelling Summit in December.
Goldie’s show is built around live interviews and discussions with guests. That’s a popular and successful format – but it’s far from the only one.
Many growing and established brands are getting creative with the livestream format.
Goldie Chan, host of the Linkedin Live show Building Your Brand, appreciates the real-time response livestreaming enables.
...When somebody is telling a personal story, you get that response right away. It gets visceral.
Goldie Chan, founder and head of content and creative, Warm Robots
Lexus recently tapped the power of livestreaming to invite the Twitch community to design a new vehicle to appeal to gamers. On a livestream hosted by popular Twitch streamer Fuslie, more than 550,000 viewers gave their opinions on features ranging from the car’s exterior wrap to a custom controller.
The Do It Now! Movement kicked off with a multi-hour event celebrating Juneteenth on Instagram Live because, according to founder Aleah Conlin, “It felt like people needed something closer to a live event.”
Educational sessions, entertainment, trivia, and more brought people together. “The live connection was so important,” Aleah said. The organization hosts the Now Talk show on Instagram Live and other events on Facebook Live to help grow its audience.
Just a couple of months later, Do It Now! hosted a live event called AMPlifyCommUNITY to shed light on education inequality. You can watch the whole "multi-aged student empowerment event" – which featured Black and Brown artists, performers, activists, speakers, and musicians supported by White educators and others – on Facebook or as separate videos from the event on YouTube.
The Do It Now! Movement holds livestreaming events like its August 2020 AMPlifyCOMMunity (shown here), to create live connections and grow its audience.
Standing out takes
The downstream effect of all this creative livestreaming activity: The competition for attention is fierce. But marketers still can stand out in the stream with the right strategy.
Dorie Clark, strategy consultant and executive coach who teaches at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, hosts a popular show for Newsweek on LinkedIn Live called Better.
Dorie’s professorial experience helped her set an educational yet conversational tone for the show, which features interviews with business leaders on topics that help entrepreneurs and other professionals boost their skills.
But another skill helped propel her success – her ability to read the business tea leaves. “Video is incredibly popular on social media, so I knew it would be a great way to reach more viewers,” she said.
“When LinkedIn Live launched, I realized it would be a priority for LinkedIn to see it succeed, and they’d likely give native video an algorithmic boost.”
Dorie Clark, who hosts a LinkedIn Live show for Newsweek, realized early on that LinkedIn would give native video an "algorithmic boost" to help LinkedIn Live succeed.
To grow your following, promote your livestream on not just one social channel, but "on any channel where you reach your followers,” Dorie Clark says.
She built the audience for her Newsweek livestream by mentioning upcoming interviews in her email newsletter and encouraging people to tune in.
Let it flow where it counts
Christoph Trappe, author of Going Live: Livestream Your Podcast to Reach More People, turned his Business Storytelling Podcast into a livestream and goes live several times a week on multiple channels.
He believes livestreaming is “way more authentic” than scripted video and advises streamers to keep things conversational. “If you’re going to read a script on the livestream, just email it to me,” he jokes.
Initially, Twitter performed best for Christoph, leading to hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of views per episode. But when he added Amazon Live to the mix he started routinely seeing 1,000 to 4,000 viewers per livestream episode.
Christoph Trappe, who livestreams on Twitter and Amazon Live, says authenticity is key: “If you’re going to read a script on the livestream, just email it to me."*
“Length matters. Shorter episodes don’t perform as well as longer ones because it takes people a bit of time to join in once a show goes live,” Christoph Trappe says.
He advises livestreamers to wait to dish out the best content until more people have tuned in.
“I've experimented with just letting the camera run for a bit and then going live 10 to 20 minutes in. That sounds kind of crazy, but it works on Amazon. Just put a graphic up with the time and be available to answer questions.”
Twitch streamer and social media specialist Jason Schemmel says the key to livestreaming is to create content that makes your community want to come back for more.
Livestreaming doesn’t have to be expensive and it doesn’t have to be overly produced, Jason Schemmel says. You can buy everything you need to get started online: a good camera, microphone, lighting, and a streaming service.
Even more encouraging is his reassurance: “It gets easier and easier the more experience you get.”
Do it, but don’t overdo it
Jason Schemmel, senior training and development specialist in social media at Amway, has spent the past few years building a personal audience on Twitch.
As a marketing professional, he sees the tremendous value livestreaming can bring to a brand – as long as brands focus on creating content that makes their community want to come back for more.
Jump on in – the
Livestreaming doesn’t need to be painstakingly scripted or overly produced. But it does require great content.
No matter the format, make sure to offer content that’s educational, entertaining, and, most importantly, worth your audience’s time.
Define your purpose. Pick a platform or two or three. Think about ways to connect with your audience.
They’ll appreciate the ability to look you in the eyes, chat with you digitally, and maybe even see your pets, children, or unfinished basement.
So, what are you waiting for? CCO
As General Manager of CMI, Stephanie Stahl leads the brand’s event, digital, print, and e-learning operations. Previously, Stephanie served as VP of Content Marketing for UBM’s Technology portfolio, providing strategic guidance on content development, content optimization, audience engagement, and go-to-market platforms for technology clients. Find Stephanie on Twitter @editorstahl and LinkedIn.
WADE INTO THE STREAM
CMI launched three livestreamed shows in 2021. Watch episodes below and get schedules and details here.
The Creative Show
CMI Creative Director Joseph Kalinowski and content strategist Buddy Scalera explore the complex, messy, innovative, and fun world of creativity on the last Friday of every month.
Beyond the Chat
#CMWorld Twitter Chat guest of the week tells CMI Social Media and Community Manager Monina Wagner all the things you can’t explain in 280 characters.
Ask the CMI Team
Every Monday, host Amanda Subler chats with CMI team members about topics they're asked about the most.
How Successful Content Marketers Deliver Results
<strong>Watch this Content Marketing World
on-demand session exclusively for
You can’t copy another brand’s content measurement strategy, but you can take inspiration from its philosophies and practices. Get ideas for measuring what matters in this panel discussion featuring Women In Content Award winners and judges.
By Kim Moutsos
There’s no shortage of advice about how to measure content success. Yet every year, we hear from content marketers struggling to understand the impact of their content marketing.
One stumbling block may be the challenge of applying general advice to a living, changing, content program. No one-size-fits-all solution exists. Every team must tailor its measurement to its business goals and, often, to how well each piece of content contributes to the content marketing mission.
Take inspiration from the philosophies and practices shared at Content Marketing World 2020 by winners, judges, and founders of the Women in Content Marketing Awards (hosted by Masthead Media).
Watch the full panel discussion here and read the highlights on the following pages.
Watch this Content Marketing World 2020 panel discussion featuring Women in Content Marketing Awards 2020 winners and judges.
Marriott Bonvoy Traveler
Former journalist, travel writer, and digital media producer, Robin Bennefield knows how to tell a good story. That’s one reason she won a Women in Content Award for General Excellence in 2020.
Robin Bennefield, editorial director, Marriott International, and editor-in-chief, Marriott Bonvoy Traveler
One storytelling adage embraced by both journalists and content marketers is to know your audience. And Robin uses her understanding of Marriott’s approach to goals and objectives to shape the way she and her team measure content success.
“It’s about setting up the story in the beginning,” she says. For example, when you create a new group of stories or content to support a campaign, figure out the benchmarks to hit at the beginning. Then you know what to track and whether it was a success.
“In all reporting, we (answer) … what was the benchmark? Did we meet it or not?”
Robin Bennefield, editor-in-chief, Marriott Bonvoy Traveler
“That’s how Marriott works ... they want to know what’s the baseline. Can we meet that? Can we exceed it? So in all of the reporting, we (answer) … what was the benchmark? Did we meet it or not?”
Content marketing goals: Drive inspiration for travel destinations and Marriott properties.
KPIs: Page views, time on site, newsletter click-through rates.
Review frequency: Weekly, monthly, and quarterly.
What they look for in the numbers: Engagement signals, including how deeply readers consume or engage with content. “We’re looking at what destinations are resonating with people and what
types or styles of travel people are interested in so we can adjust our storytelling accordingly,” Robin says.
Additional goals and metrics: Amplifying business objectives. Some content is driven by brand needs and objectives rather than solely by audience interest (though these sometimes overlap). In that case, Robin says, the metric is how well the content helped. Then the decision is, “Should we be creating content around this business objective or not?”
Robin points to the profiles of chefs and bartenders at Marriott properties as an example of stories they do to showcase the brand. They also engage the audience. “It’s something we think people travel for. They want to connect with the food in a place, and here is a property delivering on that for you,” she says.
Surprise success: The COVID-19 pandemic hit the travel industry hard. Robin and team had to look for ways to engage their audience of travel enthusiasts who had to stay home.
The result was a series of stories that let their audience travel virtually. They offered lists of TV shows, films, podcasts, and books to help satisfy the audience’s wanderlust. Though they scaled back communication with Marriott Bonvoy travel program members, they sent a newsletter with this story collection.
Robin describes the response as “gangbusters.” The newsletter’s open rate hit 28%, which blew past their benchmark of 15% for a typical newsletter mailing.
“I think it speaks to the power of editorial storytelling, being able to be nimble and to tell that right story at the right time,” she says.
(Story continues on page 5.)
Maggie Leung knows exactly which metrics her content team is responsible for – and which it’s decidedly not.
“We do not believe that revenue should be the responsibility of content if we expect to build a trusted brand,” she says.
Maggie Leung, vice president of content, NerdWallet
Maggie left journalism to join the personal finance startup, where she built a team of nearly 90 writers and editors. She’s clear about (and protective of) their mission – to establish NerdWallet’s domain expertise in specific personal finance areas.
Content marketing goals: Build a trusted brand that helps people make personal finance decisions with confidence.
Primary KPIs: Search rankings and engagement (specifics vary by team and quarter).
“Content at NerdWallet is the equivalent of a department store. We do not consider it good business or good editorial practice to designate from a centralized system,” Maggie says. For example, the KPIs for taxation vertical content aren’t the same as the ones for banking content.
Review frequency: Daily. Every content team member goes through analytics training when they join NerdWallet. Writers and editors are responsible for segments of the content library and check performance dashboards multiple times a day.
Additional metrics: Vary by activity. The company invested heavily in writers and editors who speak at events, get interviewed for stories, and produce content for syndication. Metrics are specific to each activity’s goal. For example, syndicated content isn’t measured for SEO contribution though it may affect it.
Surprise success: Sometimes the numbers indicate an opportunity to help. With the pandemic affecting many people’s jobs, the NerdWallet content team noticed a lot of traffic and questions around personal finance setbacks.
In response, they created a landing page filled with stories from different segments to explain how to navigate options for student loan deferment, mortgage payment relief, bill paying, and more.
Giselle Abramovich helps shape the content strategy for thought leadership at Adobe, working on big ideas about the future of work, creativity, and digital experiences.
She’s also a proponent of another important Adobe theme – data democratization: giving content analytics access to everyone who needs it.
But she doesn’t expect everyone to correctly interpret what they see in the numbers. Each quarter, her team analyzes the numbers and creates a listicle article for the rest of the company. Think: 10 Things We Learned From This Month’s Numbers. The goal is to make analytics useful to everyone. “You don’t need a data science degree to understand it,” she says.
Goal: Build awareness of the Adobe point of view on topics and themes important to the company.
Primary KPIs: Referral traffic to Adobe.com from editorial properties like CMO.com and the Adobe corporate blog. Behavior metrics for visitors (watching videos, downloading research, signing up for free trials). Page views on editorial properties to determine what resonates.
Giselle Abramovich, executive editor, enterprise thought leadership, Adobe
Reporting frequency: Quarterly for detailed analysis. Employees can check their own dashboards and numbers as often as they want.
Additional metrics: Giselle’s team works with Adobe customers and partners on content to share more than Adobe’s perspective. They track the number of customer-created stories and videos. “Even though we can’t tie that back to ROI, we know that it’s a great way to keep the conversation going with a customer even after they bought from us. We keep engaging with them,” Giselle says.
Surprise success: One partner story tied directly to results – for the partner. Adobe worked with the Red Cross this summer to raise awareness of the need for blood donations to help people with sickle cell disease who are at increased risk for complications if they contract COVID-19.
The campaign’s centerpiece was a video of first-time blood donors meeting kids with sickle cell disease. The children, who are used to receiving blood transfusions, help the new donors through the process.
Engagement, Giselle says, “has been through the roof.” A week after the video debuted, it hit 5.5 million views, 60% of which were organic. Most importantly, almost 1,000 people registered to donate blood.
Giselle’s team created a customer story about the partnership, and it attracted more than 13,000 views, which was a big success for Adobe, too.
Tell your own
No universal pattern for measuring and reporting content success exists. But there are common threads.
One of the strongest that emerged from these brands is the role of context. What do the numbers mean?
Well, what did you set out to do? Did you do it? Did you do something else that might also be valuable?
Without the story around the numbers, they’re just pixels on a screen. CCO
CCO subscribers get access to a free Content Marketing World on-demand session in each 2021 issue. Did you get this issue from a colleague or friend? Subscribe today so you won't miss an issue.
Kim Moutsos is editor-in-chief of CCO and leads the editorial team at the Content Marketing Institute. She has worked in content marketing for enterprises and startups for more than 20 years and loves exchanging ideas and lessons learned with other content marketing practitioners. You can follow her on Twitter at @KMoutsos or connect on LinkedIn.
<strong>Did 2020 Bring Meaningful Change?</strong>
<strong>We asked Black-owned agency leaders what changes they've seen in the past year – and how brands can do more</strong>
So Brands Took Stands – What Came Next?
The pandemic changed everything. A collective outcry for an end to systemic racism reverberated. 2020 forced brands to change the way they operated. Many pledged to work with more minority-owned businesses. Did it lead to any real change?
By Ann Gynn
We asked five Black-owned marketing agency leaders what impact they’ve seen in the months since and how they’re faring during the economic upheaval the pandemic caused.
All the leaders we talked to say their businesses are in an upswing. Most attribute that to a side effect of the pandemic – the rush to digital experiences. Some say corporate commitment to work with Black-owned businesses has played a role, too. And they all see opportunities for marketers to do more to address and support underrepresented communities.
drive business for some
Blue Surge Marketing Agency is experiencing an upward trend since last spring, says its president, Godson Michel. Much of the agency’s growth has come from first-time entrepreneurs.
During the pandemic, people who lost their jobs or were laid off began recognizing the value in not being reliant on a single employer and diversifying their income streams. They’re increasingly launching brands, which need digital marketing support, to turn their passions into monetizable avenues.
Blue Surge Marketing Agency President Godson Michel says, “we’ve gotten more requests for starting directories in the past six months than in our agency’s entire history.”
Blue Surge does see more interest from large companies, too, and it has seen a business boost from brands wanting to work with a Black-owned digital agency. “We recognize this is an effect of summer 2020’s historic civil rights movement,” Godson says.
Some of that work has included the development of minority-owned business directories. “With consumers being more conscious of racial inequity and the lack of centralized ways to support Black and African-American-owned enterprises, we’ve gotten more requests for starting directories in the past six months than in our agency’s entire history,” Godson says.
Christine Michel Carter, bestselling author of Mom AF, senior contributor at Forbes, and multicultural marketing consultant, has seen year-over-year growth for her business. The COVID-19 shutdown exposed and exacerbated hardships for working moms, and that prompted more employers to seek her counsel.
Multicultural marketing consultant and best-selling author Christine Michel Carter says 2020 was the catalyst that justified investing in diversity and inclusion.
She also has seen more companies saying they want to work with minority-owned businesses. While her clients aren’t having more conversations about diversity and inclusion, she has noticed an effect – the time to close deals has dramatically reduced. “I attribute this to organizations always hearing internal feedback about the importance of diversity and inclusion, but 2020 was the catalyst that justified investing in the topic,” Christine says.
Digital drives most business
Juntae DeLane, founder and chief strategist of Digital Delane, has seen his business double since last spring. Clients are investing in digital marketing because it’s often the only way they can engage their target audience during the pandemic.
“As a full-service digital marketing agency, we’re able to help them increase awareness and conversions in the digital space,” he says, in part through producing virtual events.
For 2021, he sees companies focusing on the “new normal” – building brands, campaigns, and launches that consider the shifts in consumer behavior, technology, and diversity and inclusion.
Digital marketing as the primary option in 2020 also meant an increase in business for Content Monsta, the B2B digital content marketing agency co-founded by A. Lee Judge. He says Content Monsta’s focus on creating multimedia pillar content meant much of his pre-pandemic business started with in-person video shoots or on-site podcast recording.
A. Lee Judge, co-founder of B2B digital content marketing agency Content Monsta, says replacing in-person video and podcast recording with remote services let the agency “not just survive but to strive during the pandemic.”
Fortunately, they’d already planned to expand their digital services. “Remote live video and podcast production were on our services roadmap back in 2019, but we did not expect those services would be thrust to the forefront of our offerings in 2020," Lee says. "Being able to replace our in-person content creation with remote services was the key that allowed us to not just survive but to strive during the pandemic.”
Budgets are back
Sydni Craig-Hart is co-founder and CEO of Smart Simple Marketing (and a fourth-generation entrepreneur). The content marketing consultancy works with big B2B firms like Google, Facebook, Oracle, and other technology brands, advising on how they can connect better with their audiences of women- and minority-owned firms as well as small businesses.
When the pandemic hit, six months of revenue evaporated as three big contracts were put on hold just as they were about to be signed. Smart Simple Marketing survived by using its savings and securing a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program. The company’s good record-keeping and solid banking relationships helped it access the loan funds in just eight days.
But Sydni knows her experience was rare. Traditionally, small Black-owned businesses don’t have the access, networks, or money needed to navigate pandemic challenges.
Smart Simple Marketing CEO Sydni Craig-Hart says her corporate clients now have leadership support for the multi-phase, high-dollar minority- and women-owned business projects they wanted to do long ago.
To help, in less than two weeks, Smart Simple Marketing produced a virtual summit to give small business owners tangible advice and have conversations that addressed their specific needs and circumstances.
They continued their visibility campaigns via speaking, direct outreach, and digital marketing.
By July, their existing clients began coming back. And by the end of the year, they’d onboarded three new clients. Today, revenue is right on track, and Sydni sees a bright 2021 for the business.
The difference? Corporate teams working with Smart Simple Marketing now have leadership support for the multi-phase, high-dollar minority- and women-owned business projects they wanted to do long ago.
There’s room to improve on
brand commitments to diversity and inclusion
Looking beyond their own businesses, these marketing experts also have some thoughts on brands’ commitment to diversity and inclusion. All replied with some version of this: Big statements are OK. Actions are better. Relevant and helpful actions are best.
Juntae DeLane sees some progress as more brands connect with and amplify Black businesses and share more Black voices and perspectives. “The narrative surrounding Black businesses is starting to shift as diversity and inclusion is fostered across all business functions,” he notes.
Digital Delane’s founder and chief strategist Juntae DeLane says “the narrative surrounding Black businesses is starting to shift as diversity and inclusion is fostered across all business functions.”
But the picture isn’t perfect.
The biggest misconception in marketing about diversity and inclusion, Christine Michel Carter says, is that “myriad races on content + ‘we’ statements = diversity and inclusion.”
JUST CUTTING A CHECK
DOESN’T CUT IT
Brands whose values drive them to take a stand against systemic racism must do more than make donations, Sydni Craig-Hart advises. “Writing a check does not absolve you of your responsibility to do the work. It’s not going to fix anything with your audience.”
Creating meaningful impact, she says, requires sustained, committed investment.
For example, instead of writing a $5 million check to a Black-focused nonprofit, Sydni says a company would do better to spend:
- $1 million for a supplier diversity program
- $1 million for multicultural marketing
- $1 million to empower employees to be empathetic
- $1 million for financial literacy for minority-owned businesses
As Lee Judge notes, “Unfortunately, for many, it’s just a hot topic that is fashionable to be a part of – not a commitment.”
Companies don’t benefit just by “showing” their commitment to the public, he says. “Diversity in your content is no more than a façade if the company does not have diversity in its upper ranks.”
Management should represent the same demographics the company is marketing to.
“No company should assume that they understand a culture,” Lee says, “or even how to market to a culture of people if no one from the culture is part of the decision-making process.”
A company committed to diversity cultivates it by listening to underrepresented voices, hiring them, putting them in leadership roles, and promoting them to equity positions, says Michel Godson.
“What some companies may have gotten away with in 2011 will not work in 2021,” Godson adds. “Avoiding and deflecting social and racial injustices,
especially when they are the main headlining topics of the day, is a weak position. Even in the face of adversity, taking a stand lets consumers know you’re holding firm to your company’s core values.”
And if you’re not living those values? Beware. “Consumers can sniff out inauthenticity a mile away,” Godson says.
fresh thinking, too
Authenticity requires rethinking all those internal marketing conversations.
Marketing teams would do well to rethink how they understand their audiences. “In marketing, we make this mistake of creating personas in conference rooms with other people who look like us … We get cocky and arrogant about how well we know our customer,” Sydni says.
A fresh perspective is essential. And that doesn’t just mean making an internal team member who is a member of a minority the “expert” for all things multicultural.
An action may be right, and it may not be. But you can’t not do – that’s making it about you.”
That’s unfair because, she points out, “They’re not trained (on multicultural marketing). They don’t represent all minorities or even all the minorities in their own community.”
Outside experts in multicultural marketing know what’s happening across industries and geographies and how to use that insight to advise and improve what’s being done at the company. Relying on them takes the pressure off the employee: Voicing a different opinion or challenging the status quo is risky.
In the end, demonstrating your company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion requires taking an action – and that can seem scary to even the most well-intentioned.
But don’t let fear and anxiety get in the way or dictate your action or inaction, Sydni says.
“It’s going to be uncomfortable. An action may be right, and it may not be. But you can’t not do – that’s making it about you.” CCO
Ann Gynn edits the CMI blog. Ann regularly combines words and strategy for B2B, B2C, and nonprofits, continuing to live up to her high school nickname, Editor Ann. Former college adjunct faculty, Ann also helps train professionals in content so they can do it themselves. Follow Ann on Twitter @anngynn or connect on LinkedIn.
<strong>Who Needs Earned
<strong>Not your brand, if you take a page out of Nutanix's playbook
You Can Beat
the Media at
Its Own Game –
After encountering disinterest from the media sites, one tech brand built its own award-winning content brand. Now its audience checks The Forecast regularly.
By Ann Gynn
Now is the time for businesses to invest in publications they own and control.
“There’s no one you need to pitch to have your stories placed,” advises Christopher Penn, chief data scientist at Trust Insights, who outlined the decline in mainstream media sites last fall.
With the remaining tech media mostly dedicated to covering the big players (Google, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and other enormous companies), it’s hard for smaller players to earn any attention.
Enterprise software company Nutanix had the foresight to tackle that challenge in 2019 by creating its own editorial property, The Forecast.
Designed to raise awareness of the Nutanix brand and showcase its experts’ thought leadership, The Forecast helps the company attract audiences it might not reach with traditional public relations and demand-generation marketing.
Since its May 2019 launch, the site has attracted nearly 400,000 unique visitors, 600,000 page views, and more than 1,200 weekly newsletter
subscribers. Nutanix optimizes for leads by retargeting visitors to the publication.
The Forecast earned high honors in the 2020 Content Marketing Awards, landing finalist nods in three categories: Best Overall Editorial – Digital, B2B Branded Content Campaign of the Year, and Content Marketing Launch of the Year.
This behind-the-scenes look at The Forecast’s rise offers useful lessons for any brand looking to build awareness without relying solely on earned media.
The editorial strategy
The initial idea and business direction for an editorial-driven news site came from Ben Gibson, chief marketing officer, Tonya China, now chief communications officer, and Jennifer Massaro, now vice president, global public relations and social media.
The concept, according to the team, is to “explore ideas and technologies that are changing the way we live and how business gets done.”
“There are so many great stories to tell from the intersection of technology innovation and human experience,” says Jennifer, who serves as The Forecast’s executive director. “The Forecast gives us an authentic way to chronicle the times, define trends, and interview leaders and changemakers across different industries.”
Editor-in-Chief Ken Kaplan leads the editorial strategy and design. The guiding editorial mission is to “inform readers and help them overcome fears or apprehension about cloud computing’s massive impact on businesses, industries, governments, and our daily lives,” he says.
“Understanding why these technologies exist and how they work can help leaders build a better future.”
Taking an industry insider’s perspective and using journalistic storytelling, The Forecast covers tech and business stories, practical advice for tech workers, and profiles of leaders in the tech industry.
In addition to articles, the site also features original video content and provides a home for its podcast arm, Tech Barometer.
The site publishes three to five new stories a week and shares those stories on Nutanix social channels and through a weekly newsletter.
Growing an audience and business
The Forecast’s target audience includes IT influencers, company investors, tech decision-makers, and people forging a career in IT.
Between January 2020 and January 2021, traffic from organic search grew from 8 to 21%, which means readers seek and find Forecast content. Social, newsletter, and link referrals contribute about 18% of traffic as of January 2021. More than 450,000 Tech Barometer podcast segments have been downloaded.
People search for (and click on) The Forecast – the percentage of site traffic from organic search grew from 8% to 21% between January 2020 and January 2021.
While there is an element of paid content promotion, organic search traffic on the site has grown exponentially.
The Forecast ranks in the top three search results for 141 targeted keywords and on the first page for 257 other priority keywords.
For paid content promotion, The Forecast enjoys 80% lower cost per click and more than 300% higher click-through rates than industry averages, according to Michael Brenner of Marketing Insider Group who worked with the Nutanix team to build and implement its content marketing strategy.
He says The Forecast is the fastest-growing content marketing platform he’s worked on and attributes the success in part to its strong editorial focus on thought leadership, which attracts engaged audiences.
And it is getting attention both inside and outside the company, helping Nutanix raise its profile among industry influencers and beyond.
The Forecast enjoys 80% lower cost per click and more than 300% higher click-through rates than industry averages.
Beyond the site
Nutanix Co-founder Dheeraj Pandey, CIO Wendy M. Pfeiffer, CMO Ben Gibson, and other leaders across the company connect the editor-in-chief with experts internally and externally. This access allows The Forecast to turn thought leadership into compelling articles.
Ken, its editor, also has a presence beyond the site. He has been invited to share The Forecast experiences with content experts on industry panels and in social channel conversations.
“We’re thrilled to see The Forecast grow and be recognized for the groundbreaking work we’re doing,” Jennifer says. “We’ve built an engaging site and now we’re determined to grow by leveraging our audience insights, journalistic instincts, and powerful publishing platform.” CCO
Ann Gynn edits the CMI blog. Ann regularly combines words and strategy for B2B, B2C, and nonprofits, continuing to live up to her high school nickname, Editor Ann. Former college adjunct faculty, Ann also helps train professionals in content so they can do it themselves. Follow Ann on Twitter @anngynn or connect on LinkedIn.
<strong>Why Can’t They
Just Write Faster?!</strong>
<strong> Read this if you've ever wondered why content creation takes so darn long
This peek inside a writer’s brain will reassure you that faster isn’t always better.
By Jonathan Crossfield
Blank screen. OK. No problem. I’ve already agreed with the editor what this article will be about, and I kinda know what it should say.
All I need to do is translate those thoughts into words on the page.
Welcome to the first of the five stages of grief writing: Denial.
Writing always takes me longer than planned. The more creative or reflective the writing, the worse this time dilation becomes – and I know I’m not alone. Creativity doesn’t like to be measured with a stopwatch when it can be measured in ice ages.
Each time I start a new project, I convince myself this time will be different. It won’t.
Before this article is done, denial will be followed by anger, bargaining, and depression. Eventually, I’ll reach acceptance that this draft is as good as it’s going to get and email it to the editor.
Writing is a game of drafts
In 1974, Marshall McLuhan wrote, “A typewriter is a means of transcribing thought, not expressing it.” (The Essential McLuhan, Routledge, 1997) Most people can write, and these days most people can type (after a fashion). But typing isn’t writing. If all I needed to do was type 1,800 or so words, I’d have finished this article in under an hour over a week ago.
One reason the art of writing is so often misunderstood – and undervalued – is that the same word is used to describe two very different activities. There’s writing in the functional sense of assembling letters into words, sentences, and so on – transcription. And then there’s writing in the sense of telling stories, conveying ideas, or composing poetry – expression.
One reason the art of writing is often misunderstood – and undervalued – is that the same word is used to describe two very different activities.
Jonathan Crossfield, @Kimota
Another reason is that the effortlessness of reading conceals the effort of writing. The opening lines to this article give no clue to how long I stared at the screen before that first tap of the keyboard, nor the days it took for the idea to mature at the back of my brain as I worked on other projects. The trick is to uncork the idea and decant it onto the page before it turns to vinegar – but not so soon that it hasn’t had a chance to mature.
Even then, the first words you read are rarely the first words written. I typed the opening lines you just read three days and 1,800 mostly deleted words after I began this article. As I write this, I can’t be certain they will still be the opening lines when I send off the article, never mind when it’s eventually published.
I added the Marshall McLuhan bit a few days later still, while assembling what I hoped would be the final draft. At every stage, new ideas keep turning up wanting to be included.
This article is (I hope) a seamless mix of paragraphs and sentences written and rewritten at different times; deleted, reinstated, rearranged, and rewritten again, as I play with ideas and try to assemble the most effective sequence of thoughts to carry you, dear reader, to the end.
Writing is juggling
Don’t get me wrong; I’ve not spent the best part of a week writing a single article. I’d go broke if that were true. Instead, writing happens in bursts of a few hours here, a few minutes there, skipping between projects as I shepherd each to its allotted deadline. Right now, I’m making use of a spare half-hour after finishing that other thing and before the next Zoom meeting.
Content writing is typically a juggling act of projects, deadlines, meetings, phone calls, emails, and other commitments. Few writers get to start and finish a single project without interruption or distraction before moving on. And the brain isn’t great at switching from thinking about one thing to thinking about another and back again.
Each interruption carries a cognitive cost as well as a temporal one. According to a team of psychological scientists at George Mason University, even minor distractions can measurably degrade the quality of work.
Therefore, creative or knowledge-based work demands a greater level of sustained concentration and focus to …
The phone rings. A client has changed direction on a project I thought was finished a week ago and urgently needs new copy by this afternoon. I move things around my calendar to free up a couple of hours.
It’s now two days later. I’m trying to heave my derailed train of thought back onto the tracks after being consumed with other projects.
Should be fine. I’m still on the right side of the deadline. If I can just get a long enough stretch of uninterrupted time to …
The phone rings.
Writing is thinking
I recently interviewed Joe Moran, author of First You Write a Sentence. Toward the end of our chat about “managerial blah” and bad business language, the conversation turned to the act of writing.
“Writing and speaking aren’t just about communicating; they’re also about thinking. They’re ways of working out what you think or what you want to say,” Joe said.
“I say to my students that writing is rewriting. The way we think about writing, certainly in academia, is a science model: You do your thinking and your research and then you write it up. When you do a Ph.D., there’s even a stage called the writing-up stage. That’s not what writing should be about. The writing is the work.”
Content marketing is often described as a way for brands to demonstrate thought leadership. If that’s the case, shouldn’t the writing of that content be, y’know, thoughtful?
“In good writing, you write a sentence, and then that sentence generates the next one,” Joe said. “There’s an element of surprise because you’re not always sure what the next sentence is going to say until you’ve completed the previous one.”
Content marketing is often described as a way for brands to demonstrate thought leadership. If that’s the case, shouldn’t the writing of that content be, y’know, thoughtful?
Jonathan Crossfield, @Kimota
And because we’re not computers, thinking doesn’t happen in a single straight line from idea to final draft. At times, writing can feel more akin to improvisation. It can be a mess of tangents and trying things out, exploring different ideas along with different ways to express them.
“The longer you can work on the actual writing, shaping the sentences, that in itself is the work. That’s the thinking about stuff.”
Writing is researching
I write articles and other content for several clients – some under my byline, some with no byline other than the brand.
The latter are by far the easiest to write as they’re straightforward and functional pieces of content – listicles and other short factual pieces with little room for editorializing or opinion, let alone a more creative angle. They’re a necessary part of the content mix for most brands, can be reasonably quick to turn around, and keep my productivity (and invoices) up.
If I have to write a common-or-garden listicle on Five Cordwangling Tips for Greeble Mungers (obscure gag for any Kenneth Williams fans out there), half of the time is typically taken up with research.
I skim-read a bunch of articles on the topic, making notes – perhaps aided by a few sources provided in the brief, perhaps based on my own Google searches – to come up with the tips that seem most interesting or useful. Then I try to gather a few stats or examples to back them up.
The remaining half of the time I try to convert and compress the information into a few hundred words of reasonably tight prose.
This split between research and writing is not so clear-cut in practice. There’s always some back and forth between writing and research. Paraphrasing and summarizing complex information into a tight word count means I need to continually check I’m not veering into inaccuracy.
But the biggest frustration is usually the time wasted on wild goose chases – fact-checking information and confirming sources that turn out to be too old or inaccurate for me to use because not all content is written with the same attention to detail. Just checking a single fact can sometimes take 30 minutes or more.
On many occasions, I’ve begrudgingly deleted what seemed like the perfect fact from an article; not because it turned out to be wrong, but because I couldn’t afford any more time trying to confirm it.
And all of this time needs to be paid for. A smaller fee means less time for research, with potential consequences for the quality and accuracy of the information in the final piece.
If you’re happy for your content to be written after 10 minutes of research from the first page of the search results for the most obvious keyword, then feel free to rush as much and pay as little as you can get away with.
But if the writer can research the information that quickly, so can your audience. Content that merely curates and paraphrases information that’s already easy to find is hardly thought leadership.
Writing is editing
Mark Twain is commonly credited with the quote, “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one.” It’s a corker of a line, but a little research reveals Twain never wrote it – illustrating why fact-checking is an essential part of the writing process. (I just invested 10 minutes checking that quote, by the way.)
Once I have a complete draft, with a beginning, middle, and end, I might need to cut some words out to fit the agreed word count. I just cut 600 words from the latest draft of this article, comprising two sections: writing is reading and writing is playing.
The points in those sections were relevant (and they contained a couple of gags that I’m sorry to see go) but I needed to prioritize the best 1,800 words out of the approximately 4,000 to 5,000 I’ve probably written by now.
It also matters (or at least it should) that the grammar is correct, the styles consistent, and the details checked and checked again.
If you’re happy for your content to be written after 10 minutes of research from the first page of search results for the most obvious keyword, then rush as much and pay as little as you can get away with.
Jonathan Crossfield, @kimota
The writer – and the editorial team you have in place – should obsess about such things so that no one else has to.
Crafting perfect sentences takes care. And time. If you haven’t gathered by now, the key ingredient at every stage is time.
But time does eventually run out.
Writing is knowing
when to finish
One of my favorite quotes about writing comes from Douglas Adams: “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they go by.” (The Guardian, 2001. Fifteen minutes checking.)
My deadline for this article whooshed by a few days ago, despite my best intentions. Sometimes life gets in the way. That’s why it’s always a good idea to be clear about which deadlines have some give in them and which will thoroughly derail a project if they’re missed.
I think this draft is ready. Time to stop tinkering, stop rewriting, stop thinking of new bits to add. Time to let it go and give the editor a chance to read it.
Time for me to start thinking about the article I need to write tomorrow, and the interview on Thursday, and …
It’s a week later. There’s an email in my inbox marked “feedback.”
I guess this article isn’t finished with me yet. CCO
Jonathan Crossfield describes himself as a storyteller because writer, editor, content strategist, digital marketer, journalist, copywriter, consultant, trainer, speaker, and blogger wouldn’t fit neatly on a business card. He has won awards for his magazine articles and blog posts on digital marketing, but that was so long ago now it seems boastful to keep mentioning it. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @Kimota.
HELP YOUR WRITERS WRITE FASTER AND BETTER
It's true: quality content marketing writing takes time. And there are no magic formulas to guarantee creative ideas will come when they're needed.
But there are ways to help writers get organized, find the heart of the story, and relate it better. And practicing these skills can lead to faster, better content creation.
Point your team to this guide packed with systems, exercises, and tips gathered from successful content marketing writers to help them:
- Sharpen their storytelling
- Speed up the writing process
- Strengthen the impact of every word
- Subdue even the toughest writer’s block
<strong>Content Marketing Shouldn’t Be a
<strong>But it will be unless content leaders
hammer out a content-specific
To move up in an organization, talented content practitioners must move on. That’s a problem. This career ladder will help you give team members a way up – before they look for a way out.
By Robert Rose
Content marketing is growing exponentially. But the advancement ladder for content practitioners is missing most of its rungs.
While many organizations consider content marketing an important, functional strategy (pardon us while we at CMI pat ourselves on the back), most have no idea how to build a career ladder for this function (and we stop patting ourselves on the back).
In most businesses I visit, I find confusion about where these content practitioners should live in the organization structure. Worse, I see a dead end for many.
To move up, talented content practitioners must move on – meaning they move out of the team and maybe away from the brand.
That’s a problem for content teams – and the industry as a whole. The practice of content marketing can’t be a strategic part of the business if practitioners can’t reach the highest positions in the business.
Why formalize a
content career path?
A World Economic Forum January 2020 report, Jobs of Tomorrow, projects that job opportunities in the category “sales, marketing, and content” will be the second-highest behind only health care.
And, within that category, the report calls the strategy of content marketing a core priority for additional learning for students looking to explore these job opportunities.
The number of companies constructing in-house marketing agencies is also on the rise. In 2018, the Association of National Advertisers released research that revealed 78% of their members reported having “some form of an in-house agency,” as compared to 58% in 2013.
Among the services these internal teams provided, content marketing saw the largest increase: 75% handled content marketing in 2018 compared to 34% in 2013.
In 2020, the ANA’s report on the post-COVID marketing world found “50% of survey respondents identified their in-house agency as the ‘most important’ resource for producing new creative assets.”
All these numbers add up to this: Content marketing practitioners and content strategists face a positive environment for job opportunities. Companies desperately need talent for the in-house creative and content marketing functions they’re building and increasingly relying on.
So, what’s the problem?
Dead-end content kids
The problem lies in the relatively low career ceiling in the practice of marketing and communications.
Regardless of whether they’re an individual contributor or a team lead, most content marketers and content strategists have only three choices once they reach the senior manager level.
- Move into a more traditional marketing role, leaving behind content marketing and content strategy
- Leave the company for a lateral position at another company
- Leave to build a solo practice
I want to change this.
Why we need a
content career ladder
When I was CMO of a fast-growing startup, a mentor told me that hiring someone is the only truly expensive thing a company does. And then he added, “Make sure you do it carefully.”
If hiring is expensive, so is losing a good employee. It’s been said replacing an employee who quits costs on average 21% of their annual pay.
But the answer isn’t to tie the content practitioner to the traditional marketing career ladder. If businesses aim to transform every marketer into a brand-selling machine, they’re missing the point of the experience economy – and jeopardizing their ability to retain the talented communicators of tomorrow.
Hiring is expensive. So is losing a good employee.
Your HR department almost certainly has a career ladder for traditional marketing roles. In other words, they have a description of what it means to be an entry-level marketing specialist, a marketing manager, senior manager, director, and so on.
But few organizations have a laddering path for content practitioners. I know because I’ve been asked many times to help organizations create them.
I’m not suggesting the roles, titles, or even the kind of team you should build. (If you’re interested in my recommendations for those, read The 7 Core Roles of a 2020 Content Marketing Team.)
I’m encouraging content team leaders to work with their human resource departments to establish a formal career ladder for the roles on the content team you have now (and the one you want to build). This gives everyone on your team something to advance toward and an understanding of the skills and expectations to move into an advanced role.
Establish a formal career ladder for the roles on the content team you have now –and the one you want to build.
Sample content marketing career ladder
A career ladder is a practical road map for advancement to higher levels of responsibility, salary, and authority.
I created this basic content career progression example to help content leaders customize a career ladder for their teams. It shows one track for leadership roles (positions that manage people and strategy) and one for skill-specific positions (writers, videographers, visual designers, and so on) at the individual contributor level.
The team leader path shows the progression from manager to director to senior director to vice president of content (or chief content officer) to CMO. The individual contributor path for skill positions shows the advancement of three levels.
Wherever your team members fall on this path, you’ve created somewhere for them to go next (and the requirements to get there).
A few things to note about this model:
- While individual contributor titles might be named differently (design maven or design lead instead of design manager), levels 1, 2, and 3 typically align with a manager, director, or senior director title for compensation.
- Individual contributors can move up to the leadership track (I’ve found this usually involves a small step back in title, as noted in the diagram.)
- Roles may converge as a team member progresses on the ladder. For example, as a content strategist moves into the director and senior director positions, the role might merge with that of a content marketer as the responsibilities expand to include leadership of both.
Sample career level and responsibility descriptions
As I mentioned, this article isn’t about which team roles you need or what your team structure should look like.
But to help you develop your own set of rungs, I created this sample showing the leadership path for a content marketer or content strategist from entry-level to vice president of content.
The tier descriptions indicate the characteristics for each level:
- Entry-level coordinator. Just learning. New to the team. Working in support of a single function. A performer. Strong skills in their role, can begin to manage and build relationships.
- Director. A seasoned manager who can manage and drive change, as well as effectively lead a team.
- Senior director. Skilled team leader, with significant management experience. Well-rounded business management and strategic skills.
- Vice president of content. Dynamic and effective leader, capable of managing multiple, large teams and growing talent.
The chart also lists the increasing responsibilities for each role:
- Entry-level coordinator. Writes and/or manages editorial calendars. Create basic content, and/or coordinate work among channels or groups.
- Manager. Creates and manages content calendar. Writes, edits, proofreads, and helps evaluate content performance. Manages small team, freelancers, and vendors.
- Director. Manages and measures team and channel for effective delivery and balance of content marketing efforts. Manages team responsible for content standards, including SEO, structured content, and management of content assets.
- Senior director. Guides all aspects of content marketing and content strategy, including teams managing owned, earned, and shared media. Manages team and responsible for resourcing across operating models of content.
- Vice president of content. Creates and oversees all aspects and delivery of global content initiatives across multiple platforms and formats to drive engagement with consumers and audience. Directs and oversees content business, governance, technology, and standards-based operation of content. Manages overall teams that create standards and best practices (both human and technological) for content creation, distribution, maintenance, content retrieval, and content repurposing. Owns teams across all owned media experiences.
Starting the content
I put together this framework to provide a career road map for content practitioners.
Your content marketing and content strategy model will determine the number, type, and seniority of the people to fill out your team (and how your team scales over time).
You’ll note that the framework shows the vice president of content moving into a more traditional chief marketing officer or broad marketing leadership role. The point is that the responsibility for content should be part of that leadership role.
Think of the framework as the beginning of the content career ladder discussion, not the end. It’s great that content marketing has advanced so far that companies need a career path for valued content practitioners.
Now it’s time to develop one. CCO
Robert Rose is the founder and chief strategy officer of The Content Advisory, the education and consulting group for the Content Marketing Institute. He’s provided content marketing and strategy advice for global brands such as Capital One, NASA, Dell, McCormick Spices, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Follow Robert on Twitter @Robert_Rose.
Does your organization have a career ladder for content roles?
<strong>Brands Crank Up the Volume With Audio Experiences</strong>
Marketers tap into the power of song and sound, and we’re chanting along to the latest viral TikTok trend, tuning in to sonic identity, and dancing through our dinner prep.
TikTok celebrates sea shanty singers
TikTok user Nathan Evans’ rendition of a 19th-century sea shanty created unexpected waves, sparking what the social media company says is the first viral trend of 2021 – #SeaShanty.
When other users (including Andrew Lloyd Webber) responded to the Scottish postman’s performance by adding harmonies via the platform’s duet feature, TikTok spotted an opportunity to celebrate the creative outpouring.
The company worked with VaynerMedia to create a 30-second video montage illustrating the trend’s evolution. The ad spot, which airs in the United Kingdom television market, is the latest element in a campaign called “It Starts on TikTok,” according to an article in The Drum.
“Modern marketing needs to move at the speed of culture to be truly relevant … and that speed has enabled us to celebrate a truly magical moment that started on TikTok and has captured the UK’s imagination,” TikTok’s head of marketing in Europe, James Rothwell, said in a news release.
TikTok isn’t the only brand capitalizing on the #SeaShanty trend. Polydor Records signed Nathan to a three-album record deal in January, and Saturday Night Live sent up the trend in a skit starring that week’s guest host, Bridgerton star Regé-Jean Page.
WHY IT MATTERS: Not every brand can be TikTok, but every brand can celebrate its communities. Whether it’s a community that attends your events, participates on your social platforms, or your products, it’s great to acknowledge your biggest fans. You could create a video tribute (like TikTok did) or an award or other form of recognition. CMI names a Content Marketing World Community Champion each year, for example.
Mastercard gets loud with sonic brand identity
Mastercard’s sonic brand identity recently celebrated its second anniversary.
When the financial services company first introduced the 30-second melody in 2019, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Raja Rajamannar explained to Forbes what the company wanted from the audio:
“[It] should be very pleasant. If it’s unpleasant, the brand doesn’t look good, so it has to be pleasant. It has to be simple … It has to be neutral, meaning it should not dominate any situation … and it has to be memorable; unless it is memorable you cannot connect it to your brand.
“And it has to be hummable; that which you hum sticks in your brain much better… And it has to be versatile. Whether you are in Dubai, or in Shanghai or in Columbia, anywhere in the world, it should feel native to you.”
The Mastercard sonic identity adapts to different regions, via C360 Raja Sound of Mastercard Geographies from Jess Tan on Vimeo.
In 2020, Mastercard amped up its audio efforts, debuting an original pop single incorporating the Mastercard melody. Merry Go Round, written and produced by Sweden’s Niclas Molinder (who has worked with Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, and Mary J. Blige), was planned as the first release from an upcoming Mastercard album called Priceless after the brand’s famous ad campaign.
What’s next? Raja told attendees at American Marketing Association’s virtual conference last year that a Mastercard musical is in the works.
WHY IT MATTERS: Content marketers talk a lot about audio as voice becomes a growing avenue for content delivery. But we don’t hear much about audio identity. That’s something all brands should consider – even those with no plans to create musicals or release pop songs. Every brand can benefit from a consistent, identifiable voice (the audible kind).
Barilla stirs the pot
with pasta timer playlist
Spotify playlists from pasta brand Barilla work as a backdrop to customers’ culinary experiments – and as a melodic timer. Drop the pasta in the pot, hit play, then drain the perfectly cooked noodles once the music stops.
The Barilla Playlist Timer includes seven lists of different lengths and musical genres. Each list corresponds to the recommended cooking time for various pasta shapes. Options include Mixtape Spaghetti, Boom Bap Fusilli, Moody Day Linguine, Pleasant Melancholy Penne, Best Song Penne, Top Hits Spaghetti, and Simply Classic Linguine. Covers of pop, hip-hop, and indie hits performed by Italian musicians make up the playlists. (None of the lyrics can compete with the old classic On Top of Spaghetti.)
WHY IT MATTERS: Barilla smartly connects an aspect of using its product (cooking) to an enjoyable content experience (music).
It’s a wise move for brands to consider what happens after the purchase. Barilla’s playlist helps it stay top of mind (or ear) with its customers.
After all, grocery shelves are filled with pasta options. Barilla is playing on the idea that once you’ve sampled the catchy cooking tunes, you’ll be more likely to pick up another one of their signature blue boxes. CCO
How would you describe your brand’s sonic identity?
- Hip hop