2019. The year Popeye’s made the world go crazy over a sandwich, Samsung looked to The Future, Taco Bell opened a hotel, Colonel Sanders experienced the ultimate glow-up, Chase failed to give us some #MondayMotivation, and Kylie Jenner basically took over the world (at least that’s what it feels like).
As another year (and decade!) comes to a close, we here at BigWing have been fondly looking back on a year full of marketing campaigns while also looking forward to what the new year has in store. I always find it useful to study what worked well (and what didn’t) for brands in the past to predict the future trends in digital marketing and find a little inspiration for what I’m currently working on. Of course, as BigWing’s manager of content marketing, I’m slightly biased toward brands that use content to tell thought-provoking stories, give me the #feels, and promote products in a way that doesn’t overtly feel like marketing.
I’ve spent the last couple weeks rounding up some of my favorite ways brands used content in 2019 and I’ve narrowed it down to my top five campaigns that really wowed me this year. Hopefully, they’ll bring out your inner marketing nerd and make you giddy with content-induced excitement (maybe that’s just me), but if not, I hope you can at least find inspiration and takeaways to apply toward marketing campaigns you run in the future.
What is Content Marketing, Anyway?
If you’ve gotten this far and are thinking “I know what marketing is, and I know what content is, but what in the world is content marketing??,” don’t worry, I’ll explain.
Content marketing, at its core, is promoting your product, service, or business by producing content that’s helpful or engaging to potential customers. The Content Marketing Institute goes on to define it as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
Sounds like something that could be pretty useful, huh?
Unlike traditional marketing tactics that prioritize a “sell, sell, sell” mentality, content marketing focuses on answering consumer questions and providing them with information that’s valuable to them on their journey to making a purchase. Like I mentioned above, content marketing shouldn’t overtly look like you’re trying to sell something. It should be educational, it should be entertaining, it should be useful. Your goal is to draw interested consumers to your brand through your content, not push your brand in front of people who don’t need or want what you’re offering.
Whether it’s written blog posts or articles, infographics, videos, podcasts, memes(!), ebooks, white papers, social media posts, print publications, newsletters, or case studies, there are so many types of content you can use to connect with audiences that are important to your brand.
My Favorite Content Marketing Examples from 2019
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at my top five favorite content marketing campaigns from 2019 and dive into why they’re so darn awesome.
Google Arts & Culture – Art Zoom
I’ve also loved Google (I mean, who doesn’t?) and I’ve always loved art. Thankfully, Google Arts and Culture is the perfect marriage of the two. If you haven’t heard of Google Arts and Culture, it’s Google’s platform that allows curious minds to view priceless pieces of art from more than 1,200 museums, right from the comfort of their own couch.
In 2019, Google Arts and Culture launched Art Zoom, a content series that introduces a new way to discover iconic works of art like Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night” or Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss.” Each of the 12 pieces of art included in the series was captured using Google Cultural Institute’s Art Camera technology, which produces ultra-high-resolution images. When you zoom in on each painting, you can literally see each individual brushstroke and tiny, minute details you can’t see with the naked eye!
The campaign also includes a series of YouTube videos (like the one above) voiced by musicians in soothing, relaxing tones to mimic the increasingly popular ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) videos you can find on the web. ASMR is characterized by a combination of positive feelings and a distinct “static-like tingling sensation” caused by sounds and visual stimuli — something Art Zoom has definitely nailed.
For more information about the Art Zoom campaign, you can read Google’s write-up here.
Why It Stands Out:
Google Art and Culture makes cherished artwork accessible to those who aren’t able to travel the world and visit countless museums. It’s providing content that art-lovers and students can use to study the greats and to receive an art education they may be lacking.
The Art Zoom campaign itself not only provides that same educational content that Google Art and Culture is known for but showcases Google’s unparalleled abilities to use technology to provide depth to the vast amounts of information they provide us. It’s cool, it’s innovative, it’s entertaining, and it once again proves that Google is doing some really amazing things.
The Ocean Agency, Pantone Color Institute, and Adobe Stock – Glowing, Glowing, Gone
Pantone had a rocky start to 2019 after announcing their Color of Year “Living Coral.” They faced some pretty immediate backlash due to the fact that coral is dying all over the world due to climate change and rising sea temperatures. But, and this is what I love the most, instead of ignoring the negative comments and moving on with their lives, Pantone paired up with The Ocean Agency and Adobe Stock to launch a global awareness campaign and educate themselves about the crisis at hand.
The resulting campaign called “Glowing, Glowing, Gone” seeks to bring awareness to the fact that the vibrant colors we tend to associate with coral reefs are actually a distress signal — not just a pretty color to incorporate into your home decor.
It all started with a documentary filmed by The Ocean Agency, an ocean conversation nonprofit, in 2016. “Chasing Coral” captured photos and videos of coral off the coast of New Caledonia, a phenomenon associated with corals that are near death due to fatally high water temperatures.
Pantone Color Institute and the team at Adobe Stock Visual Trends teamed up to analyze the scenes from the documentary to identify the unique range of colors that embodied the tragically beautiful death of our coral reefs. The result was the three colors below: “Glowing Blue,” “Glowing Yellow,” and “Glowing Purple.” Adobe Stock then used these RGB codes to create a collection of imagery that can be purchased, with all proceeds benefiting The Ocean Agency and their efforts.
Beyond just using these vibrant colors to raise awareness, the “Glowing, Glowing, Gone” campaign took its message a step further by challenging creatives and designers to use these three colors “to create art and designs that make the world stop and take notice of glowing colors and the urgent ocean warning they represent.” You can see the result here and on their YouTube channel. Pantone, Adobe, and The Ocean Agency also teamed up with artists to paint murals in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands to raise even more awareness.
Why It Stands Out:
There is SO much I love about this campaign. Not only did Pantone, Adobe, and The Ocean Agency create a powerful awareness campaign that has resonated with audiences around the globe, but it also serves to promote the individual goals of the three companies. Pantone’s expertise in color use, Adobe’s color matching tools, and The Ocean Agency’s mission are all on display and promoted in every facet of the campaign.
There was so much content created for this campaign — the campaign website, the stock photo collections, the user-generated content from the competition, social media channels (you can find them on Facebook Twitter, and Instagram), and the video series — that beautifully come together to tell a moving story. I can’t wait to see how this campaign continues to grow in 2020 and beyond.
SAP – Searching for Salaì
OK, this campaign is technically from 2018, but it won the Content Marketing Institute’s “Project of Year” award for 2019 so I’m considering it an honorary inclusion on my list.
SAP, a European software company, produced a multifaceted campaign called “Searching for Salaì” to promote its new product, SAP Leonardo, designed “to help organizations navigate the new technological renaissance and drive business innovations.” I don’t fully understand what that means, but it sounds cool.
Since Leonardo da Vinci was considered the original “Renaissance Man,” SAP created a fictional character named Andrea Salaì, who claims to have been a long-time appreciate of da Vinci. He has since time-traveled to modern times to guide us through our technological renaissance.
Podcaster and art history buff Charlotte Warburton worked with SAP to produce a nine-episode podcast series in which she interviews Salaì while exploring the intersection between technology, people, and data.
SAP marketing execs also participated in a nine-part series for Digitalist Magazine where they discussed the digital renaissance and cross-promoted SAP Leonardo and the Searching Salaì podcast. The brand also collaborated with blogger Tony Fabbro to produce a series of blog posts in which Tony dumbs down complicated technological ideas in a way people like you and me can understand them.
Why It Stands Out:
SAP knew their Leonardo product would be hard for the masses to understand and they created a fun, memorable way to explore complicated concepts. The podcast enabled SAP to build a connection with its listeners while also reinforcing its product messaging. It feels like everyone is listening to podcasts these days and branded podcasts are becoming more and more popular. If you can tell a story that people will want to tune into week after week, while also tying in your brand’s overall goals, it’s a definite win-win.
And of course, the two blog series were great examples of traditional content marketing and how you can provide useful information to your audiences that can help them better understand your product and company before diving into a purchase.
IKEA – The IKEA Kåma Sutra: The Ultimate Guide to Bedroom Satisfaction
In 2019, IKEA focused on more experiences, more digital assets, and more sustainability. You’re probably familiar with IKEA’s paper catalogs showing their products in beautifully curated bedrooms, living rooms, and kitchens. But, those days are over. The retail store is making a shift from printed materials to offering digital catalogs in new and interesting ways.
IKEA has had a digital version of its catalog for a while now, but they were looking for something outside the box. They started out by uploading their entire catalog to Pinterest via shoppable pins that highlight their products in everyday use. (Visit their Pinterest page to check it out.) This move was a big win for the DIY-ers and home inspiration lovers who thrive on Pinterest. I mean, it’s cheap houseware that you can buy at the click of a button … it’s dangerous.
IKEA’s latest campaign to change the definition of what we consider a shopping catalog is the “IKEA Kåma Sutra” — a lighthearted approach to helping consumers achieve “satisfaction in the bedroom.”
The shoppable online catalog plays on the ancient Indian Kåma Sutra detailing sexual positions by offering bedroom decor inspiration in the form of 20 bedroom furniture positions to try. The catalog is illustrated and features furniture layouts and product recommendations with quirky names like “The Lotus Flower” (for those who want to reconnect with nature) and “The Beautiful Behind” (for those looking to make the best use of small spaces and explore their minimalist side).
IKEA also released a short video explaining the different positions that can help them achieve true ecstasy in the bedroom. You can join in on the fun on social media using #IkeaKamaSutra or download the “IKEA Kåma Sutra” below.
Why It Stands Out:
It’s so darn creative! IKEA has found a way to provide useful furniture styling tips while keeping it humorous and entertaining. The illustrations are beautiful, the layouts are actually helpful, and you can purchase IKEA products directly from the catalog. It’s content marketing done right.
Gillette – The Best Men Can Be
Gillette has used the tagline “The Best a Man Can Get” since 1989. In 2019, they leaned into the repetitive media coverage outing more and more male figures in sexual harassment cases by challenging men to be better. They introduced the tagline “The Best Men Can Be” with a thought-provoking video asking men to commit to kindness, decency, and solidarity in not just stopping sexual harassment, but being better human beings in general.
The video overall challenges men to be positive role models for our children and to hold each other accountable in doing what is right. Issues covered in the campaign include bullying, sexual misconduct and harassment, mansplaining, and the toxic “boys will be boys” mentality.
The campaign’s website details Gillette’s commitment to donating $1 million per year for the next three years to nonprofit organizations impacting men of all ages. These recipients will include organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Boys to Men Mentoring, and Point of Pride.
On Instagram, the brand has shared profiles of men doing good in their communities and who are leaving a positive impact on the lives of others.
Why It Stands Outs:
Gillette has recognized the impact that huge brands can have in shaping perceptions and influencing culture. As a company, they’ve decided to use that power for good to challenge stereotypes and expectations of what it means to be a man. In a time where news surrounding men has been overwhelmingly negative, it’s empowering to see a brand focus on those who are making a difference, while also committing to making a difference themselves.
This video and social media content is powerful and capable of not just shaping public opinion and challenging men to be better, but positioning the brand as a leader in driving important conversations. What a way to generate positive buzz about a razor company without even mentioning shaving! Bravo.