5 Key Elements That Make The Best Content Marketing

The Best Content Marketing of 2013 Selected By 19 Experts

Keep Calm and Read On - Best Content Marketing - Heidi_Cohen 2013 was a turning point for content marketing. Content went from being the hot new thing to a must-have marketing staple.

5 Key elements that make the best content marketing

Examination of the hands down best pieces of content marketing in 2013 reveals 5 key elements each piece of content needs.

  1. Talks to higher level goals. You need to think beyond the next sale and get your target audience to associate with your overall objectives.
  2. Embodies the brand. You need to consider how your content represents the various attributes of your 360° brand.
  3. Tells a story. People are programmed to listen to and remember stories. Leverage the power of stories by integrating them into your content to make it memorable. Incorporate traditional storylines so your audience can quickly understand your information.
  4. Provides useful information. Skip the promotion. Give your target market the information they’re seeking. Take it a step further and make it easy for them to consume and use.
  5. Entertains its audience. Face it—Who doesn’t want more fun in their lives. If your content can brighten your audience’s everyday routine, it will stand out and get shared. 

19 experts select the best content of 2013

Best Content Marketing of 2013 - Heidi Cohen Here is the hands down best content marketing of 2013 as selected by 19 content experts.

1. Lindsay BellArment Dietrich, Inc.

Canada’s WestJet airlines killed it with their “Christmas Miracle” video this past December. A perfectly timed experiential stunt – it asked Calgary, Alberta bound holiday travellers at two major airports – Toronto and Hamilton – what they wanted for Christmas. Little did they know, a few short hours later – upon arrival in Calgary – instead of their luggage on the carousel, they would find the exact presents they asked for earlier, wrapped and everything! Sure, there was the guy who asked for socks (maybe he *really* needed socks!) but the folks about to have a new baby actually got a gigantic flat screen TV!! Joy abounded (we all low how horrible travelling during the holidays is!), it warmed the cockles of my cold, black heart, and it went viral so fast Santa’s head spun. It nailed so many human touch points – it brought everyone together on common ground, it was huge on emotion, surprise and delight, and created a shared experience, most importantly, it changed what was usually a crappy, highly stressful ‘shared experience’ into something joyous and memorable.

2. Connie Benson - Dell

My favorite piece was an ebook titled, 2013 Social Media PredictionsI am partial because I created it with the help of the TopRank Marketing team. But it’s very important to me because it shows the value of co-created content! The TopRank and HubSpot blogs are my goto sources for high quality content.

3. David Berkowitz - MRY

Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches was brilliant on many levels. Most importantly, it shows consistency for the brand. Putting normal-sized women in its ads wasn’t some publicity stunt or campaign. It’s become the public focus of the brand. It set new standards for what the brand must live up to. There’s no way Dove can turn back from this anytime soon, even if some suits thought size 0 models could actually sell more soap after all. And it treats the real beauty endeavor like a saga, a gradually unfolding story that could theoretically last decades. This is so hard for brands to do well, especially when focusing on content meant to spread. Heck, on Twitter, one of Coke’s top marketers, Wendy Clark, even called Dove’s program a “movement.”

4. Lisa Buyer - Author of Social PR Secrets

I like editorially driven content marketing. So I give kudos to brands like Moz and HubSpot for producing and offering up incredibly useful content with a “no strings attached” feel. I also really like the AirBnB city guides; again this is extremely helpful to the community.

5. Ian Cleary - Razor Social

The best piece of content marketing was the Tullamore Dew video about their Irish Whiskey.  It’s a captivating story with beautiful music set in the old days and I have watched it many times.   It shows the power of a compelling story.

6. Heidi Cohen – Actionable Marketing Guide

My favorite piece of content from 2013 was a video made by a high school student named Zach Sobiech, with terminal cancer who knew that he was going to die. Upworthy gave this story wings to go viral with its title, This Amazing Kid Died. What He Left Behind Is Wondtacular.

By itself, I might have missed the moving experience that’s larger than Zach who with the support of his parents, siblings and friends has the power to face his mortality at age 17.

Zach’s video does what every great piece of art does; it moves us by telling a human story that touches the viewer.  Even better, Upworthy not only reached 15 million viewers, they raised $300,000 for cancer research, and Sobiech’s song went number one on the iTunes store.

The lesson for content marketers is to think beyond the core of your story because packaging in the form of the optimal headline and distribution matter.

7. Andy Crestodina - Orbit Media and author of Content Chemistry.

I thought this post was possibly the best: 18 Social Media Marketing Tips from the Pros. I don’t care how smart you are. You’ll learn something by reading this post. Also, it’s a clever example of marketing itself: the mega-roundup with screenshots and faces. Super sharable…

8. Sam DeckerMass Relevance

Monetate’s EQ (Ecommerce Quarterly) report. It gave the entire online retail industry a useful perspective on how consumers were shopping based on real data (not surveys). This created conversations among retailers, the data used to support strategic plans among online retailers, and mapped back to Monetate’s capability. It was useful content and strategic.

9. Pawan Deshpande - Curata

Red Bull does it all like a media company from ideation to creation to distribution.  Best of all their audience creates the content for them, they just layout the framework for it — yet reap all the branding benefits. 

10. Ric Dragon of Dragon Search and author of Social Marketology.

Felix Baumgartner’s Redbull Stratos jump happened in October 2012 – so we can’t count that! Looking back at 2013, there wasn’t anything to reach that level. Coca-Cola’s movie, produced by Ridley Scott, very well might have been a highlight of entertainment created by a brand, all supporting the iconic soda pop’s focus on happiness. 

11. Emeric ErnoultAgoraPulse

I’ve been very impressed by the content strategy of GrooveHQ . They provide a support ticket management system focused on startup and SaaS companies and they definitely are in a very crowded market place. Instead of blogging about support best practices and customer relationships, which is what you would expect from a company like them, they started blogging very transparently about their own journey as a startup. What they failed at, what they did well, how they fixed their main problems, etc. As their target audience is made of startup owners, no doubt that this content has been very appealing to them!

Key takeaway: Creating value for your audience through content sometimes means not talking about what you sell at all!

12. Ann Handley – Marketing Profs and author of Content Rules

Chipotle’s “Scarecrow” video was amazing.  It was a great piece of storytelling for Chipotle, but it was more specifically a great bit of content marketing for a mobile game Chipotle developed.

At the other end of the spectrum, I loved this from Congressional candidate Carl Sciortino: , because it upended what we think of as “political marketing.”

I also think Airbnb did some really innovative, interesting stuff in 2013, with its AirBnB and Hollywood & Vines .

13. Kristi HinesBlog Post Promotion

One of the best pieces of content marketing I have seen this year is Neil Patel’s Advanced Guide to Content Marketing. He doesn’t just tell you what you should be doing with content marketing, he demonstrates it with a free, visually impressive, informative guide that really should have a price tag attached to it.  If you really want to get your content marketing on track for 2014, this is a must read.

14. Kelly Hungerford – Paper.li

My favorite piece of content this year was Volvo’s Epic Split featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme. Why? Volvo was able to demonstrate the benefits of their performance steering in a most mind-blowing way: with Jean-Claude van Damme performing the splits between two eighteen wheelers as they rolled in reverse.

They mastered the art of storytelling with a few words of poetic prose and a jaw dropping performance between man and machines. I’m not in the market for an 18 wheeler (or a new car) but Volvo is forefront and center of my brand consideration list when I do go car shopping. Needless to mention the video prompted a JCVD classics revival over the holidays.

15. Nick Kellet - Listly

WestJet’s Christmas Miracle. They inserted themselves itself into timeline of life in a wonderful and surprising way. To-date, they received 31 million views at the time of this writing. They placed a wonderful hook in people’s brains. Now I see Santa and think West Jet. Who will I think of to fly to friends & family?

16. Rob Peterson  - BarnRaisers and contributor to Strategic Digital Marketing

Whole Foods’ company blog, “Whole Story,” It cover recipes, health news, social responsibility and sustainability. Contributors are staffers, health experts, suppliers, producers and employees. Great proof content marketing can build your brand while it showcases your passion.

17. Tonia RiesReal Time Report

The best piece of b2b content marketing I saw in 2013 has to be Traackr’s Engagers project. Each month, the company, which sells an influence marketing tool, interviewed an individual who was highly engaged in social media and influential on the topic of influence marketing, and then produced an article based on that interview, along with a fun photo to illustrate that Engager’s “superpower”. Of course the posts were widely shared and discussed, since the individuals they selected to interview were influential to begin with. At year’s end, Traackr’s marketing team produced a full magazine featuring all 16 of the interviews, along with a 2014 calendar featuring each of the “Engagers”.

It was a great example of content marketing that leverages the expertise–and influence–of experts in their field.

18. Dayna Rothman, Marketo and author of Lead Generation for Dummies (Release date: March 2014)

I’m going to go with Chipotle’s “The Scarecrow” again. I just thought it was unexpected and brilliant.

19. Jayme Soulati -Soulati Media, Inc 

Late in 2013, Jeremiah Owyang announced the launch of Crowd Companies, his new firm to lead early adopters toward the next big thing — to meet the crowd. I watched an online video with Jeremiah Owyang and Bryan Kramer of Pure Matter and promptly sent it to a wide berth of clients and peers while posting it multiple times.

This is by far the greatest bit of content marketing in 2013 since Mr. Owyang has been an influencer for years. He has the gifts and talent to lead great and competitive companies in collaboration to create innovatively merged businesses aligning directly and seamlessly with the customer and prospect.

He also has the foresight to recognize that purely boring social media (yawn, really) means nothing unless companies understand the behaviors that drive consumer communication and online activity. 

As these top pieces of 2013 content marketing reveal, it’s not necessarily a matter of creating one massive piece of content but rather providing value to your audience with useful and entertaining information void of promotion.

What did you think was the best piece of content marketing in 2013 and why?

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen


Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies. You can find Heidi on , Facebook and .

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Photo Credit: (c) 2013 Heidi Cohen 

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  • http://soulati.com/blog Soulati

    Heidi, what a fabulous collection of inspiration to start the year. These examples provide #RockHot insight for others seeking creative juice in content marketing to push the needle in 2014. Thanks for this and most especially, thanks for the invite to participate alongside this esteemed group. Best in the new year!!

  • http://www.bettergraph.com/ Anoop Srivastava

    Heidi, Best Content Collections. Thanks!!!

  • Shehzad

    I agree. We have to generate such content which are created for the audience not for marketing.

    Regards,
    Shehzad
    topserankings.com