Best Branded Content

The Best Content Marketing of May: Brands, Take Note

The brand magazine has played a really interesting role in the content marketing boom we’ve seen over the last half decade. As people continue to declare print dead, brands are still lining up to produce expensive glossy magazines. Why? Because they look great, and the content is (usually) good.

Yet that creative ambition comes with a lot of risk. If you’re just handing out a free magazine as a piece of marketing collateral, it can be tough to tell what impact it has on your business. It’s feasible for B2B companies like Contently, since we’re able to attribute the ROI of direct mail campaigns that include our magazine, Contently Quarterly. But for B2C brands like Uber, Amtrak, and Airbnb, tracking ROI is much more opaque.

Last month, Airbnb may have unlocked a solution to that problem: charging subscribers a small fee ($15 for six issues) in line with what other major publishers bill their readers. There’s no guarantee the move pays off, but it’s a good example of how brands are operating with a more business-focused approach. Headlined by Airbnb’s new venture, here’s a look at some of May’s best content marketing.

Airbnb: Airbnbmag

best content marketing airbnb

This isn’t Airbnb’s first foray into print. In 2014, the company published Pineapple, a travel magazine distributed to 18,000 of its hosts. But Pineapple got canned after only one issue due to wary executives, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Close to three years later, the home-rental brand is back in the print business. This time, it has more of a plan. Airbnb partnered with Hearst on Airbnbmag, bringing in a level of editorial savvy unmatched in most content marketing projects. The debut issue has a guaranteed circulation of 350,000 and features interviews with Elon Musk and Issa Rae. A second issue has already been slated for September.

Investing in a magazine will always be dangerous, but it seems like Airbnb took the right steps to address its past mistakes. For that, there’s reason to be optimistic.

Andreessen Horowitz: AI Playbook

Don’t expect the business world’s obsession with artificial intelligence to slow down any time soon. As Contently tech editor Dillon Baker pointed out in a recent article, “AI is the next major step in computing, and it’s hard to imagine what industry it won’t impact.”

The big challenge brands now face is figuring out how to use this powerful technology. VC firm Andreeseen Horowitz, which invests in AI companies like Arimo and Anki, just gifted the internet a thorough guide for all of our basic intelligence needs. As the site makes clear, “We do not assume you have a computer science degree.” What follows is a mixture of how-tos, sample code, datasets, and dozens of AI resources to help up-and-coming entrepreneurs use AI to their advantage.

Google & UNHCR: Searching for Syria

best content marketing google

Google has always had the potential to power great content. Its suite of tools gives storytellers the data and technology they need to tell important stories. In late May, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees did just that, partnering with Google on an elegantly designed microsite that details the political history and humans rights issues in Syria.

In traditional journalism, this kind of story gets drowned in a collection of global chaos. What separates “Searching for Syria” from other types of service content is the depth of the storytelling. There’s a nice balance of trend data, maps, video clips, and individual stories. Each piece of information gets packaged on its own slide, which makes the project very easy to read. And at the end, there’s a clear call-to-action page that gives the user options to donate money, share the post on social, or join the UNHCR.

Take Note: Notes – A Life Story, a Love Story

In theory, smartphones should’ve made notepads completely obsolete. Why pay five bucks for a stack of post-its when you can type your to-do list right onto your phone? Digital notes won’t get lost in the cloud. If you misspell a word or copy down a phone number incorrectly, you won’t waste paper. It just makes more sense. Yet, notepads still have appeal.

This four-minute video from Take Notes squeezes out that appeal for all its worth. The clip follows a couple over the course of their entire relationship, showing us their progression (and digression) from dating to marriage to parenthood through the notes they leave each other. The emotional resonance sneaks up on you (although—spoiler —Tina really should have told Rob she was pregnant in person). It may be impractical and overly sentimental, but leaving a handwritten note for someone carries a personal touch that gets lost during text messages, and calling that out in a video like this makes for smart brand storytelling.

Image by Airbnb

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