As the first half of the year is almost over, we figured now is as good a time as any for some reflection.  Here’s a look at five brands behind some of the year’s most innovative content and social marketing campaigns.  No matter what your budget, you can learn from their best practices.  Read on for the winners, and the applicable tips they inspired.


1 - Net-a-porter
The luxury e-retailer has been making mainstream news with its full-on embrace of the publisher role.  The company produces a print magazine of such high quality that it’s been compared to Vogue!  They put Giselle on the cover of their last issue and feature Lady Gaga on their latest publication.  Note: Net-a-porter sells its print mag for $10 a pop, but it also runs engaging stories on its homepage that look and feel like a fashion magazine but feature direct links to commerce pages—a great example of digital content marketing. 
 

Tip:  Know your audience!  Net-a-porter’s target market appreciates the quality and good taste that the company’s content marketing efforts showcase.  Think about what your customers are interested in and how they typically consume news.  What can you do to take advantage of their existing reading behavior?

Check out the brand’s stylish behind-the-scenes video:

Porter - Lady Gaga from Inez & Vinoodh on Vimeo.

2 - GE
Before you roll your eyes and mutter, “If I had GE’s bankroll, I’d be innovative, too,” remember that every marketer is working within a budget. As GE’s Executive Director of Global Brand Marketing Linda Boff stated at the recent Westchester Digital Summit, every marketer thinks that budget is too small and should be “scrappy” with their marketing dollars.

GE’s challenge is to make science sexy.  They’re expert visual storytellers and quick to embrace new platforms.  It’s worth following them on Twitter, Instagram and Vine for inspiration, and checking out #6secondsciencefair.  It’s no surprise they won “Best in Show” at the 2014 Digiday Content Marketing Awards.  

Tip: Embrace new platforms and take risks!  Boff is known for her willingness to try new tactics.  “New” doesn’t need to be synonymous with big spending.  Try a small-scale campaign with a new partner or social media network and measure the results to determine if that venture may warrant a bigger investment.

3 - Uber
The oh-so-21st-century car service’s rivalry with Lyft and taxi driver protests in Europe are making mainstream news headlines.  What’s more interesting for a marketer, though, is the company’s clever, localized approach and agile use of current events.  This April, it launched the “U Shuttle” on Second Avenue in New York City, where a new subway line has been in production for years.  They emailed local members: “The U Train runs the length of 2nd Avenue in Manhattan for the normal fare of $2.50 (Note: that’s the price of a subway ride).  No need to stand clear of the closing doors, our partner drivers will handle that.”

This is the kind of promotion that turns customers into brand evangelists.  Uber offered true value to its members, with a sprinkle of knowing humor, and they in turn spread the word on social media.

Tip: Localize your marketing approach and show your audience that you understand their needs and challenges.  Empower them to spread the word, and don’t be afraid to utilize user-generated content for your own marketing purposes.

4 - Newcastle
Newcastle’s almost Super Bowl campaign with Anna Kendrick took on a life of its own for a simple reason: high quality content.  The videos were truly well done.  The brewer did not buy a Super Bowl spot but instead partnered with Kendrick to create a series of videos in which the actress explains that she isn’t “beer commercial hot.”  They also ran a native ad on Gawker to promote the campaign.

Tip:  Employ a diverse distribution strategy that utilizes social and native spots.  Additionally, use celebrities.  If you can’t do that on your own, we may be able to help!

5 - Chipotle
The restaurant chain has garnered buzz for its “Cultivating Thought” Authors Series campaign in which it asked esteemed writers to contribute work for the sides of Chipotle’s cups and bags.  Now its customers can actually read something interesting while they eat.  The project was created by Jonathan Safran Foer, author of “Everything is Illuminated.”  He also curates the work, which comes from such creatives as Sara Silverman and Malcolm Gladwell.
 


Image from: http://cultivatingthought.com/

Chipotle’s short animated film, “The Scarecrow,” in which a scarecrow takes a closer look at the farming industry, has also been met with accolades and viewed more than 12 million times on YouTube. 

 

Video:


Tip:  Use emotion in your content.  Chipotle expertly weaves emotion into its brand identity.  The same can be done in any industry.  (If burritos can be emotional, why can’t you?)  Strive to create something that will make your audience feel.

And yep, you guessed it—we’re here to help if you need us .