Stories that stay with us. Stunning visuals. High-tech experiences with a human touch. And measurable, meaningful business results.
These are the hallmarks of the NewsCred Top 50. This year’s winners, comprised of companies of various sizes across a multitude of industries, represent the best of content marketing today. We applaud these brands for their courage to see possibilities and drive innovation that, in turn, evolves the entire content marketing field. Prepare to be inspired.View winners
Perhaps no car brand is as synonymous with outdoor adventures as Land Rover. Through partnerships with outdoorsy creatives, the automaker produces content that further brings that ideal to life.
The Land Rover Stories section of the website features travelogues in which photographers document their experiences riding a specific Land Rover model through rugged and picturesque landscapes, like Montana, the Colorado mountains, and Alaska. Each story includes large, stunning visuals.
Land Rover's content strategy also extends to social media and video. Last fall, Land Rover created a video series in which it followed an adventurer couple and their eight-week-old baby taking a two-week trip across Europe in a Land Rover Discovery. It also created a 360-degree video where viewers could go sailing with the Land Rover team in Bermuda ahead of the 35th America's Cup.
In a departure from standard content marketing strategy, Land Rover is clearly the star of its content, with the vehicles owning the spotlight in copy, photos, and videos.
That works for Land Rover. Its fans want to see the latest vehicles in beautiful settings. Just check out Land Rover's YouTube account, where it has 138,000 subscribers, or Instagram, where it promotes its stories and has 3.5 million fans, thousands of whom engage with every post.
Mazda's Zoom-Zoom Magazine was created for fans in the target markets of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. Though it launched a few years ago, the digital publication has continued to evolve and serve as a best-in-class example of content marketing in the automobile industry.
Zoom-Zoom Magazine has a clean, modern layout that feels like a consumer publication. Recent stories include a behind-the-scenes look at Mazda's test chambers, a writer's challenge to see how many states he could drive through in 24 hours, and a short profile of an engineer who worked at Mazda for nearly 50 years. Every story includes large, gorgeous images, and some even include the option to download them as wallpaper.
Since Zoom-Zoom Magazine's focus is on building and celebrating the Mazda community, there are callouts for readers to share the adventures they've had in their Mazdas by emailing or tagging their stories with #ZoomZoomMag on social media.
While stories don't include calls to action that drive to product pages, Mazda knows that some readers may be in the market for new vehicles. That's why Zoom-Zoom Magazine's footer includes prominent buttons that let people request a quote, build a Mazda, learn about pricing, or find a nearby dealer.
The vast majority of people do not rent cars every single day. While some people might rent more frequently than others, the reality is that it's an activity that exists outside most people's day-to-day lives.
It's for this very reason that car rental companies need to find ways to engage with users in between rentals. By staying in touch with them, the companies will ensure they'll be top-of-mind when people are ready for their next rental.
Of all the car rental companies, Zipcar has best mastered this strategy. Since Zipcar's target audience is people who live in the urban areas where it has a presence, Zipcar tailors its content specifically toward city dwellers. Its content hub, Ziptopia, has sections about city living and the future of cities, as well as travel inspiration stories (many accessible by car from major cities). While most posts don't mention Zipcar, calls to action at the bottom of each give readers the option to join Zipcar or book a Ziptrip.
Zipcar uses this content on Facebook (where it has more than 310,000 fans) and Twitter (where it has more than 42,000 followers) to have that always-on conversation with members and people who may be interested in using the service in the future.
First, it was a blog. Then, a thriving beauty brand. It's hard to argue that Glossier is not the best-in-class example of the convergence of content and commerce in the beauty space.
Powered by its founder, Emily Weiss, her blog IntotheGloss.com, and a powerful community of brand advocates, Glossier has done a lot of growing in just three years. Its product lines are consumer-driven, popular, and hyped, often with waiting lists for sold-out items. It's all because of Glossier's authenticity and strong connection to fans.
“We really want to listen very closely to our audience across all our channels,” says Weiss in a BuzzFeed interview.
Last year, Glossier added hundreds of employees and moved to a large headquarters in New York City. Content marketing is an even bigger part of the success formula. Glossier employees have created FaceTime makeup tutorials and Facebook Live videos. The brand has a large presence on YouTube, including the “Get Ready With Me” series, which features someone's morning routine.
Looking ahead, Glossier is planning to personalize the buyer journey with content. "We're doubling down on richer data that strictly controls the content she’s seeing, with our discretion,” explains Bryan Mahoney, Glossier's Chief Technology Officer to Digiday. “This opens the door to things like machine learning: We can identify patterns and then change things around in order to get someone through checkout.”
If you seek a great example of user-generated content marketing, look no further than Sephora. Rather than having employees run a beauty blog, Sephora lets customers do the talking. Its content hub is its community of enthusiasts and loyalists, who discuss products and share recommendations, tips, and advice on what's worth buying.
Sephora's original content initiatives have also been inspired by its community. In 2017, it launched social and video campaigns promoting an inclusive standard of beauty, regardless of age, race, sex, size, or gender.
“We have a very active and engaged audience that is constantly sharing and supporting each other, beyond product,” says Alison Stiefel, VP of Campaign and Content Marketing at Sephora, in Adweek.
A standout moment from 2017 was Sephora's “Reach Out and Gift” holiday campaign, which featured a YouTube spot that has garnered more than 1.6 million views. The stars are 10 of Sephora’s own diverse in-store team members, chosen from among more than 1,000 employees who applied to share how they define unique beauty.
Sephora has also launched interactive digital content experiences, like the new “Sephora Virtual Artist” feature on its app, where customers can try on makeup virtually through augmented reality. It even overlays makeup tutorials onto your face so you can get a true step-by-step visual lesson.
To create an ongoing dialogue with its target audience of small business owners, Barclaycard for Business has spent the last few years building up its News and Insights content hub. Articles and infographics run the gamut of topics important to its audience, from how to guard against a cyber attack, to fun quizzes like "How well do you know your business?"
But Barclaycard isn't stopping there. This past year, it launched The Fast Track, an impressive, interactive online course for small business owners and entrepreneurs. Each of the five learning modules spotlights a local business, plus video, audio, written content, and downloadable guides. Module 3, for instance, is on "Building profile and customer loyalty," featuring the owners of Blok London, a boutique class-based gym, and how it's competing in a saturated fitness industry.
The Fast Track is meant to be a full-funnel content marketing initiative with content appropriate for both new and existing customers. To amplify content, Barclaycard is using its social channels as well as distribution networks like Outbrain.
When it comes to building a better business, boosting sales isn't the only pathway to success. Consider, instead, leading with your values and creating a company that attracts and retains diverse employees (which has been proven to increase financial performance).
That's exactly what Bloomberg is seeking to do.
"We believe that diversity is a driver of innovation and creativity. And...it connects us to our customers, who also seek diversity," says Erika Irish Brown, Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Bloomberg, in a company post. To attract and retain diverse employees, Bloomberg's D&I team is using content marketing as a core strategy.
Bloomberg's Diversity & Inclusion Blog shares thought leadership and research on the topic. Stories like "How to Be an Active Ally in the Workplace" share actionable tips to improve workplace inclusivity, while pieces like "Workers’ Trash-talk Goes Down When Leadership Diversity Goes Up" demonstrate why diversity is good for everyone. Bloomberg has also dabbled in creating video content to help move its message forward.
For its unique and noble use of content marketing, Bloomberg earns a spot on our list.
You know that a brand takes content marketing seriously when it hires Lisa Stone, the Co-founder and former CEO of the female blogging community BlogHer, as its new CMO. That's just what Ellevest, the investing platform for women, did this past year.
Ellevest is already using content to reach its target audience. After all, the company's mission is "closing the gender-investment gap by giving women the tools, place, and voice to invest for themselves" – and what better way to do that than through informative, educational articles?
Content pillars on Ellevest's Insights hub include Your Finances, Life & Career, and Reach Your Goals. In addition, readers will find many posts by Sallie Krawcheck, Ellevest's Co-founder and CEO, who is also the former CFO of Citigroup and former CEO of Smith Barney. When you dive in, there's no mistaking the fact that the content is female-focused.
Ellevest also offers long-form guides like "The Go-Getter's Guide to Investing." They're gated but free when you sign up with your email address – which is always a smart lead generation strategy.
Money management can be complex and confusing, especially when entering a new life stage. It's for this reason that Fidelity offers a comprehensive MyMoney hub that covers categories including Money 101, Investing and Retirement, Debt and Credit, Milestones, and Career Advice, plus collections for life events like having a baby or buying a home.
The MyMoney hub uses primarily syndicated content from well-respected writers and sites like The Motley Fool, Forbes, and The New York Times. It's a great example of how licensed content can be an effective tool for brands that want to scale their content offerings without having to create their own content studios.
Fidelity knows that not everyone will be ready to explore its products, and that's why most calls to action on MyMoney are for signing up for its bi-weekly newsletter. However, on some pages, there are modules highlighting Fidelity offerings, like 529 plans, or an interactive financial checkup quiz, for people who are ready to learn more.
For the second time, First Republic earns a spot on our list. That's because the private bank has continued to iterate and build upon its solid content marketing offerings, year over year.
It frequently updates the prominent Articles & Insights section on its website with topics core to its audience, such as Grow Your Wealth and Plan Your Legacy. First Republic prides itself on offering clients personal, bespoke service, and it strives to convey that on Articles & Insights. The Travel Gallery is a community-driven section where globe-trotting customers share photos and destination advice. In addition, in the past year, First Republic has published many more profiles featuring clients who are bringing positive change to their communities.
With its own in-house studio, Goldman Sachs takes the value of content marketing seriously. Its thought leadership hub, Our Thinking, features various content formats from a podcast ("Exchanges at Goldman Sachs"), to videos ("Talks at GS"), to interactive infographics and articles.
What's compelling is that it's not all about the world of finance. Goldman Sachs demonstrates its worldliness by featuring influencers from all walks of life. For instance, "Talks at GS" videos include historian and author Ron Chernow sharing his thoughts about leadership, ballet dancer Misty Copeland speaking about breaking barriers in her art form, and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on transforming the company so it's primed to lead the future of technology.
Goldman Sachs also reaped the benefits of strong evergreen content when one of its older series received more than 1 million views after a mention on Reddit.
Since its launch in late 2016, Prosper and Thrive, Santander's content hub for millennials, has seen great success. In that time, the site has received more than 1 million site visits and 200,000 social engagements. And more than 1,000 people have opted in to the bank's email program.
That goes to show that if you invest in a strategy to reach a narrowly targeted audience, it pays off. Prosper and Thrive has a fresh, colorful aesthetic and features large, relatable images of young, diverse people. It's chock full of strong content organized into three categories: Save Up, Master Debt, and Live Life.
Santander frequently promotes Prosper and Thrive content on all its social channels, including Facebook, where it has 123,000 followers. Though Santander's Instagram audience is still small, at a little over 1,600 followers, it's using the channel to exclusively promote the Prosper and Thrive brand with images that speak to the millennial audience and tease content from the hub.
All day I dream about soccer standout content marketing, and Adidas is a brand that keeps it coming – not just for its customers, but its internal community, as well.
In 2016, the company launched GamePlan A, a digital magazine uniquely developed to build company culture and attract and retain employees. “Designed for those who believe in the power of sport, GamePlan A is here to make work life better, more inspiring, and fun, be it at Adidas or anywhere else,” reads the site. It’s “a mindset – and a platform…tackling work life with an athlete’s heart.”
"In the past, we tried to serve all target audiences through content marketing, from investors to journalists, employees, and potential candidates," says Frank Thomas, Adidas’ Director of Content Strategy and Content Marketing, in NewsCred Insights. "But we realized we were all over the place. We rethought the entire setup and who we needed to address, and decided it is the employees, potential candidates, and, in general, like-minded people who can become advocates for the brand."
The new strategy is already seeing strong results. Back then, there were around 10,000 employees in the Adidas LinkedIn community – which happens to be GamePlan A’s most important distribution channel. Today, that number has grown to more than 33,000, along with 673,000 general followers. Most posts link back to the GamePlan A content hub. With hundreds of likes and multiple comments per post, it’s plain to see that Adidas has a highly engaged audience.
The site is bright and bold in its design – finally giving corporate a chance to look and feel like consumer publishing – with a balance of sports, business, and lifestyle content that works to engage the athletes among today’s workforce. Long-form writing hits it out of the park as well, like the team’s visually stunning interactive site, The GamePlan A Guide to Creativity, which has racked up 3,500 social shares and counting, and is packed with valuable information, ideas, and illustrations.
With two new products – BumbleBizz for career networking and BumbleBFF for finding new friends – Bumble has grown from dating app to full-on connection hub since its launch in 2014. First, it revolutionized digital romance with a female-powered platform (only women can initiate conversations), and now it’s taking on all kinds of relationships. Things are going so well, in fact, that the company recently passed on a $450 million acquisition offer from Match Group.
We’re not saying stellar content marketing did all the work, but it’s certainly helping.
The Beehive, Bumble’s blog, puts out a variety of strong, timely content fit for its broadening audience. To celebrate the new year, for instance, it launched a series called "You, First", which features stories about well-being and self-care. It’s these kinds of ideas that permeate Bumble's social channels as well, with original and carefully curated content sharing the spotlight on each platform – like captivating graphics and witticisms on Instagram for its more than 455,000 followers.
ClassPass makes fitness easy and accessible, letting members go to any participating gym or studio instead of being limited to one chain or location.
To get the word out, the startup has invested in content and taken its message all over social. Beyond the standard Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (where ClassPass cultivates a hip, color-forward feed that boasts 106,000 followers), Tumblr and Pinterest serve as fun and engaging visual platforms. The former gives “a peek at what energizes and motivates us to be active,” while the latter showcases a collection of self-improvement and lifestyle inspiration boards – one of which links entirely back to The Warm Up, the company’s consumer-facing publication centering on strong, fitness-fueled content.
Worthy of note, there’s also After Class, a B2B “partner empowerment” blog dedicated to an audience of studio and gym owners, as well as instructors. Promising “powerful insights from industry experts to better manage and grow your business,” After Class features a range of utility content, from marketing and writing tips to financial advice, as well as trend pieces, partner profiles, music and reading recommendations, and even a selection of webinars. The best part? None of it tries to sell ClassPass services. Instead, the content is useful, educational, and inspiring, and speaks to the core of the brand.
Furthermore is more than a blog. It’s an editorial destination.
Run by a team of Condé Nast veterans, the site is an extension of the Equinox brand and features show-stopping photography and design with a range of high-quality writing, videos, and even musical playlists that are published online, through the Equinox app, on-screen at gyms – and distributed across its own mega-popular social media channels. The sublimely curated and mostly user-generated Furthermore Instagram feed, for instance, attracts more than 50,000 engaged followers (and several hundred likes per post) with its gorgeous color palette and expert insights.
But with nearly 88,000 subscribers on YouTube, it’s video that’s a clear win for the brand. Clips range from workout how-tos and style tips to interviews with athletes and astronauts. A particularly successful recent effort explores celebrity training routines, with the spot “Could You Survive Nick Young’s Workout?” garnering 806,000 views in just the last two months and driving more traffic back to the site. And it’s a good thing, given how great the content is. With a scientific bent and a thought leadership streak, new articles like food and fitness forecasts set readers on the right foot for a healthy new year – with lots of inspiring and enjoyable reading ahead.
Last August, gay dating app Grindr decided to mix things up a bit with a move into lifestyle and media.
“We see a lot of content that is focused on an older generation because [popular LGBT publishers] have been around forever,” says Peter Sloterdyk, Grindr's VP of Marketing, in Digiday. “They paved the way in a beautiful manner, but they are not taking full advantage of that millennial audience.”
With 64 percent of Grindr users under the age of 34, the company saw an opportunity and launched Into, “a digital magazine for our world” that covers everything from culture, travel, and style to relationships, politics, and social issues with a modern LGBTQ perspective.
The response has been fierce. In almost six months, the site’s traffic has hit 1 million unique monthly visitors in the United States and 4 million worldwide, according to Business Insider.
It’s sparked a serious video strategy as well, with Grindr’s first web series “What the Flip?” debuting last fall and following two users’ experiences of switching accounts for a day, and "CAMPerVAN," a docu-series following a group of queer artists road tripping around Europe. In its first three months alone, Into fueled 24 million video views onsite and across social media.
Grindr was recently acquired by a tech and gaming company, but with original content off to such a strong start, we’re hoping that it'll continue to build upon its early successes.
Headspace, another second-time winner, has managed to advance the practice of mindfulness and meditation into a $250 million business. But it didn’t happen overnight. The app and brand we know today have been years in the making, and its creative use of visuals has long been key to demystifying a topic that many are quick to dismiss.
“We’ve always made really deliberate design decisions to break the stigma and peoples’ misconceptions about meditation,” says Chris Markland, a Senior Creative and Artist at Headspace. “The mind is often an overwhelming and scary place [and] illustration has been a really useful tool in breaking that down to people in an engaging, fun, and relatable way.”
Take one look at The Orange Dot, the brand’s blog, and you’ll see what he means. Every post, video, and social share is paired with a unique and vibrant image, GIF, or animation that grabs a reader's attention. While posts reference meditation, there's no hard sell for Headspace. Rather, a designed call to action is embedded in each post, and there's also a persistent sign-up button on the blog's header.
In the past year, Headspace has launched a few new content initiatives designed to make meditation more accessible – and drive and retain subscribers. One is a "How to Meditate" section that includes answers to frequently asked questions, plus videos that help people solve common meditation challenges. Headspace now also offers “packcasts,” which are recordings that feature Headspace employees discussing certain packs, or sets of meditations, while “trying to build a meditation practice that works for [them]” and showing how personalized one's meditation journey can be.
Nike made headlines last year with Breaking2, an elaborate campaign that took two years of meticulous planning and preparation to execute. The goal was to achieve the impossible: Running a marathon in less than two hours.
The Nike team did everything in its power to ensure that the feat was successful. They picked the perfect place – Italy’s Monza F1 track – for its ideal altitude, facility, and weather conditions. The athletes never had to stop for water; instead, perfectly measured amounts of optimal runner juice were distributed to them on the go. An electric car and a team of 30 pacers were on hand to ensure they maintained just the right speed. Oh, and each runner wore a pair of Nike’s specially engineered Zoom Vaporfly Elite racing shoe.
So did they break it? Almost. Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya missed the mark by just 25 seconds, still beating the previous record for the fastest marathon by an incredible two and a half minutes. More than 13.1 million people watched the race as it streamed live across Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook, and an hour-long documentary special about the race (produced with National Geographic) garnered more than a million and a half views – a notable achievement in itself.
After all, keeping millions of fans engaged through hours of content marketing? We’d call that a major win.
Since its launch in 2014, Peloton has grown at a staggering rate and revolutionized indoor cycling by bringing it directly into people's homes. In four short years, the company has raised $450 million from investors and now employs more than 700 individuals across the United States, thanks in no small part to what The New York Times calls "a fanatical fan base."
How has it grown such a devout community of followers in a short amount of time? With the insight that the “gadget itself isn’t as important as the service.” And, well, because it’s a company built on content.
Peloton CEO John Foley once said, “Let’s not think about [Peloton] as a fitness facility with cameras. Let’s think about it as a television streaming facility filming fitness content.”
Makes sense, since the company produces 12 hours of live video per day, streaming real-life classes to homes across the country, on-demand. It’s how it keeps people coming back for more, by consistently providing something new to look forward to and actively engage in. With close-up videos of instructors – many of whom have risen to fame and actively promote the brand on social media -addressing at-home riders by name while calling out personalized encouragement, the content is nothing if not engaging.
One only has to go to Ben & Jerry's website to see its commitment to content. Though the ice cream company could easily fill its homepage with slick photos of sundaes, it instead opts to highlight content – including blog posts about social issues, rather than desserts.
When it comes to companies that lead with their values, Ben & Jerry's has long been at the forefront. It's not afraid to take a stance on pressing political issues, including racial justice, refugees, climate change, voting rights, and LGBT equality. Its content hub reflects the company's commitment. Amid posts about ice cream recipes and new flavors, there are regular stories that align with Ben & Jerry's values, like "10 Things Trump Gets Wrong About Refugees," "QUIZ: How Much Do You Know About Climate Change?" and "7 Ways We Know Systemic Racism Is Real."
"Our ambition is fairly massive," says Jay Curley, now Ben & Jerry’s Global Head of Integrated Marketing, in New York Magazine. "We're trying to create a new model for how businesses can use their voice to have an impact on important social movements, and show that you can do that and it doesn’t hurt your business. As a matter of fact, it may help."
It does: Ben & Jerry's business has tripled in the last 15 years. In April 2017, Unilever, which owns Ben & Jerry's, reported that the ice cream maker grew at double-digit rates.
Within minutes of perusing Clif Bar's content hub, one gets a strong sense of what the brand values: Health. Wellness. Adventure. Nature. Sustainability. An active, passion-fueled lifestyle.
Through content that brings that ethos to life, Clif Bar has nurtured legions of fans. Recent stories include a profile of two Clif Bar-sponsored athletes who set out to raise $100,000 for Bears Ears National Monument, an article on Clif Bar employees achieving 100,000 hours of volunteering, and a big rock piece of content about The Great Trail, a 15,000-mile network of trails across Canada.
While Clif Bar is often mentioned in passing, there are no explicit calls to action at the bottom of stories to purchase the product or find it in stores. Similarly, Clif Bar's Instagram account – which has more than 143,000 followers – only features stunning nature photographs from fans who have tagged images with #FeedYourAdventure.
It makes sense. People don't want a hard sell. They want to be part of a community of like-minded folks. By buying into Clif Bar's values and lifestyle, chances are, thousands of loyal fans are buying the product, too.
Of all the content hubs we evaluated in the food category, Morsel, from meal subscription company Plated, was the most beautiful. But aesthetics aside, the content hub is also evidence of Plated's strong content marketing strategy.
Much of Plated's success hinges upon one factor: subscribers, and Morsel has been optimized to drive them. The tips, recipes, and stories feature large, gorgeous images and clear, conversational copy to engage readers. At the bottom of each story, and on Morsel's homepage, are calls to action with discounted offers for first-time Plated subscribers.
Yet, not everyone is ready to sign up for Plated on the first visit, and the company takes that into account. A newsletter subscription button allows people to sign up by simply entering their email addresses. Or, they can become one of Plated's 279,000 Facebook followers, 99,200 Instagram followers, or 21,000 Twitter followers. To engage its community – and show how easy it is to create Plated meals – Plated often reposts images from users who have cooked Plated meals and shared them with the hashtag #platedpics. In addition, Plated shares the five best photos of the week on Morsel, in an ongoing blog series.
With its loud color palette and references to student life, Taco Bell isn't seeking to appeal to everyone. And that's exactly the point. The fast food brand is focused on appealing to its target audience of Gen Z and younger millennials, and the strategy is working. Taco Bell revenue is strong and fans are engaged.
On its content hub, The Feed, Taco Bell spotlights interesting creators (who, of course, love Taco Bell), Taco Bell employees (like a dietician and a brand marketer), and Taco Bell fans who respond to the brand's social media challenges, like creating Taco Bell-inspired makeup looks.
On Instagram, Taco Bell posts original illustrations and photos commissioned for the brand. On YouTube, Taco Bell has a number of fan-inspired series, like "For Here or To Go," which shows how to take menu items to the next level through creative ordering in-store or easy cooking hacks at home. On Twitter, Taco Bell often retweets or responds to fans' posts. In addition, Taco Bell uses Twitter to drive people to its presence on other platforms, like Snapchat. (Speaking of Snapchat, you may remember that on Cinco de Mayo 2016, Taco Bell released a filter that turned users' faces into giant tacos. It was viewed more than 224 million times that day – and no, that's not a typo!)
If you're looking for a strong example of pharma storytelling, look no further than AbbVie's StoryLab. Its content hub feels modern, and it targets several audiences, including healthcare and medicine reporters and influencers, the scientific community, and patient advocates.
"Our ultimate goal is to increase our reputation and valuation so our key stakeholders engage around our growth, value, and reputation story. The question we’re always asking is: How can we drive more positive opinion, engagement, and sentiment toward our brand overall?" says Javier Boix, Head, U.S. Public Affairs, AbbVie.
The brand relies heavily on social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube) for content distribution, as well as both paid and organic search. It's also been successful using traditional media outreach among the top social media influencers in science and biopharma.
Also at the forefront of AbbVie's growth and success? A big commitment to using data to continually improve outcomes.
Making the list for the second year in a row is Cleveland Clinic, a legacy content marketer that continues to innovate and impress. In 2017, the team added interactive infographics, Alexa flash briefings, new podcasts, Facebook Live broadcasts, and Instagram stories to its already robust content offerings.
Why? To be everywhere its audience is when they have questions about health and wellness. It's working: Cleveland Clinic's content marketing team is doing so well that it's bringing in substantial revenue.
Health Essentials, Cleveland Clinic's consumer-facing site, publishes two to three posts a day and has received more than 45 million visits, to date. Consult QD is a site for a smaller niche of physicians and publishes three to five posts per day. Both sites distribute content via email newsletters and social media channels.
Certain products and services are easier to create content around than others. Insurance, well – it’s nobody’s favorite topic.
That’s why it’s exciting to see a brand like Farmers Insurance offer a modern and engaging content hub, plus consistently creative and engaging video – like a recent effort from last Halloween. Starring J.K. Simmons as Professor Nathaniel Burke (Farmers’ brand mascot since 2010), and spinning off from the success of an earlier campaign – Hall of Claims, which pokes fun how wide-ranging and far-fetched these reports can be – "The Stranger Claims" series takes on the same theme, complete with a nod to the hit Netflix show "Stranger Things."
The tongue-in-cheek spots set up the true stories of ludicrous claim reports with a spooky backdrop that plays with the company’s tagline (“We’ve seen almost everything, so we know how to cover almost anything”).
The campaign has been a success, with individual videos garnering tens of thousands of views while also available within an exclusive 360-degree virtual experience.
It's an initiative that demands respect and shows a readiness to innovate in order to reach desired targets – while thankfully making insurance content a lot less boring.
The Italian Generali Group is the third largest insurance company in the world, on the Forbes best employee list as of last year, and, as it turns out, a major player when it comes to content. With its image-forward design and variety of articles, for instance, Generali Spain’s homepage looks and feels a lot like a digital magazine instead of your typical insurance website.
Living up to its tagline – “Más que seguros,” meaning “More than insurance” – the site offers readers, clients, and potential applicants content that’s clearly created in an attempt to help and nurture its audience. Posts range from advice on how to stay in shape or avoid accidents in the kitchen to real estate and automotive tips. Offering life, car, home, and health insurance, these are the topics Generali chooses to cover in its content – though, just by looking at it, you’d almost never know they were selling something.
Last year, Progressive appeared on our list thanks to its standout consumer content hub, Life Lanes. The insurance company makes the cut once more, but this time it's Progressive Commercial that’s catching our eye. With its commercial arm, Progressive targets seasonal and small businesses with auto insurance needs, be it truck, van, or car coverage. With a stellar content plan in place, you can be sure the word is getting out.
Business Onward, the insurer’s B2B blog and a “go-to hub to get business growing,” presents useful, relevant information in a modern and attractive way with articles that are full of practical lessons and advice.
But it’s the company’s foray into commercial-specific video efforts that leaves a serious impression. The series "Small Biz Battles" is as entertaining as it is educational. The content is fun and easy to understand, and, most importantly, it leaves Progressive’s audience with a lot of food for thought regarding business expansion and success.
USAA is another example of an insurer that is thinking big, in terms of content. The financial institution has been around for more than 90 years, serving a client base made up primarily of military members, veterans, and their families. It’s a specific audience and one with which USAA knows just how to communicate. But beyond its content hub, USAA Stories, which features family, personal finance, and service-specific topics, as well as newer themes like travel in an effort to attract a broader readership, the company isn’t afraid to explore other forms of content.
With more than 21,000 subscribers on YouTube, USAA puts out an impressive array of videos, with series like "Mission: Music" and "Service & Ink" tapping into the varied interests of the military community. The most-watched of the bunch has more than 540,000 views, and new content is constantly being added.
Similarly, USAA launched “The Money Drill” podcast in 2016 as an experiment to attract younger audience members while delivering financial content in an easy, engaging way. It was worth it; the program was met with almost immediate success, and, nearly two years on, draws 24,000 plays per month. "The Money Drill" also gave USAA's content marketing team a major internal win.
“It put content marketing, as a program, on the map for USAA, where it had never been before,” says Mollie Walker, Lead Marketing Manager and Content Strategy Lead, USAA. “Over time, we hope to show that the more we grow our content marketing as a program and discipline, the more we can save on the awareness media that we have to purchase. We’re filling that gap and telling a story in between awareness and buying stages.”
Bed Bath & Beyond is proving that an investment in content can pay off for a brick and mortar retailer. By doubling down on omnichannel marketing and digital content, even while struggling to grow in-store purchases, e-commerce sales grew more than 20 percent.
In addition to actively populating the Above & Beyond content hub, Bed Bath & Beyond recently launched the One More Thing blog, with Of a Kind, the boutique e-commerce marketplace it acquired in 2015. The goal: To attract a more upmarket clientele. Shoppable features embedded below the stories make it seamless for readers to research and buy products mentioned in the stories. For example, in one post about keeping your shopping list on or by your front door, there's a link to a Bed Bath & Beyond dry erase board within the story, and related products are featured after the text.
On the main Bed Bath & Beyond website, visitors can explore a new feature called "Shop the Room," staged as an online catalog full of beautifully photographed room inspiration and design ideas. It focuses on trends and, of course, features store products.
Finally, in another 2017 content coup, Bed Bath & Beyond acquired Decorist, an interior design platform "so users can initiate and/or enhance our design consultation offerings for some of our concepts," explains CEO Steven Tamares.
These interactive content components are poised to give Bed Bath & Beyond's customers engaging and inspiring digital experiences that will hopefully drive them to make purchases.
In fall 2017, it released the IKEA Place augmented reality app, which lets customers see how more than 2,000 pieces of furniture would look in their homes. The experience is actually really great since it's somehow true to scale, which helps users avoid putting together an item only to realize it's a smidge too big for their space.
Last year, IKEA also made a foray into the AMSR world with a 25-minute video that showed a woman decorating a dorm room with IKEA products. (AMSR, or autonomous sensory meridian response, is the pleasant, tingling feeling some people get while hearing soothing sounds like whispering – or, in the case of the IKEA video, bed sheets being smoothed.) The video has been viewed more than 1.4 million times on YouTube.
IKEA is also playful and not afraid to be responsive in the moment. When "Game of Thrones" costume designers revealed that outfits for characters in the Night's Watch were crafted from an Ikea rug, it turned into a bit of a cultural viral moment for cosplayers. IKEA's response was to create fun instructions on how to turn its rug into a fur cape.
Lowe's wants to capture the attention of homeowners and apartment dwellers who are into making their home look great, but who are not necessarily equipped with contractor-like skills. That's why the company's Creative Ideas hub is all about fun, inspirational projects that are doable and accessible to most.
In addition, video is big for Lowe's. Beyond the popular how-to content on Lowe's YouTube channel, the company has invested in more complex, entertaining storytelling. Take, for instance, the video series "The Weekender," which is in its third season – the first season pulled in more than 3 million views. The 15- to 20-minute episodes feature DIY expert Monica Mangin who helps homeowners transform a problem area. Guests are young and hip, and episode pages highlight the projects and products featured on the show.
Patagonia is a brand that is not afraid to take a stand on topics near and dear to its heart (and that of its customers), most notably the environment. For this reason, the responsible outdoor apparel company made our list for the second year in a row.
Take Patagonia's response to the Trump administration's decision to reduce the size of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. Patagonia created a visually stunning "interactive film experience" called "Defend Bears Ears," that urges people to take action. In addition, Patagonia shared dedicated posts about this hot topic on its blog, The Cleanest Line, and on social media. One post even famously declared, "The president stole your land."
Patagonia's Instagram is also a thing of beauty, with more than 3.2 million followers. The account further showcases Patagonia's commitment to environmental issues, while driving fans to long-form content – minus the sales pitch.
Stitch Fix is an online personal style service that helps people find clothing that best suits their personalities. Its blog, Stitch Fix / Style, offers actionable and inspirational content for its core audience of women looking for tips.
There are designer spotlights, service-driven articles like how to clean out your clothing closet, and, of course, an inspiration gallery of outfit ideas. The content doesn't heavily promote Stitch Fix; rather, it's designed to show its expertise in its field. Once readers are ready to try the service, they can click the call to action at the end of every story to sign up.
Stitch Fix is also a social media powerhouse, especially on Pinterest. Its Pinterest account has more than 1 million followers, but it finds a lot of value in encouraging users to create boards of their own as well. In fact, following customers on the network helps the Stitch Fix stylists to get insights about the looks that its customers like most.
"From the passionate collector to the casual street-chic fashionista, there's an underserved consumer who loves the closet classics as much as we do," says Jeff Espersen, Zappos' VP of Merchandising, in Fashion Network.
The Ones features stories celebrating artists, skaters, musicians, designers, and inspirational creatives who embody the scene. Other stories, like "Meet Stan Smith" and "Who Is Chuck Taylor" share the backstories of the people behind today's iconic kicks. Embedded within the stories are modules that let readers shop the sneakers referenced or endorsed by subjects.
To further drive sales, The Ones also has a shoppable Instagram account. Just a few months after launch, it already has more than 28,800 followers.
This past year, because of a merger with EMC, Dell was tasked with rebranding as Dell Technologies. Key to that major initiative: content marketing.
"From a marketing standpoint and strategy, it is absolutely a content-first one…We want people to learn and engage through storytelling – and branded content is a big piece of that, both from the original branded content that we are creating, and the ones where we are partnering with publishers to do it in a native format," says Liz Matthews, Senior Vice President of Global Brand and Creative at Dell Technologies.
Dell Technologies' Perspectives content hub features strong thought leadership pieces, as well as new features like the "Trailblazers" podcast that highlights stories of innovation and disruption with author, journalist, and former CNN CEO Walter Isaacson.
With stories ranging from converting brain waves to operate prosthetic devices to the rise of the smart apartment, the coverage on Perspectives is quite broad. However, the common thread is looking at the world through a technology lens. To help drive visitors to the content, Dell Technologies enlists influencers ranging from YouTube creators to small business mavens and entrepreneurs to share their stories.
In 2018, expect to see Dell Technologies pushing the storytelling boundaries with more AR and VR content to showcase the technologies that are being used in practical applications.
First Round Review, the branded publication from venture capital firm First Round Capital, has made a name for itself with exceptional long-form content. With a captive audience of startup founders and business leaders, its content addresses common pain points and shares in-depth strategies from successful executives. The content hub is comprised of nine digital magazines that zone in on a specific aspect of business growth, from product to engineering to fundraising.
The goal: “To generate as much awareness as we can for First Round’s brand so that remarkable entrepreneurs know what it’s like to partner with us, and to make rare, expert knowledge available to the many thousands of people building the startup ecosystem,” according to Camille Ricketts, First Round's Head of Content and Marketing.
This past year, First Round launched First Search, which curates the best advice from technology thought leaders. "It's a database of extremely high-quality, curated advice about all aspects of building companies, pulled from across the web and organized to help you find exactly what you need when you need it," explains Maddie Hall, First Search's Product Manager, in Medium. The plan is that First Search will evolve into personalized discovery experience for every user – which will further help First Round achieve its content marketing goals.
Fujitsu's I – Global Intelligence for the CIO (I-CIO) is a digital platform for information technology managers. After a revamp in mid-2016, the site has focused on strong design, high-quality video production, and interviews with top technology leaders.
In 2017, some of the "big thinkers" included Jay Crotts, CIO of Shell, DHL Supply Chain’s CIO Markus Voss, and the former CEO of Citrix and business school professor Rita McGrath discussing the changing nature of IT leadership.
With more of a journalistic bent (Editor Kenny MacIver was the former Editor of Information Age), and barely a mention of Fujitsu, I-CIO is a great example of what content marketing should be. I-CIO even has its own dedicated social media handles for Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube – though for those who are interested in learning more about the company behind the publication, I-CIO's About Us page includes a map so people can access the Fujitsu site in their country.
GE is appearing on our list for the second time, and for good reason. For years, the brand’s content marketing has been best-in-class, pioneering the industry with the launch of its wildly successful digital magazine, GE Reports, back in 2008, and pushing the field forward with consistently creative and relevant campaigns ever since. Like one of our favorites – “What If Millie Dresselhaus, Female Scientist, Was Treated Like a Celebrity?” – which aired during last year’s Oscars and staked GE's commitment to hiring 20,000 women in technical positions by 2020.
“The industry numbers are a little sobering,” says GE CMO Linda Boff in AdWeek. “The data shows that women are still underrepresented in IT and engineering roles – that's not a GE number, that's just global – so the fact that we can help inject any urgency into this conversation [is] something that we’re super proud to be part of.”
With almost 1 million views on YouTube, the Millie Dresselhaus video has certainly made its rounds, delighting feminists, science fans, and everyone in between – which is exactly what makes GE’s efforts so special. With hard work, talent, and a stellar strategy, the 125-year-old company’s content has managed to capture a bigger and broader audience while promoting its mission, attracting potential talent, and humanizing the enormous scope of what the company does, from developing new and innovative technologies to engineering the tools and equipment that power our homes and the world.
Intercom takes customer messaging to new heights, thanks to a deep belief and serious investment in creative content marketing. Original artwork with a unique visual language floods Inside Intercom, the company's blog, with each post featuring a custom, colorful illustration.
Director of Content John Collins first joined the company four years ago as Managing Editor, taking the helm of Inside Intercom. Since then, he's built a content marketing operation that put out 230 blog posts, 46 podcasts, and three beautifully designed books in 2017 alone. Intercom is totally transparent about its efforts, too, with experiments and successes often documented on the blog and beyond. The team's work has garnered Intercom a fiercely loyal, engaged, and growing audience (who often opt to share their email addresses or other personal details to download assets like e-books).
More than 20,000 businesses use the Intercom platform to connect with a billion people around the world, and with $116 million in funding and an ongoing commitment to content marketing, those numbers will keep going up.
The Future of Customer Engagement and Commerce (FCEC) is the widely respected digital magazine behind SAP Hybris’ customer engagement software, and a prime example of how a small team with a long-term vision can strike content gold – and trigger a potential customer’s entry to the marketing funnel. For Global Head of Editorial and Content Marketing for FCEC and SAP Hybris Amy Hatch, who started up the blog as a one-woman show in 2012, it took a simple recipe to ensure her success: consistent publishing, distributing content via social media, and utilizing SEO best practices.
A valuable asset that often sets off discovery and awareness for potential SAP customers, FCEC is clearly dedicated to producing high-quality content that drives leads – without pushing sales pitches. Instead, Hatch puts audience needs and interests first, with articles that are timely and relevant to industry executives and the field at large. As a result, her team continues to cultivate loyal readers. The FCEC newsletter has 5,000 subscribers and an approximately 22 percent open rate each month. And pageviews are on the rise, as well, with an entirely organic 20 percent increase back in 2016.
How, you ask? “Content marketing really works,” says Hatch.
As the U.K.’s largest tech company, Sage specializes in financial software that enables small and medium business owners to run their companies on laptops or mobile devices. Sage's mission is to help these organizations and entrepreneurs flourish in the face of harsh statistics – like the fact that half of all new businesses fail within their first two and a half years, according to Sage’s EVP of Digital Marketing Neil Morgan.
“Imagine if you could help some of those businesses who run out of cash because they don’t know how to manage it, don’t know how to do their taxes, or how to get an invoice paid on time," says Morgan. "What could that do for our economy? That was the vision and objective we had.”
That very idea that has guided the company’s content efforts for the past two and a half years – including last summer’s launch of the Sage Advice content hub, complete with the tagline: “Wisdom for smarter businesses.”
Sage Advice repurposes Sage’s internal knowledge bank – fueled by 30,000 customer calls per day – to create a data-driven, cost-effective strategy that puts audience and customer needs first.
“We’re already seeing about a third of the traffic coming to us from organic search terms,” Morgan says. And “just in the last quarter, we had about 145,000 business leads sourced directly from [the site].”
What’s more, Sage recently published a sleek, interactive site and accompanying print piece titled “The State of Small Business,” an original report detailing the current climate surrounding independently run companies in the U.K.
And with a relatively tremendous presence on social – including 44,800 Twitter followers, nearly 700,000 Facebook fans, an active YouTube channel, and more than 3,600 Instagram followers – fans, customers, and curious folk can tune in across the board to catch their pearls of Sage's business wisdom.
“Making work simpler, more pleasant, and more productive” since 2014, Slack helps business teams communicate and function more efficiently while bringing them closer to their goals. The company’s blog, Several People Are Typing, looks and reads like a top digital magazine while successfully balancing product and company information with a selection of industry stories. And its bi-monthly podcast, “Work in Progress,” explores the meaning and identity we find in work, from the gig economy to Silicon Valley and the corporate world, and how technology is affecting us all.
Why? To introduce people to Slack.
Despite being one of the most talked-about and fastest growing startups, Julie Kim, Slack's Director of Content and Editorial, says in a recent interview that she still feels the company has a ways to go in building brand awareness. Content marketing is a key pillar in its overall marketing growth strategy.
If you thought a company like Twitter doesn’t need content marketing, think again. The social media giant has been building up its Twitter Business Outlook blog with original and licensed content centered on how-tos and best practices for advertising on the platform. After all, while countless other websites and agencies counsel on how to tweet to your fullest potential, where better to hear it than straight from the source?
A prominent newsletter subscription box sits on the upper right corner of the content hub's homepage and every story – a smart strategy for capturing existing or potential Twitter customers who want regular updates for optimizing their distribution strategies. For those who have read enough to want to create their own Twitter ads, a call to action at the bottom of each page gives them the option to do so.
And from the looks of Here, Away’s impeccably cool, new digital magazine, it's not kidding around. A curated selection of hip photography and the occasional illustration invites readers to explore everything the site has to offer, with striking typographical choices drawing attention directly to the headlines (each appearing in a distinct yet complementary font).
From city guides and travel trend pieces to personal essays and interviews, Away has a lot of stories to tell. So many, in fact, that last year the brand unveiled a quarterly print publication of Here, featuring Rashida Jones on the debut cover, alongside high-quality content by and for travelers. There’s also "Airplane Mode," the brand’s podcast, which shares tales of travel, journeys, and lives lived on the road by all kinds of adventurers.
All this content has helped Away build an active and engaged community that's purchased more than $20 million worth of luggage. Want proof? Just check out Away's Instagram account where photos of its suitcases get thousands of likes and hundreds of comments from Away's 117,000 followers.
Second-time winner JetBlue is no stranger to stellar content. Its what’s helped the airline fulfill its mission of “bringing humanity back to air travel” by building a brand that cares, and an audience that knows it.
Last summer, for instance, its popular Little Tickets campaign addressed families too stressed or busy to plan a vacation by offering them a lighthearted look at what kind of trip a kid could plan – along with a limited-time $100 off booking.
The company continues to impress with its content hub, Out of the Blue, which publishes a mix of corporate- and consumer-interest articles that cover travel inspiration as well as inside achievements and affairs. Like the fact that in December, JetBlue released a limited edition board game called Get Packing! – two rounds of 200, actually, since the first sold out so quickly – along with a string of amusing promo clips poking fun at awkward holiday moments that might make you want to leave town. A certificate for a free round-trip ticket – one in every box – could help with that (not to mention build some serious JetBlue loyalty).
Iflymagazine.com, the content hub for KLM’s travel inspiration, iFly KLM Magazine, is one that many marketers would envy.
The design is clean, modern, and features large, beautiful images, audio, and videos. A story about Patagonia, for example, includes stunning visuals of the Perito Moreno glacier, Torres del Paine National Park, and penguin and sea lion colonies – complete with sound effects! Calls to action, to book travel on KLM.com, are subtly embedded in images at the bottom of each story.
To build return visitors, a popup asks readers whether they'd like to select their top interests (e.g. family, culture, business, ecotravel) and receive browser notifications when KLM posts new content in those areas. In addition, iFly's Facebook page has a large following of more than 174,000 people.
KLM also has a successful big rock content strategy. Each year, it releases an interactive "where to fly next year" piece that highlights 50 destinations and consistently breaks company records. (See this year's at ifly2018.com.) According to KLM, past pieces have received more than half a million visits, with an average engagement time of more than five minutes, and above average referrals to the KLM site.
In September 2014, it launched an in-house content studio dedicated to producing creative, engaging, cross-platform digital content to attract the next generation of travelers – and their dollars.
Since then, Marriott has delivered on that goal, with many of its brands releasing bespoke films dedicated to further their reputations and drive revenue. The 2015 short film, "French Kiss," for example, drove more than $500,000 in Marriott bookings in less than 60 days. Renaissance Hotels has released two seasons of "The Navigator’s Table with Andrew Zimmern," which highlights the chef meeting with tastemakers in different cities. Courtyard by Marriott showcases its status as the official hotel for the NFL through a video series that has racked up more than 1 million YouTube views.
And, of course, there's "Two Bellmen," Marriott's most successful film franchise. The original, 17-minute video, "Two Bellmen," has more than 5.2 million YouTube views; the 19-minute sequel has more than 7.9 million views.
Last January, Marriott released the 35-minute "Two Bellmen Three," set in Seoul, Korea. The goal of the film: to highlight Marriott's Asian properties and capture a piece of the wedding market. As part of the release, Marriott offered "Two Bellmen"-themed wedding, food, and spa packages at participating hotels. To date, "Two Bellmen Three" has more than 9 million YouTube views.
Two years ago, Visit Seattle committed to video as a major part of its marketing strategy. Since then, it's proven to be a best-in-class video content marketer by releasing dozens of beautiful, documentary-style videos that showcase the people, culture, and diversity of the city through creative and authentic storytelling.
In January 2017, Visit Seattle partnered with Sundance TV to launch "Project Five by Five," which asked five filmmakers to each create a short film about Seattle, inspired by one of the five senses. One video showed how a local farm produces fresh cream and berries for a beloved Seattle ice cream shop. Another reimagined Seattle native Jimi Hendrix's first skydiving trip. The shorts premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and aired on Sundance TV.
In September, Visit Seattle teamed up with CBS to launch "The Emerald Race." Past "Amazing Race" contestants embarked on similar challenges in and around Seattle, taking in the city's sights and outdoor experiences, and meeting notable locals along the way. In October, Visit Seattle launched "Turning Tables," a series that paired local musicians and chefs to create unique music and dining experiences.
The result of these videos: more than 22 million YouTube views. Even more importantly, they're helping Visit Seattle reach its target demographic of 25- to 44-year-olds.
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In 2017, NewsCred launched the Top 50 Awards to celebrate best-in-class content marketing brands. Whether hot new startups or global giants, these brands were the ones with splashy, interactive content hubs that drove conversions, stellar social media presences, innovative new technology integrations, and strong behind-the-scenes strategies and measurement plans. They were brands that inspired us to push the boundaries with our own content marketing.2017 Top 50 Award Winners →