5 examples of amazing content marketing – and what makes them so great

Check out some of the best uses of content marketing out there, and steal their secrets for yourself!

There's no shortage of content marketing out on the wild web. Thousands of companies, NGOs, government bodies, political activists and even ordinary people are constantly pushing out content to the internet to capture the hearts and attention of an eager public – and the biggest search engines.

But with so much content out there it can be difficult to find the really good examples of content excellence nestled snugly inside the pile. Luckily, we're here to help you sift through the detritus to uncover those diamonds in the rough, and show you exactly what it is that makes them so exceptional. Here are five of the best uses of content marketing out there.

McDonald's Canada - “Our Food, Your Questions”

McDonald's is probably the world's biggest fast food brand, a testament to the strength of the franchising business model it pioneered. But being so ubiquitous comes with some downsides, and that includes a tendency to breed distrust. Plenty of accusations have been levelled at the golden arches over the years, many baseless.

Most companies would run as far away as they could from such controversy. But in a bold move McDonald's Canada and its agency Tribal DDB Toronto defied accepted wisdom and tackled the tough issues head-on. Their “Our Food, Your Questions” campaign encouraged Canadian customers to submit their own questions about McDonald's food quality and processes straight to the company. As long as they were legible and relevant they were answered, no matter how pointed or critical the query.

So far, over 10,000 questions have been answered – and they include plenty of hardballs. Here’s an example about one  rumour: McDonald's “100% beef” claim refers simply to the name of the company that supplies the meat. The writer “Elgin C.” from St. Thomas, Ontario asks: “Is it true that your meat is not 100% beef but that is the name of the company that packs the meat? In actual fact there are fillers in it.”

McDonald's answers: “Hi Elgin. We assure you that this is absolutely false. We do not buy our beef from a company called '100% Beef' or any variation of that name. Our beef supplier is Cargill. If you have never heard of Cargill, it's one of the biggest suppliers of beef in Canada. Despite what you may have heard or read on the internet, there are no fillers in our burger patties. They are made of 100% Canadian beef with just a pinch of seasoning. That's it.” The response is linked to a whole video debunking the theory. It’s an answer that's honest, comprehensive and personable, without a hint of corporate condescension.

Most companies wouldn't dream of even acknowledging such a damning claim unless they were legally compelled to, whether it was true or not. But by openly welcoming such a question, and even promoting it on its website, McDonald's has portrayed itself as open and trustworthy to customers who increasingly research claims on the internet, as well as gossip and swap rumours on social media.

The SEO benefits can't be underestimated either. With over ten thousand questions answered, there is a decent chance that when someone asks Google if what they heard about McDonald's burgers is true, the answer they'll be sent to will be McDonald's and not some rabble-rouser's.

Hootsuite – Game of Social Thrones

Content isn't just text. A video can be even more effective at getting your brand out there. And by hitching the power of video to a huge pop culture phenomenon you can reap huge dividends.

Social media management software producer Hootsuite latched onto the success of the HBO fantasy TV show Game of Thrones by producing a parody of the show's iconic opening title sequence. Instead of locations on the Westeros map it featured the logos of various social media brands.

The video wasn't just amusing and pitch perfect. It was released just before the start of a new season of the show, when interest and hype on the internet about GoT would be at its peak. As a result, the video has managed to rack up almost a million views. It also showed how much Hootsuite identified with its target users, many of whom would have been ardently following the travails of the houses Stark and Lannister.

Metro Trains Melbourne – Dumb Ways To Die

When administers of Melbourne's train system wanted to promote safety on its stations and lines they accidentally stumbled upon a goldmine. By uploading an irreverent and catchy animated song to YouTube, Metro hoped to spread their safety message to the people of Melbourne. They succeeded far more than they expected – ending up with over 121 million views.

By presenting safety information in an informal and humorous way, especially compared to the imperious and sometimes terrifying safety videos of the past, Metro managed to communicate its message and capture the hearts of millions in one fell swoop.

Microsoft – Stories

Microsoft has been striding across the technology world for over forty years. Its head was the world’s richest man until he chose to begin donating his fortune to charity. The company continues to dominate the PC OS market, as they have for decades.

To put it mildly, Microsoft has a reputation for being monolithic. A gigantic corporation that makes products you probably use, but rarely identify with. It's a problem they've had for a long time. However, their most recent attempt at addressing it might do more to counter it than previous tries.

The tech giant has launched a section on its website simply called “Stories”. It hosts long-form articles about Microsoft's products and personnel presented in approachable, sympathetic and sometimes even touching terms. They can focus on any area of Microsoft's business, and often eschew technical details in favour of the human story behind cutting-edge developments.

These pieces aren't cheap clickbait intended to lure the unwary into an array of ads and click-thru picture galleries. They’re high-value propositions: professionally written narratives with by-lines, showcased in the same formats and graphical styles as prestige journalism elsewhere on the web. Lovingly crafted odes to the passion and dedication that Microsoft's best employees put into their work.

By presenting such high quality content to potential consumers, Microsoft can help counter its reputation for loftiness and present itself as a company full of real, sympathetic people.

Disney – Disney Blogs

The Walt Disney Company barely needs an introduction. A fixture in the cultural firmament of the entire globe for the best part of a century, its output is beloved by millions – probably billions. Suffice to say, Disney is already pretty adept at building a brand.

But what's new about Disney's approach to getting their messages across is their cultivation of consumers who go beyond loving Disney's products – they love Disney itself. The internet is now full of fans – often older than the company's traditional child targets, though possibly not by much – obsessed by the minutia of Disney branding, and living a “Disney life”.

One way Disney is catering to – and creating – these fans is through blogs. “Oh My Disney” is a Buzzfeed-inspired clickbait content mill with categories like “AWWW”, “OH, SNAP!” and “YUM”. “Disney Insider” is aimed at a slightly older market and emphasises testimonials from fans. “Disney Style” is a fashion blog that promotes Disney-branded apparel.

These blogs aren't about attracting new people to Disney. Is there anyone left who hasn't heard of it? They're about converting people who enjoy a few movies into people who plan their whole lives around Blu-ray releases and Disneyland holidays. It shows that with just a little care and attention you can create customers for life, who will enthusiastically communicate your messages to everyone they know.

You've seen some of the best content on the web. Now find out how to evaluate your own content strategy.