If you’ve ever taken a course on creative writing or participated in a critique group, I’m sure you’re familiar with the phrase “murder your darlings.” If you aren’t, to murder your darlings means to kill the parts of your story that, though beautifully written and well-received, might not be helping your story achieve its goals.
The concept of murdering your darlings is also applicable to the world of content marketing. While it’s important to implement content types that have worked for your company in the past, it’s just as crucial to budget time and money for an innovation strategy that’ll help you find new ways to reach your audience.
We’ve all been there, clinging to content we love even if it isn’t necessarily the best choice. And while murder is a strong word, perhaps it’s time to put aside some of the traditional content types you’ve come to use over and over again.
As a writer, I know how easy it is to get your wheels stuck in the well-worn tracks of comfortable content. PDFs, static infographics, and blog posts are reliable. Likely, they’ve been your content foundation for years. But it’s time to look toward the future of content marketing and plan a killer innovation strategy that gives you the opportunity to explore what kinds of new content types work—and don’t work—for your company.
If you want to tap into a new audience base and create more meaningful engagement, it’s time to start experimenting with some new storytelling methods. Below are a few innovation strategies other companies have used to garner major attention by shaking up their content.
What innovative content types have you found successful for your marketing program? Be sure to share them below!
Marriott Content Studio
In the fall of 2014, Marriott launched Marriott Content Studio. Looking to ramp up their content marketing efforts, Marriott quickly grew their studio by partnering with British filmmaker Louis Cole, collaborating with Medium on travel lifestyle brand Gone, and publishing their own travel magazine Traveler.
Not only have they placed a tremendous amount of value on producing useful and interesting articles through their own publishing platform, they’ve also experimented with new ways of delivering content. Marriott Content Studio’s short film, French Kiss, brought the hotel chain major success. The film follows a successful business traveler who’s too caught up in his work to enjoy Paris. He soon meets a woman who opens his eyes to the city’s magic. Since its release in May, French Kiss has garnered over six million views on YouTube—and perhaps more importantly, netted $500,000 in revenue from room bookings.
Marriott’s hard work at positioning their brand as a juggernaut in travel journalism is paying off. By extending their reach beyond the realm of hospitality, they’ve developed a new following while empowering their current audience. They stick to what they know, travel, but hone in on the journey and experience rather than trying to sell hotel rooms. By developing Marriott Content Studio to ensure all content is engaging and on brand, Marriott’s making a statement about how important well-rounded and innovative content is to a company’s success.
What We Learned
A year after opening, Marriott Content Studio continues to produce high-quality content. Marriott’s devotion to telling stories above selling hotel rooms makes them an innovator in the field. They aren’t shy about this fact, either. Their vice president of global creative, David Beebe, has even stated, “we’re a media company now.” By embracing a “publishing first” mentality and taking advantage of film as a means of engaging with its audience, Marriott continues to grow as a trusted source in the travel news world.
GE Podcast Theater
With mobile leading the way in content delivery and Serial becoming an overnight phenomenon, it’s no surprise podcasts are coming back in a big way. GE has always been at the forefront of innovative content. In the 1950s, they sponsored a popular radio and television anthology series called General Electric Theater. Seeing an opportunity to bring valuable and entertaining audio content to a new generation, GE launched GE Podcast Theater.
GE Podcast Theater’s first foray into podcasting was The Message, a serialized, fictional sci-fi story co-produced with podcast network Panoply. The Message explores reports and interviews with scientists who are trying to decode an unsettling alien message. It debuted in the top ten most downloaded podcasts on iTunes and reached number one with its final episode of the season. Its reach extended far beyond the realm of podcasting, too. Listeners took to The Message the same way they did Serial, generating social engagement around the podcast on channels like Reddit and Facebook.
Something unique you’ll also notice about The Message, however, is that it runs advertisement free—GE never tries to shoehorn a sale into the show. Instead of focusing on branding, The Message emphasizes capturing an audience’s attention by providing valuable entertainment with a popular content type.
What We Learned
GE took a chance by innovating on the content they produced in the 1950s. Rather than sticking to television or radio, they saw potential in podcasting and chose to take a risk on a new content type. In addition to reaching number one on iTunes, The Message drove over 1.2 million downloads throughout its eight week run. A testament to the power of exciting content and fan-driven engagement, The Message earned GE a massive listener base, as well as attention from entertainment blogs.
Hiscox’s Web Comedy Series
Over the past few years, video has become one of the most valuable content types in the marketing world. Experts believe that by 2018, video will comprise 79% of consumer internet traffic. With audiences hungry to make genuine connections online, some companies have decided to take a more innovative approach with video marketing, opting for entertaining video content over standard preroll video ads.
Like Marriott, Hiscox, a small business insurance provider, decided to take advantage of video with their web series Leap Year. Co-produced with CJP Digital Media and Happy Little Guillotine Films, the series follows a group of fictional young entrepreneurs dealing with the ups and downs of starting a business. Its first season premiered in 2011, aligning with Hiscox’s launch in the United States. Hiscox saw quick results: 3.7 million people watched the first ten episodes and the series won a Digital Luminary Award from NATPE.
Beyond generating a massive audience, Leap Year also helped Hiscox establish a presence in the United States. According to Hunter Hoffmann, Head of US Communications for Hiscox, their US market awareness rose from 0 to 10% in less than a year. Their social media following grew 1300% and mentions on social media for Hiscox rose 2300%.
What We Learned
Hiscox only invested 3% of their 2011 marketing budget into producing Leap Year. They ensured innovation was part of their content strategy and, in doing so, reaped major benefits. Leap Year proves that well-made, entertaining content can create a foundation of awareness for your company and build a loyal following around your brand.
The Bottom Line
A quick view of recent stats shows audiences crave content that’s more immersive than the typical blog post, so it’s no surprise that the innovation strategies of big brands like Marriott, GE, and Hiscox are investing in video, audio, and non-branded publishing outlets.
Traditional content types are losing traction as audiences continue to favor immersive and compelling stories. It’s time to make room for inspiring content in your strategy. Make 2016 the year you kill some of your favorite content marketing methods by taking risks with new, exciting ways to reach your audience.