Hot take: The peak, ridiculously sexy and over-budgeted category in advertising is fragrance — in a close heat with luxury automotive, travel, cosmetics and spirits. My basis for ranking fragrance at the pinnacle is twofold: This Twitter account and the Brad Pitt for Chanel No 5 campaign. One is parody; one is not. Can you immediately tell which is which?
That was a fun little bird walk, but here’s my point: The brand storytelling that pays the bills for 99% of professionals does not have any use for Brad Pitt performing spoken word in a moody noir setting. The industries that provide stable income to the rest of us may have big budgets, but they do not have sexy products — nor any real interest in presenting their products as sexy.
They know they need content marketing in order to reach the customers who are definitely out there. Those customers are probably not having a good time shopping for a product or service. They’re confused, anxious, overwhelmed and suspicious. Companies understand that brand awareness and trust are key in winning over those needy, untrusting, unfamiliar strangers. And they expect creative agencies to create content that wins them over. Oftentimes that is all the creative direction that they have.
If you’re a creative, marketing a so-called boring product or service shouldn’t scare you at all. One only needs to look at the last 10 years of reality TV — from ‘Parking Wars’ to ‘Dr. Pimple Popper’ to ‘Boss Nails’ — to know that with the right storytelling, any business or backdrop can make for riveting material. Or at least, it can keep people’s attention for a couple minutes.
Industries where being creative with content is tough, with examples of companies that are doing it right
Here are a few un-creative categories where the right creative prompts can help you put together an interesting, comprehensive content plan. We’re also sharing details on businesses that are nailing it.
The general public has fear and uncertainty around dentistry, and therefore, most of dental marketing falls into two buckets: that which addresses fears and attempts to put people at ease; and that which preys on fear to create urgency. Although the latter may be effective, I prefer the former. (A lot of Instagram accounts prefer the latter, which makes browsing for content on that platform a grotesque adventure… if you like that sort of thing.)
- Informational content is king for this category. People have burning questions, and whoever answers to their satisfaction will win their business. Popular topics include pain and anxiety management, oral hygiene, and pricing information for certain high-ticket procedures like dental implants.
- Just one bucket over and quite similar, trivia or curiosity content works well. This doesn’t address urgent issues, but more of the cocktail chatter of the dental world: foods to keep your teeth healthy, natural whiteners, the best angles to brush.
- Inspirational: People always respond to pictures of beautiful smiles, whether they’re before-and-after shots or inspirational graphics on a smiley background. Instagram takes this to extremes, with a lot of closeup before-and-afters on braces, and bikini shots threatening to take over the Invisalign hashtag.
- Blogs provide dentists an opportunity to position themselves as real health experts above and beyond the daily functions that most people see them performing at the office. Prominent private practice dentists in the blog space generally use their blog to address evergreen questions and issues. There’s no need to try to newsjack when people’s million-dollar questions remain the same for years, and a dearth of reliable information is out there.
Who’s doing it right?
Ask Dr. Spindell is one of the most successful and helpful of dentristy bloggers.
Dentistry marketing on Facebook has its own guru, Dr. Anissa Holmes. Although she has practiced more than 15 years, Dr. Holmes became so successful in her Facebook and online marketing that she now is more of a coach and marketing consultant specifically for dental practices.
A shiny new home is a beautiful, easy thing to showcase, but the suppliers and tradespeople who are responsible for the home’s individual components have a much tougher marketing challenge (walk the aisles of the industry’s biggest trade show, and you’ll know why). And now that building trades have decided they “need to be on social,” you can always spot the business that hasn’t yet brought in a social content strategist. It will be the tile company that has an entire feed full of close-up pictures of the ground. Or the stamped cement company that also has a feed full of closeups of the ground.
There’s a better way to do this, and that goes for companies specializing in cement, slab granite, faucets, even toilets. Did I say “even toilets?” Especially toilets!
- People who love interior design have an unending hunger for images of beautiful spaces. Show the product in the context of a finished space. If you want, you can do a before-after series, but I would advise steering clear of early-stage projects in progress. Most people can’t appreciate their potential.
- If you want to focus on a product and its features, the copy can get into detail but the image still doesn’t have to. People are definitely interested in eco-friendly alternative building materials, for example, but you can tell a quick story of how “Hemp-crete” is made/sourced without zooming in on a block of the material.
- Whether it’s a quick maintenance tip or a seasonal checklist, people appreciate and trust home advice from the trades as much as they would trust it from a shelter publication — and probably more. Everyone knows who actually does the labor. The complication is that people also fear hiring a dishonest contractor, so avoid the hard sell (e.g., “GET YOUR HURRICANE WINDOWS NOW!”) and go for the informational approach instead (“Are your windows up to hurricane-resistant county standards? Here are the regulations in the counties we serve.”)
- Another popular bucket for content in the building industry is showcasing companies’ impact marketing or cause marketing efforts. While some creatives worry that this type of content might come off as self-promoting or disingenuous, it’s actually interesting when done right, because human interest stories of toilets being built in African villages or medical missions to Central America spark an entirely different kind of interest than product-centric posts. It tells the story of a company’s values.
Who’s doing it right?
Moen got my attention on Twitter yesterday with a promoted tweet + bubbly GIF advertising the search for a water director. After clicking through and spending a good 5 minutes on the site, I don’t know what the water director’s qualifications should be, but I do know that Moen is a faucet manufacturer. This was a Twitter win.
American Standard has been churning out inspired content marketing across Facebook, Instagram and YouTube for years — oftentimes with the agency support of O’Reilly DePalma from our Building the Story profile. You would think YouTube would be the trickiest platform for toilet content, but the brand has actually produced fun and informative video content, including man-on-the-street “Ask a Plumber” series.
When it comes to images of its products, American Standard really understands the value of showing its products in a finished setting. They occasionally release product shots of a toilet isolated in white space, but mostly their images are of finished interiors.
This category is complicated, because it’s related to real estate but it’s not closely related enough to rely on shelter porn. It’s closer to personal finance or tax law in the sorts of information people are typically searching that leads them to a mortgage broker. It’s a very high-ticket item, where traditional marketing (i.e., direct mail) is still relied upon, but where digital disruption might soon put traditional players out of business. This leads mortgage brokers to a sort of herky-jerky approach to content marketing, where they’ll pay for the bones of a website or social channels and then not know how to move forward. Here are ideas to get them into the SEO-building zone:
- Actionable info on the qualification/lending process. Along with income, credit score is the main thing that determines how much a person can spend on a home. And credit scores are a confounding mystery. Therefore, any useful information whatsoever — from “apps that will allow you to preview your credit” to “easy ways to improve your credit” to “how does a lender use credit score to pre-qualify me? ” — is going to get traffic.
- Local Information. Even if they end up going with a national company, most people will search for a mortgage lender in their area — or the Google engine will drive them to a local site, if it provides useful local content: the average cost per square foot by neighborhood; safest neighborhoods; average condo association fees; down payment requirements; and approval processes.
- Success stories are the most important type of content to create — real, satisfied customers who are willing to share their story and a photo of them in front of their new home.
Who’s doing it right?
The most successful mortgage bloggers are not typically out there brokering mortgages, because their content is valuable enough to monetize. But definitely look to Rob Chrisman and Colin Robertson’s blogs for a wellspring of inspiration, ideas, and topics you can make your own with a local, personal/anecdotal or current twist.
This is an interesting category, because to anyone who’s familiar with publishing or TV programming, automotive rebuild-and-repair content obviously has a huge and engaged fan base. But the path to local celebrity is not at all clear to the average suburban auto-shop owner with no instinct for marketing or storytelling. And truly, repairing the brakes on a 10-year-old Honda is not the same thing as customizing a vintage Mustang. But there are ways to find the interesting kernels within the average auto shop, whether it’s a gleaming new part or a tutorial or a “winterize your car before roadtripping to a ski mountain” checklist.
- Successful auto-shop blogs and vlogs are generous with basic information, especially tutorials on easy maintenance and upkeep. Changing fluids, checking oil, when do tires need air, etc. The lead-in from content to the CTA is natural, because it’s always “If you don’t feel comfortable doing this work yourself, give us a call.”
- The complementary category is repairs or situations that may call for bringing your car in: seasonal checklists, understanding dashboard lights, whether or not to panic about a leak. This is definitely a category where people want expert advice on what to do and not to do. Most want to DIY only the basic tasks , and be advised: “Ok, this is where you bring your vehicle to me before things get very greasy/overheated/dangerous.”
- Testimonials from happy customers are a tried-and-true method of generating content, with pictures to accompany. This is easy as long as your client has happy customers and is ok with allowing access to them.
- Detail, details. The Instagram fave! It was not easy for auto-detailing shops to sell themselves through web content marketing, but Instagram has provided a platform for detailing obsessives to gather and share photos with a frequency and specificity that baffles the rest of us. A search through popular detailing hashtags (#detailingdoneright #detailinglife #detailersofinstagram) shows closeups on shiny tires, lights, foaming surface wash, key fobs, and undercarriage before-and-afters.
- Not only is this great for community-building, it’s quite helpful to inspire a purchase decision in a formerly lukewarm customer. All those shiny closeups and excited captions can really tip the balance in your favor.
Who’s doing It right?
In the OTT parallel universe of Instagram, @troysowers of @detail.lab turns detailing into an aspirational lifestyle where detailers are also racecar drivers and Insta-celebrities.