Was 2020 a great year? Nope. But did marketers challenge themselves, try new things, and make the most of what they could? Yep. Across all industries, we saw brands express their creativity through stellar content marketing. While there hasn’t been much to celebrate lately, there are some pieces of content marketing that were particularly memorable this year. We like to give credit where it’s due, so today we’ve rounded up some standout content marketing examples in both B2B and B2C, along with tips to replicate the same strategy in your own content.
While each project speaks to a different group, they all prove that no matter what’s going on in the world, brands can always succeed if they put people first and focus on value. If you’re gearing up for next year, we hope these 10 brands inspire you to push your creativity in new and exciting ways. Enjoy.
1) Asana Puts People First
Content: We Love Teams Campaign
Asana’s mission is to help humanity thrive by enabling the world’s teams to work together effortlessly. So when the CEO of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation told the Asana team that he could “genuinely say that there are more dolphins and whales alive today thanks to Asana,” the team was struck by the remarkable things people are able to do because of their product.
That gave them an idea: Why not shine a spotlight on the important work their users do? In this unique campaign, Asana photographed real teams (including 80+ people) in the style of Richard Avedon and shared their stories. Whether it’s the Food Assembly working to build a fairer food system, or the team at Glassdoor helping people find their dream jobs, each story showcases how the teams use Asana to work in a unique way.
Image source: Asana
Why we like it: This narrative perfectly connects the dots between how Asana helps these teams, and how these teams help the world—helping the brand achieve its mission one customer at a time.
How you can do it, too: Focusing on how your brand solves problems or improves lives is a great way to connect with people. Try these 15 ways to create empathetic marketing that proves you understand what people want and need.
2) Mailchimp Gives Entrepreneurs Makeovers
Content: Werrrk TV Series
Back before the pandemic took over the world and people could still occupy the same space, Mailchimp Presents (the brand’s in-house studio) debuted Werrrk. In this 12-episode reality series, three charismatic experts confront struggling small businesses and bring order to the chaos by overhauling their management style, bonding the team, and redesigning their workspace. It’s Queer Eye meets Bar Rescue.
Mailchimp Presents is all about creating original content that celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit, and this show itself is a perfect example of that. Not only is the brand creating new and interesting content, they are providing real value, as the viewers can apply the on-screen lessons to their real-life businesses.
Why we like it: Although they are using a tried-and-trued format, each episode is only around 10 minutes. This is perfect snackable content that blends education, entertainment, and inspiration, making it fun, interesting, and relevant for their audience.
How you can do it, too: We encourage every brand to try something outside their comfort zone. If you’re looking for inspiration, here are 5 different formats you might experiment with next year.
3) Salesforce Keeps It Simple
Content: 360 in :60 Videos
Good content marketing doesn’t always have to be showstopping, groundbreaking, or impeccably produced. While a TV show like Werrk is great, well-executed simple ideas can be effective too. That’s why we dig this series of testimonial videos.
To promote their Customer360 platform on Instagram, Salesforce invites customers to share how the product has helped them—in 60 seconds or less. Filmed from home, we see a range of people working across industries and sharing their success stories.
View this post on Instagram
Why we like it: It’s always smart to let other people talk about your product, but snackable content is especially great. For Salesforce, this short format cuts to the chase, communicates the brand’s benefits, and lets viewers get on with their day. This act alone shows the brand values their customers’ time and is only invested in helping them.
How you can do it, too: Microcontent like this is especially useful for social media. Download our free e-book How to Maximize Your Publishing with Microcontent to learn how to use it in your content strategy, and see our guide to create a divisible content strategy to find out how to turn larger pieces of content into shareable microcontent.
4) Adobe Opens a Creative Door
Content: Creativity for All Video
We may have forgotten The Oscars even happened this year, but we haven’t forgotten the Adobe commercial that debuted during it—a 60-second technicolor explosion that called for creativity for all. Using a collection of footage, live-action, motion graphics, special effects, and screen capture, the spot takes you on a kaleidoscopic tour of the movie magic that can happen using their tools. Not only is it a visually arresting masterpiece, it shows you that their entire creative suite, from Photshop to Premiere, is the costar to these creative moments.
Why we like it: Great content marketing inspires people to action, and Adobe nailed it in this spot. By focusing on creativity, imagination, and the beautiful art we all get to experience because of their tools, they are welcoming you to play and create your own beautiful world.
How you can do it, too: While this Adobe spot was created pre-COVID, the team could have still produced this spot while working remotely, as it was a beautiful montage of mixed footage. If you’ve been wanting to create more brand video, here are 6 types of videos you can produce remotely. You can also check out our free e-book The Content Marketer’s Guide to Brand Video for more ways to use brand video in your content strategy.
5) Mozilla Makes the Internet Safer for Women
Content: B!tch to Boss Tool
Mozilla is all about protecting your online life. However, the Internet is not particularly safe for women, who often experience gendered hate in the form of threats and name-calling. (Un-fun fact: According to the Women’s Media Center, feminine usernames can generate up to 25x the incidence of targeted, gendered abuse.)
Knowing this, Mozilla came up with a clever way to fight back. What if you could censor the haters, and turn their name-calling into a term of empowerment? Their B!tch to Boss plugin does just that by automatically changing terms like “bitch,” “slut,” and “nasty woman” to “boss.”
As the company says, “Will this solve harassment online? No. Will it make comments sections, unsolicited DMs, and angry replies just a little bit funnier? Hopefully.”
This type of creativity in the name of justice is brand content at its best.
Image source: Mozilla
Why we like it: This is a humorous way to provide some protection to their customers at a time when no other protections are in place. If their goal is to create a safer web for everyone, this is a thoughtful first step.
How you can do it, too: Whether they’re humorous or practical, interactive tools and experiences can be especially compelling. Learn about the keys to a great interactive, use these questions to brainstorm great interactive ideas, and get inspired by even more interactive examples.
6) Dropbox & Brand Partners Show How They Care
Content: Digital Care Packages
While every brand addressed COVID-19 in some way, most issued public statements about the steps they were taking to ensure their employee and customer safety. Dropbox chose to get a little more creative with their content.
To help their larger community stay connected and entertained during the early days of quarantine, the brand reached out to musicians, chefs, artists, interior designers, and other creatives to create 20+ free digital care packages that featured things like printable coloring books and guided meditations.
Image source: Dropbox
Why we like it: Since helping people share and access content is what they’re all about, Dropbox was able to fulfill their brand promise and support their community in a meaningful way.
How you can do it, too: Leading with your values is one of the best ways to show people who you are and what you care about. Use our Brand Heart Workbook to identify your purpose, vision, mission, and values, then look for ways to showcase them through your content. If you need some inspiration, here are 10 brands that do this well.
7) Quickbooks Takes the Lead Through Coronavirus
Content: Coronavirus Resource Center
In the wake of COVID-19, small business owners have been left scrambling to navigate their day-to-day business operations, government mandates, relief funds, and more. Quickbooks responded quickly, creating a comprehensive Coronavirus resource hub to help owners make sense of it all in one easy-to-access place.
Whether it’s guidance on reopening, transitioning to remote work, or understanding the CARES act, the brand uses their expertise to answer just about every question an owner might have—or easily connect them with a resource that can help them.
Image source: Quickbooks
Why we like it: Plenty of brands have produced Coronavirus-related content, but Quickbooks went above and beyond with an impressive variety of resources available in the form of articles, interactive tools, comprehensive guides, video townhalls with experts, free marketing materials, etc. This impressive effort positions the brand as a trusted resource that can knowledgeably guide customers through this unstable time.
How you can do it, too: You can never go wrong if you focus on what people need. Follow our top tips to create marketing that provides value, and ask these five questions to figure out if your content ideas will speak to your people.
8) AirBnB Takes a Stand
Content: Visualizing Our Unity Portrait Series
As racial injustice made headlines this year, many brands took a strong stance about their beliefs. Not only did Airbnb come out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement but they did so by turning their attention inward.
To promote peace through a visual demonstration of unity, Airbnb’s Black employee resource group partnered with allies in their Design and Art Departments to photograph more than 300 employees holding statements of support and inclusion. The powerful black-and-white images were then displayed in the company headquarters, creating a gallery meant to inspire conversations.
Image source: Airbnb
Why we like it: People want to support brands whose values align with theirs, but it isn’t just customers who care. Your employees (and future employees) care deeply about your beliefs—and whether or not you follow through on them behind closed doors. This public display was a powerful demonstration of commitment and a way to amplify Black voices within their own walls.
How you can do it, too: Peel back the curtain on your own brand to spotlight your people, beliefs, and more. For ways to bring your culture to life in your content, check out our culture marketing 101 guide.
9) Caveat Reminds Us What Really Matters
Content: Sh*tty Times PSA
When Coronavirus hit, brands scrambled to address it. The problem? They all created the same ad. Josh Greenberg and Evan Slater, founders of creative studio Caveat, noticed this instant trend and decided to parody it with a fake PSA that redirects the conversation in a clever way.
Once you cycle through the trope checklist—emotional piano music, stock footage, and platitudes—the video ends with a CTA to visit the aptly named site www. uselesscovidmicrosite.com. There, they suggest brands turn words into action by donating their media or production dollars to a small business or charity in need.
Why we like it: We love the attention to detail, especially the cheeky “making of” video that spoofs the struggle to get those somber piano notes just right.
But, ultimately, we appreciate the reminder of 1) what really matters in these sh*tty times, and 2) what happens when you get creatively complacent. Note taken.
How you can do it, too: Differentiate yourself from your competition by finding new and fresh stories. Start by looking for stories in your own company data, or use these prompts to come up with your next great content idea.
10) Chiquita Makes Bananas Anything But Boring
Chiquita Banana’s iconic blue sticker has become its most recognizable piece of branding, and the brand continues to use the real estate in unique, surprising, and engaging ways.
In 2020, they used scannable stickers to educate, entertain, and encourage people to get active in a variety of ways. They offered fitness routine stickers to get you “moving” at home during quarantine, created Spotify playlists (that conveniently paired with the fitness routines), and shared banana recipes that meet the American Cancer Society’s nutrition guidelines. These out-of-the box ideas prove the brand is a partner to help people live a healthier lifestyle.
Image source: Chiquita
Why we like it: We love to see creativity in content marketing, especially when it comes in unexpected ways. With these clever additions, Chiquita turns bananas into a unique content marketing distribution channel. That’s something we’ll go bananas for. (Sorry, we had to.)
How you can do it, too: When you can give people something they didn’t even know they needed, you can make a memorable impact. To get inside people’s minds and identify ways your content can help them, refresh your customer personas. This will make it easier to vet your ideas and ensure that everything you create is interesting and relevant.
How to Do Better Next Year
If these brands inspired you to create great content next year, set yourself up for success now.
- Spend leftover budget. Here are 10 smart ways to use it up.
- Get your house in order. Do these 10 things before next year.
- Work smarter. Check out the 5 lessons we learned in 2020 that you can use in 2021.
And if you’re looking to revamp your content strategy entirely, or need a little help executing the strategy you have, consider talking to some pros. Use our tips to find the right creative agency for you, or reach out to us. We’d love to help bring your vision to life.