The Best Branded Content of May 2015
Last week, something amazing happened: A thought leader for an investment firm unveiled a 197-slide presentation, and business and tech pubs covered it like Steve Jobs had just been discovered in Nicaragua putting Tupac through an intensive accelerator program.
Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report for KPCB represents the absolute height of content marketing—a piece of thought leadership that every trade mag has to cover. (We sure did.) Happy that your latest article hit 1,000 shares? Ha. Mary Meeker got Wired to declare her the queen of the Internet.
This was Mary Meeker’s 21st annual report, and she shows no sign of slowing down. In the world of content marketing, she’s Michael Jordan ziplocked in an endless prime. The rest of us can never hope to emulate her success; at best, we can hope to emulate aspects of her game. Publish forward-thinking, insightful content. Do it big. Do it consistently.
Though it might have felt like it for a hot second, Mary Meeker didn’t produce the only piece of content marketing worth taking note of this month. A number of brands made us stand up and take notice of their impressive work. Let’s dive in to the best branded content of May.
(Props to Dillon Baker and Julia Schur for helping with research for this month’s roundup.)
Earlier this year, Forrester’s Nate Elliott released a comprehensive report essentially declaring that Facebook was a terrible investment for brands due to its fast-declining organic reach and the generally insane amount of money that brands pay agencies to manage their social accounts. His proposed solution? Brands should start their own social communities.
Slowly but surely, that’s happening. Starting your own social network isn’t right for every brand—after all, people aren’t eager to bond over adult diapers or batteries or paper stock—but for some brands, it’s worth a shot. Purina recently started Puppyhood, a social network for puppy owners. And now Net-a-Porter—publisher of The Edit and glossy print mag Porter—has launched The Net Set, a social network app that delivers a Facebook-style news feed of trending fashion content and lets users organize into “tribes” based on style preferences. (Finally, the jorts lovers of the world can align and fulfill their destiny of global domination.) Oh yeah, and the app’s content is fully shoppable, essentially making the elevator pitch: Facebook-meets-Pinterest, but for draining your bank account.
The Net Set is still invite only, and we’ll have to wait to see if it succeeds, but the app is gorgeous and has a clear purpose—like all of Net-a-Porter’s content-focused initiatives—so our hopes are high. And if the company succeed, it may set a new bar for brand engagement.
Making white papers interesting is a hell of a challenge that every marketer faces. The best content marketers have unique solutions: Jason Miller of LinkedIn makes insane rock n’ roll parallels and turns white papers into coloring books; my boss Shane Snow brings everything back to Ryan Gosling; I prefer sports metaphors.
Adobe Marketing Cloud—maker of perhaps the funniest marketing commercial ever—has us all beat, hiring actor Malcolm McDowell (of A Clockwork Orange and The Artist fame) to do dramatic readings of its white papers. I thought it was gimmicky, but McDowell is so damn sexy that I found myself learning about Digital Marketing Capabilities for Mobile during my entire walk to work. That man is so badass that I would listen to him read about cross-channel marketing, which is something that you can now totally do.
Regular readers of this monthly roundup know that I have a rule: If your brand creates something that makes half our office waste tens of thousands of dollars worth of productivity, you make it in. Microsoft’s accidental viral hit—a facial detection project test site called how-old.net—wins this month.
It went viral in early May with the #howoldrobot as the Twitter users of the world uploaded their photos so the site could guess of how old they are. Most of the fun comes from the site’s hilariously inaccurate estimates… or at least that’s what I keep telling myself. (I’m not 31, Microsoft Robot! I’m 27! And I look young! I got carded 13 times last week alone! Which is a lot of times to be buying alcohol in a week! This parenthetical is making me realize I might have a drinking problem. Let’s move on!)
Sorry, that last blurb got a little weird. And you know what else is weird? The 10 spots that make up KFC’s reboot of Colonel Sanders—starring SNL legend Darrell Hammond. We get a bit of Hammond making up off-beat songs while handing out chicken in traffic, and a lot of Hammond interacting with mandolin-playing children. For a second there, I thought I was watching a Wes Anderson spoof instead of a fried chicken commercial.
But it’s the kind of weird you can’t help but talk about, and in the marketing world, that counts as win.
Earlier this month on The Content Strategist, Amanda Walgrove shared the story of Beco das Garrafas, a documentary that Heineken created about Rio De Janeiro’s wild party alley, a place where bottles were thrown in exuberance and madness, and bossa nova was born. Through the narratives of the people who experienced the action firsthand, the documentary brings the alley back to life.
“The great challenge today for brands is how to capture the audience’s attention and get them involved,” Patricia Weiss, the film’s co-producer, told Walgrove. “So relevance, authenticity, and original narratives are the most powerful ways of establishing emotional connection between brands and people today—involving and engaging them without interrupting their lives.”
While on the bus back to New Jersey for Mother’s Day, I went to longform.org in hopes of finding a story to kill the time. I clicked on a link to an in-depth interview with media theorist Douglas Rushkoff, which was an engrossing read, and toward the end, I realized something surprising: I was reading a brand magazine.
HP Matter, HP’s idea-driven digital magazine produced in partnership with Fast Company, is really good, filled with high-quality longform think pieces. And apparently, I’ve been missing out because the Rushkoff interview is just one of five HP Matter pieces that longform.org has chosen to feature in the last year. No wonder Meg Whitman, pictured above, is smiling so bright—her company, like the others featured here, are starting to crack the content code.
Have a suggestion for the best branded content you loved this month that I missed? Want to make suggestions for next month’s best branded content roundup? Tweet me @joelazauskas.
Image by Net-a-Porter