Brands will continue to invest in content marketing this year, relying on the strategy to raise awareness about their offerings and engage their target audience.  In fact, 70 percent of marketers plan to increase their spending on social media ads, often a pillar of their content marketing strategy, according to a recent survey by Salesforce.
 


1. “Orange is the New Black,” The New York Times (T Brand Studio)
The New York Times announced its commitment to working more closely with advertisers in 2015, a declaration likely inspired by the success of last year’s new native advertising program. Last summer, the publishing juggernaut launched T Brand Studios to handle “paid posts.” Its 1500-word native ad for “Orange is The New Black,” the popular Netflix series, included a well-written piece on the state of female prisons, video, charts and audio features.

Takeaway: Invest in quality and think beyond the written word.

The New York Time’s native ad for the Netflix series, “Orange is the New Black.”

2. GE and The Economist: Look Ahead
The Economist has been producing thoughtful content in partnership with brands for years. GE is renowned for its innovative marketing tactics, its willingness to experiment with new platforms and its beautiful technology blog, GE Reports. Put the two together and what do you get? Exemplary content marketing.

In the “Look Ahead” project, GE sponsors a “daily look at the innovations transforming global business.” The impressive content was produced by an independent editorial team created by the publisher exclusively for the project. The Economist won a Custom Content Council Pearl Award for its efforts, as well as an award from the Content Marketing Institute. (Hey, we’ve won a few of those! Just saying.)

Takeaway: Make sure your content jibes with your brand’s messaging. Content marketing isn’t just about producing high quality stories – it’s about making sure those stories convey your company’s expertise.

GE sponsored an award-winning series on global business innovations on The Economist.

3. Mediaplanet, Small Business in America
We’d be remiss not to mention our own “Small Business in America” integrated campaign. The custom print magazine ran in USA Today as a special feature, and the corresponding digital site, http://www.investinginsmallbusiness.com/, featured original articles, video and interactive features. The content educated readers about the economic importance of small businesses and provided business owners with useful tips and tools. High profile collaborators included the U.S. Small Business Administration; Jack Dorsey, founder of Square and co-founder of Twitter; Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, founders of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and many more. The print version reached approximately 1.3 million readers, and the site went viral, with a social media reach of more than 2 million, in part because our impressive collaborators shared the content on their own Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.

Takeaway: Your content marketing distribution plan should include a strong social media strategy.

 

Mediaplanet’s “Small Business in America” campaign had both print and digital components and went viral on social media.
 

4. Chipotle, “The Scarecrow”
Chipotle earned accolades for its short film, “The Scarecrow,” about the less-than-stellar processes behind fast food operations. They also rolled out a corresponding mobile game and web site. Although the content wasn’t directly about the brand, the message was clear: We do not condone the unsustainable food processes referenced in this video. Chipotle invested in a digital marketing strategy to get eyeballs on the project, which quickly took on a life of its own.

Takeaway: Consider investing in a content marketing piece you can own. Mediaplanet often gives collaborators the rights to repurpose content we’ve created on their own channels –a useful perk, especially if you don’t have the funds or manpower to produce your own “Scarecrow” without a little help.

Chipotle’s creative short film features a scarecrow determined to find an alternative to the “unsustainable processed food from the factory.”