My boyfriend was flipping through the L.L. Bean catalog this weekend and he wondered out loud, "Who writes this stuff?" I answered, "Some marketer." He said that whoever it was, they obviously knew what they were doing. Then he read me this: "Inspired by our state's logging heritage and the brave men who spent long, damp days working on Maine's rivers." This was the copy for the two-layer river driver's shirts. Basically it just looks like a run-of-the-mill long-sleeve t-shirt.
"They're selling you so much in that sentence," he said. Bravery. Nostalgia for a largely bygone era in New England. And, apparently, a quick-dry material. (I should also point out that he works in human services and often refuses to click on paid search engine results because he "doesn't want them to think their advertising is working" - so he isn't exactly involved in the world of marketing in a meaningful way.) I'm pretty sure I have to buy him the shirt for Christmas.
This example, though, is just good marketing. It's not really content marketing. It wasn't until I was on the site, a couple of days later, checking out after I received 10% off my order, that I came across a handy little site widget that caught my attention. I'd just fed the site my payment information and address, and it was now thanking me for my order. And in the sidebar, it was also offering me a list of parks near my house where I could go be outdoorsy.
What makes this a good example of content marketing? L.L. Bean is serving this information up to existing customers. The company can be reasonably sure that anyone buying its wares enjoys the outdoors, so this information is useful and targeted. Furthermore, it may just lead to another purchase. If I saw a park on the list that made me think, "I should check that place out" I might then say, "But I need new hiking shoes..." And where would I buy those shoes? Probably L.L. Bean.
This little widget is useful to customers and has the potential to drive more sales -- but it is deceptively simple. Once you know where a customer lives, it's easy to feed them just this kind of information (and maybe information about the company's outdoor excursions happening in the area). It's simple, and most importantly, it's useful.