Trust is the new currency in business. And to earn it, brands and marketers need to form meaningful relationships with their audiences through content. By giving readers information that excites and educates — without asking for anything in return — they can become the gold standard in their industries.
At Influence & Co., we’re constantly strategizing ways to improve our own content marketing approach and equip others to do the same. To help 22 of our favorite brands stay ahead of the content marketing curve — and to give others some inspiration, too — here’s how we want to see them take content marketing to the next level in 2015:
Why We Love Them: Nike consistently writes the book on unique and engaging content that reaches the masses. Along with its beautiful, creative campaigns, it has developed a thought leadership film series with insights and stories from thought leaders around the world. This brand knows how to scale up its content marketing efforts as it continues to grow.
What We’d Love to See From Them: Nike partners with brands all over the country, but we’d love to see the company get more involved in the business and technology conversation. Revealing the secrets behind its masterful designs and development process would have readers hooked.
Nike also has a long-standing history of supporting entrepreneurs with investment opportunities. By offering free whitepapers, e-books, and infographics on topics such as brand partnerships, Nike could reach more entrepreneurs and position itself as a valuable resource.
Why We Love Them: Sprint is known for its cost-slashing mobile plans, but did you know that the company also hosts a weekly thought leadership podcast? With new CEO Marcelo Claure at the helm, Sprint is paving the way for mobile technology and has the content to prove it.
What We’d Love to See From Them: Sprint has made huge strides in the mobile space by improving its network quality and offering competitive prices — but not without some speed bumps along the way. If key leaders opened up about Sprint’s plans for improvement and any challenges it faces, they could humanize the brand and provide a connection point for customers and prospects. Honesty and transparency go a long way in building trust, and giving consumers the chance to accompany Sprint in its climb to the top would help restore their faith.
Why We Love Them: Centro is a driver of innovation in media by providing operational efficiencies for ad agencies through a combination of technology, data, and services. The brand understands the importance of having an awesome company culture and drawing press around it to attract top talent (it was even named the sixth best place to work by Crain’s New York Business last year). Centro also offers free e-books and case studies on its website that give its audience a glimpse into the work it does, and it even offers a checklist to help companies meet their campaign goals.
What We’d Love to See From Them: Centro has grown to more than 500 employees and has created a well-maintained, vibrant company blog. We’d love to see its executives share some of the stories behind this journey and offer actionable advice for creating dynamic campaigns in online industry publications to engage and entertain its audience.
Why We Love Them: Known as the co-working space in the U.S. — and slowly taking over that title globally — WeWork is transforming the co-working experience for entrepreneurs and startups in cities everywhere. It even publishes its own magazine to help entrepreneurs succeed. (Our New York City-based team members work in a WeWork space, so we understand its appeal.)
What We’d Love to See From Them: Hundreds (if not thousands) of successful companies operate within the walls of WeWork every day. WeWork could capture those success stories to use not only as marketing material, but also as a resource for everyday entrepreneurs. Sharing these stories in tech, business, and other relevant industry publications would provide major exposure for the company.
Why We Love Them: Domo is well-known for its superior business intelligence software and has dozens of use cases that could appeal to its target audience. Its sales team also uses content in the sales process, which proves it’s already one step ahead in content marketing.
What We’d Love to See From Them: Although Domo offers website visitors a free demo, it could engage prospects earlier on in the buyer’s journey through educational blog posts that discuss different use cases for BI and how BI helps companies grow in a stable way. Learning from the company’s technical experts about the power of integration and how an efficient user interface can improve overall efficiency would be interesting and helpful to those who are unfamiliar with BI.
Why We Love Them: Genealogy has become wildly popular among consumers. People love tracing their ancestry back hundreds of years and learning fun factoids about their family members.
What We’d Love to See From Them: Ancestry.com currently manages a blog, but it consists of mostly company and service updates. By publishing articles in online publications, the company could reveal fascinating human-interest stories from successful customers and pair those with tips on how readers can effectively research their own genealogy.
Why We Love Them: As the lead sponsor of a new HLN series, “Growing America: A Journey to Success,” Holiday Inn definitely understands innovative content marketing. The show aims to spotlight small business by following MBAs Across America students who are given one week to use their knowledge and expertise to transform businesses.
What We’d Love to See From Them: By contributing to travel publications, Holiday Inn could expand its reach even further. It could showcase rich customer stories from staff members or customers themselves, mine internal data to reveal popular travel destinations, or offer advice for consumers travelling to certain areas.
Why We Love Them: Our team eats, breathes, and Slacks all day, every day. In just two years, Slack already has more than 30,000 teams using its platform and is valued at more than $1 billion. And it certainly knows a thing or two about customer feedback — just check out its Slack Wall of Love on Twitter.
What We’d Love to See From Them: Slack has the unique opportunity to lead the conversation in an area that few are contributing to: internal communication in the workplace. Its service simplifies communication and promotes productivity, so providing tips on how to improve collaboration across platforms could be hugely beneficial to its loyal user base and beyond.
Why We Love Them: Coinbase recently launched Coinbase Community, a forum for customers to discuss important topics around bitcoin. We love how it’s leveraging customer and employee insights to create a knowledge bank for the growing bitcoin community.
What We’d Love to See From Them: While bitcoin is a hot trend right now, many consumers are still unfamiliar with its advantages and potential applications. By publishing educational articles around the topic, Coinbase could position itself as an expert in bitcoin and help skeptics get on board with using bitcoin and the Coinbase exchange service.
Why We Love Them: Bank of America is no stranger to content marketing and knows that the key to happy customers is providing value ahead of sales. It offers free webinars to help consumers reach their financial goals and consistently produces educational content on topics such as budgeting, saving, and managing your bank accounts.
What We’d Love to See From Them: By getting key executives to discuss best practices for growing finances in external niche publications, Bank of America could earn consumer trust and become a more approachable brand. The banking industry as a whole tends to have lower trust levels, so hearing directly from key executives could help Bank of America humanize its brand and stand out among competitors.
Why We Love Them: Last year, EA Sports produced the best meme of 2014: The Madden GIFerator. The GIF tool was basically designed as a marketing campaign to promote the latest edition of “Madden NFL 15.” The crowdsourced campaign went viral, and we’re super impressed with the creative marketing strategy behind it.
What We’d Love to See From Them: Large gaming companies as a whole aren’t consistently sharing their creative processes as a way to connect with consumers. With the right strategy, EA Sports could create content that engages customers in the actual video game planning process and help build hype around new games.
Why We Love Them: The Equifax Finance Blog offers informative articles on topics ranging from taxes to debt management. With its Insights Blog, Equifax also provides thought leadership content on business solutions, hosts webinars, and highlights major industry news.
What We’d Love to See From Them: As it stands, the content ranges from planning to retirement to perfecting your elevator pitch, which can create a disconnect for readers, even if they fall into one of those buckets. By honing its target audience and optimizing its calls to action for each post, Equifax can help convert its blog readers into fans and followers rather than happenstance readers.
Why We Love Them: To showcase its efforts to minimize its impact on the environment, Waste Connections offers a free educational sustainability report on its website. The company is also dedicated to giving back. Waste Connections recently donated 663 bikes to nonprofits in Houston as part of a grant program to better serve the community.
What We’d Love to See From Them: Waste isn’t a sexy topic, but that doesn’t mean people don’t want to read about it. There are thousands of people around the world interested in reducing their carbon footprints. This audience wants to know the state of waste management and best practices for reducing their environmental impact. Waste Connections could educate this growing audience on how the waste process works and help others collaborate on a larger scale to improve the environment.
Why We Love Them: Last year, Cerner earned the No. 22 spot on Forbes’ “The World’s Most Innovative Companies” list, and we couldn’t agree more. Cerner has proved to be a thought leader in the healthcare information technologies sector, paving the way for centralized, paperless health records.
What We’d Love to See From Them: Cerner is engaging audiences through its blog, but we’d love to see the brand highlight the experiences of employees who travel the world training healthcare professionals. Cerner is a huge player in the healthcare field, and expanding into more personalized content could help it educate clients and attract potential talent.
Why We Love Them: ADT knows how to use social media to constantly reinvent itself and reveal new products. The ADT Twitter page is loaded with safety and security tips, complete with beautiful graphics that transform seemingly boring topics into friendly, relatable brand news.
What We’d Love to See From Them: We’d love to see more consistent content on the ADT security blog and company leaders publishing articles in niche publications. By educating consumers on the advantages of security in an increasingly vulnerable world, ADT could tap into new markets, nurture prospective clients, and expedite its sales cycle.
Why We Love Them: Adobe simplifies the process of designing beautiful content products. The company also created the Adobe Youth Voices program to empower youth to “harness creative skills” through digital media tools and storytelling techniques. We respect the company’s efforts to foster a sense of community and teach young people how to create media that makes an impact.
What We’d Love to See From Them: Adobe is well-versed in content marketing. It maintains Adobe Blogs and Adobe Conversations, which aggregate content from its networks and provide company and product news. What we’d love to see is content that educates consumers on new features, how they can utilize them, or even quirky creativity hacks. By tailoring its content to audiences such as agencies, universities, DIYers, and governments, Adobe could offer great value to each segment.
Why We Love Them: Pariveda Solutions’ CIO Forum Series brings together industry thought leaders, strategists, and technology leaders to share ideas. Since the launch of its new website in 2013, Pariveda Solutions has been improving the delivery of thought leadership and customer expectations in the IT sector.
What We’d Love to See From Them: By contributing content to external publications and tweaking its calls to action, Pariveda Solutions could increase brand awareness, earn a reputation as an IT thought leader, and close more sales. With nine locations across the U.S., it’d be great to see the company produce content with one cohesive voice and message.
Why We Love Them: DST is the largest provider of third-party shareholder record-keeping services in the U.S. It’s an industry leader that leverages technological expertise and excellent service to help its clients manage life’s most important business.
What We’d Love to See From Them: DST doesn’t publish educational content on a blog or in external publications. By offering tips on how to utilize its products, the company could demonstrate its expertise, build trust, and generate awareness and leads. Its sales team could also use these content products to nurture prospects and streamline company communication.
Why We Love Them: Wells Fargo Stories delivers content about helping customers and communities thrive and living out values. By harnessing the power of storytelling, Wells Fargo has helped establish trust and credibility while humanizing the brand through detailed customer experiences.
What We’d Love to See From Them: Wells Fargo has a newsroom blog, a retirement blog, and a blog dedicated to financial questions, but these different channels could be more cohesive. By prominently featuring (and creating more) whitepapers and other content products, the brand could better integrate these subsections. The content here is bursting with fascinating consumer stories; it’s just a matter of organizing and displaying the content to maximize value for consumers.
Why We Love Them: Citigroup’s social media channels bring a breath of fresh air to the banking industry. The brand is a veteran in the content marketing space and places equal emphasis on content distribution. Looking at the company’s Facebook page, you can get a real sense of its mission to promote startups with its #ProgressMakers campaign.
What We’d Love to See From Them: Citigroup has an entire website dedicated to thought leadership and company news and a fascinating blog that provides real advice for making cities more amenable to startups. We’d love to see leaders publish similar content outside of these platforms to draw readers back to its sites and spark more meaningful conversations.
Why We Love Them: BP Magazine offers a fresh design and insights, adding a personal touch to the world of oil and gas. Along with the magazine, BP produces frequent YouTube videos, complete with beautiful graphics and real conversations around its plans to lead the way to America’s energy future.
What We’d Love to See From Them: BP has worked hard to restore the Gulf of Mexico and the company’s reputation by creating an online magazine with information from BP reports and activities across the globe. While BP’s content is innovative, the magazine only averages four to five posts per month, which generally consist of research and promotional material. I’d love to see BP add some guest contributors and start conversations in external publications.
Why We Love Them: With millions of customers worldwide, AT&T has managed to engage audiences through social media channels and its Networking Exchange Blog. It’s been practicing content marketing for years, calling on employees at every level to blog and to contribute to relevant publications. It has even set up the Networking Leaders Academy to train employees to become “blogging ambassadors” and share their posts via social media.
What We’d Love to See From Them: While AT&T has an entire section dedicated to free content, such as whitepapers, e-books, infographics, and videos, I’d like to see these integrated into its overall blog strategy. By priming readers with informative blog posts and offering logical calls to action, AT&T could elevate its content strategy and make the brand more accessible.
These are just a few of our favorite brands, and there are so many more we’d love to see content from this year. Regardless of size or industry, every company has something interesting to share that readers are dying to know. By offering these insights in compelling blog posts or articles, brands will earn a priceless commodity in return: trust.