Tag Archives: Content Marketing

My Place or Yours? How Brands Hook Up with Content Creators

When Drake unveiled his photoshopped album cover for Views in late April, it was not only a brilliant viral marketing ploy to encourage fan-created parodies, it was also intended as a heartfelt tribute to the city of Toronto. But the image of the ‘6 God’ sitting atop the CN Tower is also an unquestionable nod to the subculture of “rooftopping” that has recently emerged among daring young photographers in major cities around the world.

Frank & Oak, a brand that targets young urban creatives (are we calling them “yuccies” yet?), had the ingenuity to tap into this trend for their latest campaign. To promote its new Frank & Oak SC collection of premium utility gear, the Montreal clothier teamed up with Toronto photographerJamal Burger (@jayscale) for a killer content collaboration.

The brand & content creator pairing also yielded a web takeover on the Frank & Oak site, and several posts that reached the photographer’s 176k+ Instagram followers. As told by Frank & Oak co-founder and CEO Ethan Song in an interview with Marketing, “It’s the first time we’ve gone that deep into storytelling.”


With collaborations like this, brands are able to associate themselves with influencers that already hold a strong cachet with their target audiences. They are also able to align their brand values with lifestyle attributes and ideologies on a higher level, such as Burger’s quintessential Millennial mantra of incorporating “personality into what you’re doing on a daily basis.” The cherry on top, of course, is for brand messages to benefit from extended organic reach through influencer channels.

Regardless of whether it’s paid or earned, influencer marketing continues to gain mindshare – and share of budget – with savvy brands. According to a poll by Tomoson, influencer marketing was rated as the fastest-growing online customer acquisition channel, with 59% of marketers planning to increase their influencer marketing budgets over the next year.

However, it’s definitely no slam dunk. Without the right approach, influencer campaigns can come across as contrived and can damage both the credibility of brands and the influencers that partner with them. Here are 3 key lessons to keep in mind to maximize success with influencer marketing.

1. Authentic Fit

Finding a natural fit between brand and influencer is key, otherwise followers will see right through the collaboration. It’s not in the best interest of either side for content creators to be perceived as paid shills – just like any endorsement, it should be believable that the endorsee is genuinely excited about the featured product.


Fashion & beauty Instagram star Krystin Lee was a natural fit for TRESemmé to help promote its new Beauty-Full Volume collection, teaming up with the brand for a sponsored post about haircare tips on her blog. It’s an intuitive fit, both for the beauty products category and with TRESemmé’s accessibly-premium positioning.

2. Engaging Content

Online influencers are all internet-famous for their own unique reasons, and many of them have hustled to improve and showcase their talents while building a community of engaged followers. They are able to maintain and grow their respective communities by consistently posting the types of quality content that initially drew in their core audiences.

For this reason, it’s a big mistake for a brand to come in with its chequebook expecting to control the message on an influencer’s channel with an iron fist. Branded content, while respecting the brand’s guardrails and positioning, should be respectfully developed as a collaboration and directly from the voice of the content creator.


Chicago photographer Paul Octavious was able to tie a personal story into Capital One’s #walletstories campaign concept, which itself centres on individual stories as a spin on their “What’s In Your Wallet?” slogan. It’s storytelling that fits the brand message, but it’s still a story told through the influencer’s eyes and in his words.

3. Channel Relevance

Finding an authentic fit and the right concept for some engaging content is a great start, but the practice of actually hooking up with influencers can be a complicated challenge – especially if it’s a brand’s first time. Yikes!

Thankfully, the folks at Kissmetrics put together The Definitive Guide to Influencer Targeting, which is a helpful resource to start with. It defines the right influencers as having context, reach, and actionability to help drive a brand’s objectives. The guide also recommends giving the influencer an image before reaching out, as a specific genre or personality may work best for a specific brand.

It’s also important for marketers to choose a social media channel that aligns with their brand objectives. While Instagram might work best for some premium brands, perhaps a channel like Snapchat might be more effective for brands going for a fun, youthful approach.

That’s exactly how the Paramount Pictures approached their famous teaser stunt for “Zoolander 2”. Vine’s biggest star, Jerome Jarre, was conveniently on hand at Paris Fashion Week in 2015 for Ben Stiller (as Derek Zoolander) to “steal” his phone for a Blue Steel selfie.

Also worth noting is that some advertiser categories have proven to be more successful than others with influencer campaigns. A 2015 study from RhythmOne indicates that Alcoholic Beverages, Travel & Tourism, and CPG Food outperform the $11.20 in earned media value (from $1.00 invested) averaged across all industries.

Not that it can’t be done with some creativity, but influencer campaigns in Electronics, Telecommunications, and Baby Care don’t have a strong track record. It’s not surprising – just try to think about an influencer campaign for wireless plans without cringing.

If there’s one thing we can be sure of, it’s that influencer campaigns will continue to gain prominence within the marketing mix. So whether it’s on YouTube or Snapchat and whether it’s being posted by brands or content creators (or both!), the love affair is growing stronger and stronger every day. Don’t you get that feeling?

What’s the best influencer campaign that comes to mind for you? Or, even better, what’s the worst brand + influencer hookup you’ve seen?


WestJet Takes Flight Before Christmas

After last year’s masterpiece of viral content marketing for the Christmas holidays, the question on everyone’s mind was “how can WestJet top themselves for 2014″? The wait is now over.

WestJet, with agency partners Studio M, managed to pull off a miracle (in advertising standards) by repeating the theme from last year while adding a new twist to keep it original. The tactic? A departure from Canada and some generosity to a third world community in need.

Employees (“WestJetters”) jet-set off to Nuevo Renacer, Dominican Republic with charitable attitudes and what appears to be a lot of energy for doing good. Re-creating the magic from Christmas Miracle 2013 with a videoconferencing call from Santa, many of the community members share their wishes – only this time, the requests are much less materialistic. Kids ask for skateboards and dolls, while adults wish for utilitarian gifts like a washing machine and a new horse.

Watch the video below and see the rest for yourself:

The short film is true to the brand essence as an unpretentious airline that cares, and their “Why We Did It” video reveals that their employees had been volunteering to help the community since 2012. There is no coupon or mention of a seat sale at the end, as this execution feels genuine throughout its five minute duration. However, the pivotal roles of the jet, branded sleigh, employees, and blue-suited Santa Claus give this an undisputedly WestJet feel.

A spectacular display of marketing coming together with CSR, this year’s WestJet Christmas Miracle is a lesson to other brands that ’tis better to give than to receive. Create compelling content that people will love, and the resulting goodwill is far greater than any short term sales success.

Marketing Players of the Week – NBA Tip-Off Edition

Tipping off this past Tuesday, the 2014-15 NBA season represents a year of many compelling storylines. Rookie phenoms Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker kick off their pro careers amidst massive expectations. Anthony Davis (and his trademark unibrow) looks to break out and become a household name, while Derrick Rose returns from injury to bring the Bulls back to title contention. And a player by the name of LeBron James returns to his quiet home of Cleveland, Ohio.


Since day one when he signed an endorsement deal with Nike for $90 million while still in high school, LeBron James has been a perfect fit for the Beaverton-based sportswear giant. According to Forbes, LeBron’s brand is worth $10 million more than last year and he has replaced Tiger Woods as the most valuable sports brand in the world.

Brand partners including Sprite, Beats by Dre, and McDonald’s have already celebrated his return to Cleveland, but it’s Nike that most effectively brings this to life in their advertising.

In a masterful short film by Nike’s longtime agency Wieden+Kennedy, LeBron gives a goosebump-inducing speech in the pregrame huddle, joined by not only the Cavaliers players and staff but what seems like the entire city of Cleveland.

His words are expertly crafted in the fashion of classic locker room speeches by sports leaders. The black and white effect paired with the ominous score contribute to the drama. Hoards of Cleveland faithful bow their heads in reverence, almost religiously. It’s perfect.

Accompanying this spot was a gameday launch of his LeBron 12 signature shoe, and the installation of a 10-story banner, with “Cleveland” replacing his name on the jersey to symbolize James putting the city on his back.

Remember the aftermath of The Decision in 2010 when fans burned his jersey and parodied his Nike ad? It seems like a distant memory now, as scars have healed over time while LeBron (and his PR team) have made all the right moves in process of his return to Cleveland.

Yes, ‘LeBrand’ is alive and stronger than ever in 2014. And his corporate partners – Nike especially – will gladly benefit from their associations with King James.

Los Angeles Clippers

New management, new era. The upstart LA Clippers, longtime basement-dwellers of the NBA, were finally able to split ties with disgraced former owner Donald Sterling when Microsoft billionaire Steve Ballmer took over the team for a record $2 billion.

As any brand would be wise to do, the Clippers have made moves to distance themselves from any associations with their past owner’s baggage (Lululemon, take note). Ballmer attending a Dodgers game with Clippers coach Doc Rivers and Magic Johnson (who was disparaged by Sterling) was a fantastic way to extend the olive branch and signify a new beginning. Now, the NBA club seeks to reinforce to fans that the Clippers are entering a more positive era.

The ‘Be Relentless’ spot by RPA avoids any mention of the controversy or ownership change, but hints at the changes with overt imagery of Ballmer and references to a “beginning” in the script. Most of all, it is successful because it focuses on the basketball court, which is all that Clippers fans will care about assuming the team continues to emerge as a leader in the NBA’s Western Conference.

Sport Chek

Embracing the Toronto Raptors’ successful ‘We The North’ campaign, Sport Chek looks to make itself the retail destination for basketball fans across Canada.

Canadian Tire Corporation has made a big bet on Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment brands with a recent sponsorship deal, and Sport Chek is even selling an exclusive Raptors clothing collection by Adidas this year. Tapping Sid Lee to re-create the magic of ‘We The North’, Sport Chek is releasing several videos for a #MyNorth series.

Starting with a heartfelt tribute to Toronto basketball legend Phil Dixon, the videos take on a grassroots approach and will feature amateur ballers from nine communities in the GTA, according to Russ Martin at Marketing Mag. It’s a strong content play, and complements the Raptors’ own 2014-15 campaign quite well.

Sport Chek took it a step further by involving Raptors forward Patrick Patterson as an ‘Undercover Pro’ working at a Sport Chek store. It’s a cute stunt, but lacks the polish and emotional resonance of the Sid Lee videos.

While it’s important to draw a connection to the stores, this video does little to sell fans on the merits of their basketball section, nor does it take advantage of their impressive in-store digital technology.

In fact, the ‘Undercover Pro’ concept itself is derivative of a much funnier video that involved Landry Fields as “employee of the month” at Modell’s. Given that Fields now plays for the Raptors it seems baffling that Sport Chek would recycle this concept with another Raptors bench player. Thankfully, this stunt is just a backup to the much larger role played by the ‘#MyNorth’ videos, which should suffice just fine in their starting role for Sport Chek.


What’s your opinion on LeBron James since his return to Cleveland? Do you have a favourite NBA tip-off campaign that deserves mention? Share your thoughts in the comments!

The 5 Best Marketing Blogs on the Internet

The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls.  The Great Lakes. The Jackson 5. The Marx Brothers.  The power of a great starting five is undeniable – which is why I am prescribing five marketing blogs for your reading pleasure.

Without further adieu (and in no particular order), here are the top 5 marketing blogs on the Internet:

Marketers T-Shirt


Mitch Joel – Six Pixels of Separation

Creds: President, Twist Image. Author, Six Pixels of Separation and Ctrl Alt Delete.

Style: A digital visionary and world-famous “media hacker”.

Frequency: Daily posts.

Handle: @mitchjoel

Seth Godin – Seth’s Blog

Creds: Founder, Squidoo.com. Author of 12 bestselling books, including TribesAll Marketers Are LiarsPurple CowPermission Marketing, and The Icarus Deception.

Style: Your favourite marketer’s favourite marketer, Godin’s writing is concise yet profoundly thought-provoking.

Frequency: Daily posts.

Handle: @ThisIsSethsBlog

Jay Baer – Convince and Convert

Creds: Founder of convinceandconvert.com, host of Social Pros podcast,  and author of Youtility. Named the #1 Content Marketing Blog in the World by Content Marketing Institute.

Style: Detailed posts with examples and suggested resources for best-in-class content marketing.

Frequency: Baer posts every business day with his new Jay Today vlog, and posts appear daily on Convince and Convert either by Jay or a team member.

Handle: @jaybaer

Scott Stratten – UnMarketing

Creds: President, UnMarketing. Author, UnMarketing, The Book of Business Awesome/UnAwesomeQR Codes Kill Kittens, and UnSelling.

Style: An expert in social media, customer service, and influencer relations; Stratten approaches his writing with a brutally honest, uncensored tone.

Frequency: By far the least frequent blogger on this list, blog posts happen every few months, but his UnPodcast with Alison Kramer is published weekly.

Handle: @unmarketing

Danny Brown – Danny Brown Blog

Creds: Manager, Social Engagement and Insights at Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG). Author of The Parables of Business and co-author of Influence Marketing. Ranked by HubSpot as the #1 marketing blog in the world.

Style: Incredibly thorough posts with actionable lessons for marketers, especially for social media.

Frequency: Several posts per week.

Handle: @DannyBrown


Whether you plan to subscribe to RSS feeds for these marketing leaders or start by following them on Twitter, you can do far worse than learning from 5 of the very best marketing writers on this planet.

Who’s in your starting five of marketing bloggers? Leave your dream team lineup in the comments.

Marketing Players of the Week – March Madness Edition

It’s nearly the end of March, which means for basketball fans such as myself that March Madness is just heating up! Representing $1.15 billion in ad revenue last year, this is an opportunity many advertisers salivate over, with loyal viewers repeatedly viewing many hours of coverage throughout the tournament.

Capital One

Speaking of loyalty, it seems as though credit card brands would be a perfect fit to sponsor events of this nature…

Arguably the most prominent brand during March Madness has been Capital One; a lead sponsor of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The basketball-themed spots feature former-players-turned-analysts Charles Barkley and Greg Anthony, some hit-or-miss humour, and the familiar “What’s In Your Wallet?” tagline. The brand is supplementing their TV ads with Q&As from analyst Seth Davis, a Twitter contest with user-submitted “Fanimal” pictures, and a Capital One JamFest concert with Bruce Springsteen on April 6th at the height of the Madness.

While the creative isn’t especially inspired and these initiatives all have very loose sponsorship ties to their product, the approach seems to be working. According to a survey by Turnkey Sports & Entertainment, 37% of respondents were able to identify Capital One as the official credit card of the NCAA.

Here’s one of the spots featuring Sir Charles Barkley himself:


For a company that just filed for bankruptcy protection in the US, Quiznos is doubling down on content marketing with their Toasty.TV YouTube channel. Their latest video parodies two of today’s most popular (and critically acclaimed) TV shows, with a mashup of Game of Thrones and House of Cards aptly named “House of Thrones”.

This video succeeds in delivering humorous video content with depth, capturing character and storyline quirks that only fans of the shows can truly appreciate. As noted in an article by Rebecca Cullers from Adweek, the content delivers entertainment value for their target market by drafting off the pop culture they love.

A talented Kevin Spacey impersonator certainly helps their cause, but will this video influence viewers to choose Quiznos for lunch? Personally, I like the subtle mention of Quiznos at the end, but I’m still skeptical that this was the best use of their limited funds.

Any other favourite campaigns you’ve been seeing lately? Share them in the comments!

Content Rules Everything Around Me (C.R.E.A.M.)

With all due respect to Wu-Tang Clan (R.I.P. Ol’ Dirty), Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman make a compelling argument for the merit of strong content for effective marketing. Word is bond.

In their entry within The New Rules of Social Media book series, Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) that Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business, Handley and Chapman lay the ground rules for using these aforementioned online tools to find marketing success.

Although it was admittedly required reading for my section of the Foundations of Digital Communications Strategy and Social Media course at University of Toronto, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and feel that any marketer can learn a lot from it to become a better content creator. You can check out more testimonials at contentrulesbook.com, find it at your local bookstore, or wait for Amazon to send the drones if you’re really lazy.

Here are the top 5 lessons I took away from Content Rules:

1. Speak Human

Photo by jamesks / CC BY
Photo by jamesks / CC BY

The authors implore brands to develop a clear voice, as it often has more of an impact than the logos, style guides, and graphics that companies invest so much in developing. Instead of corporate “marketing speak”, content creators should write the way they talk by adopting a conversational, friendly tone that fits their brand.

Photo by PinkMoose / CCBY
Photo by PinkMoose / CC BY

2. Share or Solve, Don’t Shill

This oft-repeated mantra seems to be the cardinal rule of the Inbound Marketing philosophy, but many brands continue to overstep their boundaries and come off too “salesy”. It’s simple – create remarkable content by listening to and understanding your audience’s needs, and you’ll begin to be viewed as an expert. They might not buy from you immediately if you pitch a sale, but if you were perceived as helpful you’ll likely be sought out when they’re in a buying mindset.

3. Create Wings and Roots

Photo by minkymonkeymoo / CC BY
Photo by minkymonkeymoo / CC BY

Great content should be grounded in your brand’s voice and feel authentic, and it should also have characteristics that make it easy to spread. Ensure that your content is findable on search engines, accessible with responsive design, and shareable with social media – then it has a chance to live forever on the Internet.

Photo by Wild Guru Larry / CC BY
Photo by Wild Guru Larry / CC BY

4. Stoke the Campfire

The authors enlighten us not only how to build a real campfire (wilderness tips!) but also extend a believable metaphor on how to build and maintain a following online. Marketers should seek to add kindling (small, sharable content) along with sticks and logs (substantial pieces) – once the fire starts, the idea is that a community will gather around it.

5. Reimagine; Don’t Recycle

Photo by clurr / CC BY
Photo by clurr / CC BY

Much of the reason why marketers fear investing in content creation is because it seems like a daunting process – after all, there are a plethora of channels we seem expected to publish content on. Handley and Chapman suggest that it can be easier, as larger ideas can be broken down into smaller “chunks” of content to be shared. While I found the idea of Russell Sparkman’s “1-7-30-4-2-1” publishing schedule rather intimidating, it functions as a foolproof model to ensure regular content that essentially feeds itself.

Calling all #digitaledu folks – or other readers of Content Rules – was there anything specific that you took away from the book?

Works Cited:

Handley, Ann, and C.C. Chapman. Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) that Engage Customers and Ignite Your BusinessHoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2012. Print.