Two Surprising Ways Google Creates Great Content

Two Surprising Ways Google Creates Great Content

Branding

One of the essential attributes of successful content marketing is usefulness. Great content marketers create a win-win for themselves and their audience by sharing branded content that educates and sometimes entertains. Recently, we blogged about how one business, the NFL, provides useful content by acting as a news service about football. Now let’s take a look at two lesser-known ways one of the world’s most valuable brands, Google, makes itself useful.

For context: as we’ve stated before, a business practices content marketing by publishing useful information that supports its own brand. The definition breaks down this way:

  • Content marketing builds the credibility of a brand (hence the “marketing” part of content marketing) . . .
  • . . . by sharing useful information (content), such as how-to tips, news, commentary, and visual stories.

Through content marketing, brands act as publishers, sharing news, editorial commentary, and other forms of insight you typically associate with a third-party information source. Content marketing is not “look at me” advertising or PR. Both those forms of marketing are valuable and have their place, but they are not content marketing.

Google has a vested interest in giving people reasons to stay on Google. More eyeballs on Google means more businesses will pay Google to help them reach those eyeballs through advertising. Google does its own share of advertising to promote its brand. But the most powerful way Google maintains an audience is by offering free tools that will compel people to keep using Google to manage their lives.

I’m not talking about well-known utilities such as Google Analytics to measure how people interact with your own digital properties such as your website or Google Docs and Google Drive to collaborate on document creation, editing, and storing. I mean some of the ways Google helps you learn about the world around you, such as:

  • Think with Google. The Think with Google site is mandatory for anyone who wants free insights into marketing, technology, and consumer behavior. Think with Google offers downloadable white papers and short-form commentary on topics such as the impact of artificial intelligence on marketing and the influence of mobile devices on the customer experience journey. Think with Google elevates Google to the role of thought leader, publishing data-rich information that pushes forward our understanding of marketing. Of course, you’ll have to look elsewhere for insights critical of Google and for non-Google perspectives. Even still, Google is such a large, influential brand that even Google-centric points of view have gravitas.
  • Google Arts & Culture is a site dedicated to enriching our understanding of art. Here is an experience devoted to pure learning and personal growth. Whereas Think with Google educates you, Google Arts & Culture engages you on topics such as a visual celebration of the Lunar New Year. The site features an ongoing set of topics on rotation. One of its current featured sections, Latino Arts & Culture, provides an immersive look at the contributions of Latino artists in the United States. A featured artist section gives you a chance to take a deep dive into the works of famous names such as Vincent van Gogh. Through Google Street View, you can explore cultural landmarks around the world such as Machu Piccu.

Google offers several other resources for learning and self-development. The above two might be lesser known to you.

Google’s motives are not entirely altruistic. The more Google influences our thinking and worldview, the more Google becomes an essential part of our lives. I get it. But what Google does it does very, very well. By providing useful content that educates and enriches our lives, Google masters the art of content marketing. Contact KeywordFirst for help with your content marketing needs.

How the NFL.com Handles a Controversial Issue: the NFL

How the NFL.com Handles a Controversial Issue: the NFL

Branding

How do you report on a controversy that strikes your own organization?

In recent days, the NFL has found itself at the eye of a storm with the #TakeaKnee player protests erupting in stadiums across the country. But on its NFL.com website, the league has not shied away from reporting on the sensitive issue, with stories reporting the protests and player reactions. The NFL’s reaction to #TakeaKnee is an interesting example of how a business uses the discipline of content marketing to address a controversy too big to ignore.

What Exactly Is Content Marketing?

A business practices content marketing by publishing useful information that supports its own brand. The definition breaks down this way:

  • Content marketing builds the credibility of a brand (hence the “marketing” part of content marketing) . . .
  • . . . by sharing useful information (content), such as how-to tips, news, commentary, and visual stories.

Through content marketing, brands act as publishers, sharing news, editorial commentary, and other forms of insight you typically associate with a third-party information source. Content marketing is not “look at me” advertising or PR. Both those forms of marketing are valuable and have their place, but they are not content marketing.

When KeywordFirst publishes blogs commenting on digital marketing, we practice content marketing because we are building our brand by publishing information we believe to be useful to our clients. When we issue a press release announcing a new hire or a client win, we are not practicing content marketing but rather PR, which is why we post press releases elsewhere.

Controversy Hits the NFL

When the #TakeaKnee protests escalated rapidly over the weekend of September 22-24, the league was faced with a challenge: how to deal with the issue. The news section of NFL.com was the natural place to report on the topic. Like other brands serious about content marketing, the NFL acts as a news publisher on its own website. NFL writers cover football topics just like newspaper sports writers do. For instance, in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey ravaging Texas, Houston Texans Quarterback JJ. Watt discussed his commitment to helping Houston recover from the storm – and the NFL was there to report his comments.

The NFL is a news-reporting machine, as it must be to cover a league with 32 teams. News coverages ranges from scores to injuries to topical events such as the example with J.J. Watt. The league also covers college football, wisely understanding that devout NFL fans likely care about college football, the source of most NFL talent.

The NFL has been known to cover news that casts the league in a less-than-flattering light, such as the Miami Dolphins’ suspension of linebacker Lawrence Timmons. But the #TakeaKnee protests have been something different: an issue that thrusts the NFL into the center of a political and social maelstrom, resulting in calls of boycotts and support at the same time.

The league’s handling of the issue on its website has been measured:

  • The league reported a perspective from Commissioner Roger Goodell.
  • The NFL also let pictures do the talking via a photo essay of various team protests and shows of unity.

On the other hand, the NFL complemented the #TakeaKnee coverage with many other articles discussing league news, including, of course, the most obvious: game results. For the period September 24-28, most of the news coverage centered on developments affecting on-the-field play, such as the struggles of the Baltimore Ravens offense.

By balancing coverage of the controversy with news about the game itself, the NFL showed that the contests between the teams do not exist in a vacuum while keeping the focus of its coverage on the reason why people watch football in the first place: to find which team will win or lose. To be sure, you can find more complete, hard-hitting perspectives on the #TakeaKnee controversy elsewhere, including criticisms of owners’ participation. That said, the website’s news section passes the test for being useful – one of the principles of content marketing – while also supporting the NFL by being credible.  Contact KeywordFirst to learn how to build your brand with content marketing. We’re here to help.

Image source: NFL.com

Apple Event Underscores Popularity of Emoji

Apple Event Underscores Popularity of Emoji

Branding

One of the more interesting announcements from Apple’s September 12 special event was the unveiling of the animoji. The animoji is a new type of emoji in which your facial expressions animate an emoji. The iPhone X, when available in November, will track your facial expressions and make your favorite emoji, whether unicorns or aliens, become even more dynamic through your personality.

According to Apple Vice President of Software Craig Federighi, who demonstrated animoji onstage, animoji will make it possible for you to record an audio message, resulting in your animoji becoming synced with sound. He said that with animoji, users can “breathe our own personality” into your favorite emoji, which evoked reactions such as “fun and maybe a little creepy” from Anthony Ha at TechCrunch.

My take: the unveiling of animoji is another sign of how emoji have rapidly taken hold as a legitimate way for people and businesses to communicate. Consider these usage statistics, aggregated by DMR:

  • Nearly eight out of ten women online consider themselves frequent emoji users, and 60 percent of men online do as well.
  • About half of Instagram comments contain emoji.
  • Nearly six out of 10 of the top 500 brands have tweeted an emoji.

The popularity of emoji has certainly increased since the data was reported in 2015. In fact, according to a report published by platform provider Emogi, in 2016 people sent to each other 2.3 trillion mobile messages that incorporate emoji.

Brands have taken notice and are incorporating emoji into their digital marketing. For example, Toyota recently launched an ad campaign that incorporates users’ tweeted emoji into short-form video content. General Electric famously created an #EmojiScience campaign consisting of a website, emojiscience.com, which contains emoji as a periodic table of the elements. By clicking on each emoji, site visitors learn more about science, a topic that is at the core of the GE brand.

Meanwhile, Emogi is among the companies developing tools to help businesses incorporate emoji into their branding. For instance, Emogi introduced a way for businesses to embed branded emoji into text messages, which is important because texting is a huge vehicle for emoji sharing.

Our advice to you is to first know how emoji-centric your audience is. Use tools such as social monitoring to understand how your audience uses emoji, when, and why. Then start experimenting with emoji. Test ads and organic content with and without emoji and determine which are most effective. But don’t ignore emoji. As the Apple special event demonstrated, emoji are not going away. They’re becoming more and more sophisticated and common. Contact KeywordFirst to understand how to incorporate content such as emoji into your marketing. 😀

Lead image source: REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Three Recreational Brands That Rock Visual Storytelling

Three Recreational Brands That Rock Visual Storytelling

Branding

Recreational brands such as Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, and REI sell more than fishing tackle and hiking boots. They sell lifestyles. When you visit a Bass Pro Shop, for instance, you become immersed in an experience that celebrates the joys of fishing, hunting, and camping, which is evident from the woodsy decor, wildlife displays, and workshops and demos. These brands also celebrate outdoor living through visual storytelling. The following examples demonstrate how they do it — and build brand love at the same time:

Cabela’s

When you visit any retailer website, you expect to find a lot of product images and specs on display. Cabela’s delivers on the table stakes but also uses visuals selectively to remind you that Cabela’s products are meant to be used outdoors, as this image of two campers rushing to a tent demonstrates:

There is more than meets the eye in the above image. The two women in the image are obviously excited to be camping as they rush to a tent with their rolled up sleeping bags. But you don’t see their faces. And Cabela’s branding is subtle — you have to look closely for the Cabela’s logo. Cabela’s demonstrates trust in its audience. Cabela’s doesn’t want to distract us with a predictable image of two smiling models. Instead, Cabela’s evokes curiosity and mystery. Where are the two women? How do they know each other? What’s next for their camping trip? Cabela’s trusts us to figure out our own answers. Also, Cabela’s knows it does not need to hit us over the head with branding. The above photo is used on the Cabela’s website; thus, Cabela’s knows it already has our attention. Cabela’s does an excellent job creating mystique with a single image.

Bass Pro Shops

As noted, Bass Pro Shops (which recently agreed to buy Cabela’s) are noted for using the power of visual storytelling to create immersive offline worlds. As these images from different Bass Pro Shops illustrate, Bass Pro Shops really creates Outdoor Worlds, not just stores:

In addition, Bass Pro Shops encourage engagement with frequent product demonstrations and seminars on topics related to fishing and hunting. Clearly, Bass Pro Shops are places to hang out, which is a smart strategy. Creating a welcoming environment for people who hunt and fish encourages them to engage with your products. You might come into a Bass Pro Shop to buy some tackle — and after you get immersed for awhile, you’ll probably walk out with a new rod and reel. And creating the right environment visually is key.

REI

Just about all the major outdoor retailers support their social spaces well with effective visuals. But REI gets a shout-out for really rocking its Facebook page. Like many retailers, the company relies on Facebook to announce product deals. But REI also lets pictures do the talking, as this dramatic Facebook banner photo shows:

REI also gets its Facebook visitors involved in visual storytelling. The company recently invited the REI Facebook community to share a photo of someone in their lives who introduced them to the great outdoors, resulting in charming submissions like this one:

Note also the story that the user submitted with the photo — makes you wonder about that old blue REI ice ax that once saved someone’s life.

REI does not foist its products upon you with these images. Rather, REI celebrates outdoor life through the people who use its products.

What You Can Learn

These outdoor retailers clearly know how to play to the emotional value of lifestyle branding. When you sell a lifestyle, you appeal to human desire. We might want to buy a new pair of hiking boots, a kayak or a tent, but we really desire time away. Time away to explore a new trail, river or just camp in the woods. These brands create desire in their own ways — Cabela’s through the power of mystique and suggestion, Bass Pro Shops by creating immersive worlds, and REI by giving you a slice of life outdoors while online.

Incorporating visual storytelling into your branding and media efforts is paramount. Driving traffic to an experience that isn’t everything it can be is just that . . . driving traffic. Make sure you connect emotionally and get the most out of every interaction you have with your customer or prospect.

How do you apply visual storytelling? What lessons have you learned?