Content marketing: Mundane or memorable?

By Jake Kreinberg

Consumers love a good story, but can businesses create the right kind of content to connect with them?

The secret’s out – content marketing is in.

More than 80 percent of organizations practice it, according to the Content Marketing Institute, spending an average of 25 percent of their marketing budgets on the strategy. Nowhere is this trend more evident than Content Marketing World, where 3,500 conference-goers convened in Cleveland last week to listen to top companies share their stories of success.

I joined them, interested not only as a marketer but also as a former journalist. Just as news consumers have a virtually endless supply of content to read, watch and hear, so too do business customers. Whatever we produce must provide some sort of value for our audiences.

A few companies have nailed their content marketing initiatives, including the oft-cited Red Bull, which connected its brand to adventurers by becoming a media hub spanning print, television and film. American Express generates leads through its OPEN Forum, a go-to source of information for small-business owners.

David Beebe, the vice president of global creative and content marketing at Marriott, attended Content Marketing World and shared the hotel conglomerate’s strategy of trying to become the world’s largest publisher of travel lifestyle content.

“Content marketing is like a first date,” he said. “If all you do is talk about yourself, there won’t be a second date.”

Beebe discussed how Marriott commissioned a film series showing a popular travel vlogger exploring three cities after leaving one of the company’s properties in each location. The goal was to connect the brand with content geared toward the next-generation traveler, who uses search and social across both mobile and desktop platforms.

While Marriott hopes eyes on screens translate into heads in beds, other companies are still figuring out their content marketing strategies and propositions. In fact, many marketers feel they aren’t effective with their initiatives, and often aren’t sure where to even start.

The trick is to begin with the customer and his or her needs first, and then work backward to a product, said Robert Rose, chief strategy officer of the Content Marketing Institute. If you can figure out their pain points, you can create the content to help them work toward a solution. As audiences gain trust in your brand, they will start seeking you for additional information and pay more attention to your products and services.

Of course, you need to know which prospective customers to target your campaigns toward, which leads me to the two biggest differentiators between great content marketers and not-as-great content marketers, according to research presented at the conference:

- Document your strategy! Know who would benefit the most by your brand, and why they would. Keep track of KPIs, including leads generated by your content.
- Follow that strategy! Determine what works and stick with it, while tinkering with the rest.

Simple, right? Now let’s get to it.

Jake Kreinberg

Jake is the text and multimedia product manager at The Associated Press and the former editor of Insights. He previously covered college sports as a reporter for AP and helped design its multi-year strategic plan. Have feedback about the blog? Contact us at

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