7 Lessons in Branded Content from Ford—50 Years Ago

This post originally appeared on Forbes.

The other day, one of our C5 account directors, Kyle Ganshert, brought in an old recipe book that belonged to his grandmother. The book, The Ford Times Traveler’s Cookbook, was published by Ford back in 1965. It was produced by the company’s monthly magazine and featured recipes and tips for cooking while on the go—a great idea for encouraging Ford customers to indulge in the good old American road trip.

Traveler's Cookbook

The book combined two of my greatest interests, branded content and old stuff, so I naturally geeked out on it. As I dug in, I was surprised by how relevant this relic’s execution was to today’s marketing practices. (It turns out that learning from history is not relegated to the areas of government and sunburns.)  Here are 7 things we can learn from the marketing masters at Ford—half a century ago.

1) Use Content You Already Have. This book was created by aggregating many recipes that originally appeared in the Ford Times. Repackaging content is a great way to create a fresh experience for a targeted audience without too much extra work. At Column Five, we recommend this approach through “divisible content.”

You start by creating a large asset, such as an e-book or slideshow, that comprehensively covers a topic, then break the content into smaller pieces that can be repurposed in alternate formats, such as blog posts or infographics. You can break this down even further, publishing micro-content, such as small images or single tips, on social accounts. The result is not only efficient with regard to time and expense, but it’s also incredibly effective at maintaining visual consistency throughout the campaign and reaching a wide audience across all platforms.

Traveler's Cookbook: 2

The book is a collection of recipes previously published in the Ford Times, curated by a team of expert homemakers.

2) Make It Useful. Along with the recipes, the book includes relevant and practical tips on adjacent topics, such as information about fire safety and ways to transport food conveniently on the road. The goal of great content is to provide information or entertainment that is valuable to your audience. If your content is intended to be informative, consider all the things viewers may want to know to put their new knowledge to use.

Traveler's Cookbook: 3

A tip for DIY ice packs provides readers with practical information to enhance their on-the-road dining experience.

3) Reach New Audiences. You hear “Ford” and “1965,” and you’d assume the brand is marketing to Don Draper with a sexy car. But with this piece of content, Ford is speaking to Betty Draper and other housewives, an adjacent demographic. Use visual content to tailor your message for specific demographics; you’ll find much more success than trying to be everything to everyone.

Traveler's Cookbook: 4

The Traveler’s Cookbook gives moms plenty of tips to keep the family well fed on vacation.

4) Get Visual. Images appear on almost every page of the book, whether color photography, illustrations or diagrams. Using a variety of visual content types keeps the viewer engaged and gives your more tools to tell a good story.

Traveler's Cookbook: 5

Illustrations and classic color photography enhance the content.

5) Look for Partnership Opportunities. In addition to recipes and tips, the book features various camping and outdoor dining products. This is a great way to nurture symbiotic relationships with other brands. Complementary collaboration is becoming more commonplace throughout the business world, and marketing is certainly no exception. Giving exposure to other companies breeds goodwill and expands your content’s reach.

Traveler's Cookbook: 6

Notice the Taffel product promotion and info on where to get it.

6) Make It Shareable. The book was made to be postage size, with a back page that includes the “To” and “From” sections to write in addresses. This is the ‘60s equivalent of a share button. Building sharing capabilities into every asset you create can amplify your efforts exponentially.

Traveler's Cookbook: 7

The book’s back page makes it easy to send to a friend.

7) Include a Call-To-Action. The final page also promotes extra copies, available for 50 cents each. Tread lightly in this area. Although it is essential that you achieve your desired engagement objectives for the effort, don’t let this permeate the rest of your content. It will quickly turn off viewers, who see it as nothing more than an ad. What separates content marketing is its ability to provide real value to the audience, before asking for something in return. Read more about how to pull this off here.

Traveler's Cookbook: 8

You can order an extra copy by writing to the publisher headquarters.

Although marketing continues to evolve, some things remain the same. No matter what your brand is, creating content that is useful and valuable is the best way to engage and delight your customer.

Ross Crooks is a Column Five co-founder. Follow him @rtcrooks

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