Brand Innovators Content Marketing Summit | September 2015 Recap

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Last week, I had the opportunity to host a panel at the Brand Innovators Content Marketing Summit in Minneapolis, MN. Our panel focused on the role that brands play in content production and their new perspective as editors just as much as advertisers. The conversation was engaging, informative and eclectic with incredible insight coming from marketers in very diverse fields. This theme of first-hand knowledge from a wide array of brand marketers carried throughout the day with speakers and panels each giving their own perspective on the role of content marketing in today’s digital world.
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I won’t go into EVERY event on the agenda (you can see the full lineup here) but I do want to highlight some of the key takeaways that I gathered along the way.

Activating Your Audience To Become Content Producers

Jill Renslow, SVP of Business Development at Mall of America has a unique situation on her hands. People come from all over the world to visit the Mall of America every day. With roller coasters, top-tier restaurants, and more stores than you can shake a stick at, there are plenty of things to keep the attention of the consumers who walk through their doors. While she has some of the baseline challenges that many digital marketers have, she also has the unique opportunity to activate 10,000 visitors each day into content producers and photojournalists. Sharing their shopping experience was something that the consumers were already naturally inclined to do, but Jill found a way to reign in their energy and focus it towards a targeted goal with measurable results.
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Her team built an interactive and real-time program to help bring a little indoor snow to holiday shopping season. By giving shoppers a strong call to action, a goal to work towards and instant gratification, a #Twizzard was born. The more they tweeted, the more it snowed and the more interaction and branded content was developed for her team to capitalize on.

Don’t Just Try to Build Content for Content’s Sake.

It’s easy for marketers to try and push their message in a package that is heavily branded and hits very specific campaign points. Two speakers, Bob Thacker of and Amanda Brinkman of Deluxe, went for something larger. They wanted to find a way to bring their content and stories to the forefront, while carefully weaving their brand and brand messaging into the conversation.

Build a Sensation.

Bob Thacker is now working with, where he brings the stories of local teachers to the forefront to drive awareness for what budget cuts do to schools. In one of his many previous lives, he worked with Office Max. As he described it, Office Max never had the marketing budget of their competitors, so they had to tell compelling stories that their audiences wanted to share. They focused less on the nuts and bolts of what Office Max had to offer but aimed to build organic conversation and “viral” spread to make up the difference in media spend. Two shining examples of this approach were videos produced for their annual Penny Sale for school supplies and an all out digital blitz around the holidays (yes, for office supplies) that resulted in the Elf Yourself craze.
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By focusing on his audience and creating content that was shareable and fun, Bob’s teams were able to create some of the most successful¬†campaigns of early digital marketing.

Build a Movement.

Amanda Brinkman did something that blew my mind for the 100th Anniversary of Deluxe. She decided to create 100 stories about the small business owners across the country making a difference in their communities. Labeled as the Small Business Revolution, the content series featured short documentaries, photo essays and in-depth profiles of small business owners, many of them not even users of Deluxe and their services. The idea was to focus on the people who fall into their target demographic, tell the stories of how they are making waves and simply have the content be (in the world’s smallest brand tie-in) “championed” by Deluxe. Again, content and storytelling was the driver of amazing business results, not a hard sell marketing message. The results were astounding and the campaign is still gaining steam today.

As you can see, there was a wide array of speakers and topics during the day, but one theme rang true throughout – the world of content marketing is growing and evolving. Your brand messaging needs to aid in the storytelling, not hinder it or get in the way.

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