Editor's Choice: The Best Branded Content of 2015

Jan 08, 2016

Article ImageContent marketing is every where. It's so ubiquitous it can be easy to turn a blind eye to. If your email inbox is anything like mine, you're constantly being bombarded with white papers, newsletters, and infographics. And that's not even taking into consideration your social media feeds. It's easy to start ignoring content marketing when it comes your way. But once in a while, an example of really great content marketing leaps out at you--often when you least expect it. Here are my favorites from 2015:

#3 The IKEA Catalog Meets a German Literary Critic

I love books, and I love the IKEA catalog. So when IKEA turned a German literary critic loose on its catalog, I thought it was pure genius! The critic is not impressed by the flimsy, idyllic characters in this widely read "book." But the video is hilarious anyway. The critic says: "Should one read this book? I am reminded of a quote by Goethe: 'What suits one may not suit all! Each should see what he should do. Each should see where he should go. And each who stands that he might not fall.'" Deep, man.

At the end, IKEA reminds veiwers that its new catalog is out which reminds us that this is essentially a commercial for a catalog--not even a commercial for the store itself. IKEA knows that people like me squeal with joy when they see that new catalog in the mailbox. (I will even admit to using post its to mark the pages I want to return to.) The catalog isn't just about featuring products. It's about sparking ideas in your consumers who may not need a new couch, but really love what they've done with the pillows in that one picture. But how do you create an ad for what is essentially an ad in its own right? Apparently all you need is a German literary critic, an IKEA chair, and a camera.  

#2 Your Farm

Your Farm

People love Farmville--the Facebook game where you can grow crops, and look after digital animal--but anyone who pays attention to where the vast majority of our food comes from knows that it isn't coming from small family farms where the pigs and chickens get to roam freely in the sun. (I'm not sure why, but a lot of branded content takes aim at the industrial food system--mostly thanks to Chipotle.) This year, though, Compassion in World Farming decided to give people a look into what agribusiness is actually doing to the food system with a game of its own. 

Frankly, the game is a little dark, urging players to cram more animals into cramped spaces and "drug 'em up!" It would be easy for anyone who stumbled across the game to walk away feeling guilty and helpless. But when you reach the bottom of the page (which is also the end of the simple game), you are urged to help fix the problem. The page says, "For every 2,000 new Farm Fixers, we'll release a toy animal from its cage and send it to a global influencer who can spread your message around the world." 

This game does something very wekk that many marketers still struggle with. It turns attention into action, and it does it all without long, wordy articles about the perils of factory-farming (that, let's face it, turn a lot of people off).

#1 Denali - A Tribute to Man's Best Friend

I've written about this video before--both in the pages of EContent and in my upcoming book Inside Content Marketing. But to be honest, I cannot get enough of it. I cry from start to finish every time I play it. Denali is basically a memorial for a beloved dog. It is sincere, visually stunning, and tugs at every heart string you have. (If it doesn't, I'm not sure we can be friends.) If you're not paying attention--or you turn the video off before the credits are over--you could easily overlook the fact that this video was sponsored by Patagonia--as well as Ruffwear, First Descent, Clif Bar, and Snow Peak.

If you watch the video closely you'll notice a Patagonia coat pop up here, and a Ruffwear harness show up there. But if you aren't looking with a content marketer's eye, you could just as easily miss those things.

There are a lot of things about Denali that don't quite check all the content marketing boxes. This video is, at best, about brand awareness--but even that is stretching it when you consider most viewers are crying too hard to notice that Patagonia jacket wrapped around the dog. There's virtually no way to connect this video to sales. But I can tell you this: I have returned to this video over and over again throughout the year. I'll probably watch it every time it pops up in my Facebook feed, or on my Twitter timeline for as long as I have an internet connection. Is anyone saying that about your content marketing?    

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)

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