Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate! Even if this U.S. holiday isn’t really your thing, it’s a great time to think about all we have to be thankful for.
Despite all the compounded challenges of the past 18 months, brands have risen to the occasion, innovating their approaches to forge stronger audience connections.
In the spirit of this day of gratitude, we’ve gathered 13 stand-out examples with some appetizing tidbits from this year’s Content Marketing Awards and other content highlights that speak to the holiday’s themes – travel, friends and family, food, and giving to those in need. We hope they’ll inspire you to keep striving to do and be better – for your business, your customers, and the world.
Traveling over the river (and in the air)
Now that people are more confident about resuming face-to-face family visits, travel brands increasingly use content to reassure customers that safety is their top priority.
1. Lonely Planet
One example comes from Lonely Planet, a brand practically synonymous with essential guidance and satisfying travel experiences. The company partnered with medical information business Healthline on a website for anxious consumers to find the latest news about Covid-19 travel conditions and restrictions, advice on the safest destinations and activities, and tips to help them manage health issues that may arise on their journeys.
Appetizing tidbit: When previously routine experiences can bring unexpected challenges, your audience will appreciate timely guidance and assistance your content can provide to lessen their stress.
But even before travel brands resumed operations, they explored alternate ways to help audiences overcome their location limitations. Many delivered stimulating stay-at-home travel experiences. For example, Australian airline Qantas launched Travel Insider, a content hub with guided virtual tours of popular museums, zoos, and art galleries around the world, as well as one-of-a-kind attractions like Uluru or the Sydney Opera House.
Appetizing tidbit: Efforts like this prove there’s more than one way to deliver a desirable experience. Think about what your offerings represent emotionally and explore new approaches that might provide a similar sense of satisfaction.
3. Scott’s Cheap Flights
Budget travel deal site Scott’s Cheap Flights expanded its digital content offerings to inspire travel buffs to keep dreaming about – and start planning for – their next voyages. Yet, in addition to creating a new series of aspirational guides and a data-backed State of Cheap Flights report, the company refocused its existing travel deal newsletters to address more immediate travel concerns. The company’s founder has dedicated his weekly podium to topics like refunds on canceled bookings, predictions for travel resumption to dream destinations, and the impact of ongoing price fluctuations.
@scottsflights CEO transformed his weekly travel column to talk practical (refunds on canceled bookings) and inspirational (predictions for travel resumption to dream destinations), says @Joderama via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet
Appetizing tidbit: Providing content-based tools that empower your audience to make more informed decisions is always a winning approach for building brand loyalty. In this case, it also earned Scott’s Cheap Flights a win for Best eNewsletter at the 2021 Content Marketing Awards (CMA).
4. Virginia Tourism Corp.
Similarly, the Virginia Tourism Corp. shifted its content strategy from attracting out-of-state visitors to supporting the state’s small businesses hit hard by the lack of consumer foot traffic. The resulting Virginia Is for Lovers: Discover Your WanderLove campaign earned Best Content Marketing Program in the CMA travel category. In text and video storytelling, it highlighted lower-risk local travel experiences – short regional road trips, scenic drives, outdoor recreation activities – on its website and social media platforms.
Appetizing tidbit: Service-centric industries don’t succeed without strong partnerships. Supporting the businesses that support yours strengthens every link in the supply chain.
Spending quality time with loved ones
Thanksgiving is meant to be a time for reconnecting with the people we care about most. This year, that could mean another day around the folks you’ve been sheltering at home with 24/7, but many of us hope to reunite with far-away friends and family members.
5. Aller Media
For starters, there’s mom. Mothers are often the hardest working members of the family on this day (and every day, I might argue) and don’t always get the full credit they deserve. With a goal of providing moms in Sweden a community where they would feel seen and recognized, Aller Media produced Motherhood – a multiplatform effort filled with relatable experiences and touching personal stories of support. Taken together, the content carries the brand’s central message that motherhood is, “a sisterhood far detached from picking on each other, mom-shaming, and beautification filters.”
Appetizing tidbit: If you want your content to speak with authenticity and authority, it never hurts to tap knowledgeable insiders to serve as the voice behind it.
Speaking of sisterhood, for its CMA winning entry for Best Digital Publication, AARP placed its focus on female family ties from a different vantage: Sisters From AARP focuses on supporting the relationships Black women cultivate with their friends.
The free, weekly newsletter curates stories that reflect their real-life experiences, provide a sense of belonging and contentment, and celebrate the strength of their communal bonds. Each issue features articles that span style, health, money, relationships, and more. AARP also launched a series of online events tied to exclusive newsletter interviews, focused on discussions around gratitude, faith, and achieving personal fulfillment.
Appetizing tidbit: Though AARP has millions of members, the brand recognizes that doesn’t mean they all experience life in the same way. Breaking your content offerings into niche areas of interest can help your audience feel more seen – and feel a more personal connection to your business.
7. Humane Society of the United States
Lest we forget, there are our furry and feathered friends and family members. Pets play a special role in the lives of their owners. With rising interest in plant-based diets for environmental, personal health, and ethical benefits, it’s no surprise to find animal welfare at the heart of some popular and emotionally powerful content marketing.
For example, there’s the CMA-winning issue of All Animals, the flagship magazine of the Humane Society of the United States. This publication informs readers about the organization’s work and empowers them to join its cause. The Humane Society balances powerful imagery, practical tips, and the latest animal welfare news with in-depth coverage of hard-hitting issues and lighter fare. One feel-good effort was its Quarantine Buddies spread, which profiled reader submissions about how their companion animals helped them cope during the pandemic.
Appetizing tidbit: Consumers can have many reasons to support your brand’s cause. Rather than assuming those reasons, give them a way to express them in their own words.
Reaching consumers hearts through their stomachs
With people stuck online and at home, togetherness and levity were sometimes hard to come by. To help rekindle those feelings of comfort and connection, many people turned to the joys of cooking and eating together as a family.
8. Hormel Foods
The team at Hormel Foods set out to bring the comforting warmth of humor, community, and hope back to the table with the Hormel Film Festival: a series of stories about inspiring people with a uniquely personal connection to the company’s iconic brands.
A first-of-its-kind event, the team painstakingly captured the excitement of an in-person film festival. Digital tickets were emailed to invitees and shared on social media; movie posters were available for viewers to download and print; and a livestreaming Q&A was held with the films’ directors, casts, and crews. Importantly, all promotional messaging around the event focused on the heartfelt stories rather than the brand’s role in those stories.
Appetizing tidbit: You don’t need to program an entire film festival around the role your brand plays in the lives of your customers, but if they’re willing to share their stories with you, it’s worth recognizing and celebrating them in your content.
In a recent Hot Takes post, the CMI team shared another tasty example from Food52, a brand that has built a cooking community around its recipes and kitchenware. For the 11th consecutive year, the brand is running a community gift swap, in which members exchange edible gifts (including homemade items) as a way to extend their online connections into the real world. As part of the swap, participants are also encouraged to donate at least $10 to Feeding America, so others can enjoy the warmth of a good meal and being part of a caring community.
Appetizing tidbit: Not only does this effort provide a way for the brand’s community members to connect with each other IRL, it empowers that community to contribute to the greater good.
When it comes to food-centric content, it’s worth noting that consumers are increasingly interested in how the ingredients in their meals are being sourced. This ethical consideration is one of the reasons Epicurious announced this year its site would no longer feature new recipes that use beef.
Appetizing tidbit: As Gina Balarin discussed in her post on content marketing ethics, Epicurious says it based this decision on its team’s values and what they see as the best interests of society at large. Though arguments can be made for and against the merits of this move, taking a stand on something your brand believes in is a smart.
Realizing that more holidays are on the way
Of course, who can think of U.S. Thanksgiving without thinking about Black Friday, reminding us – if retail brands have anything to say about it – it’s holiday shopping season.
As one of the biggest retailers on the planet, Amazon pulls out all the stops to make it easier for shoppers to find the perfect gift for everyone on their holiday list. The brand’s annual holiday catalog is a shining, interactive testament to that, and this year’s print publication doesn’t disappoint as a marketing vehicle or a fun, engaging piece of content.
In addition to featuring games, stickers, and puzzles that entice kids to read the catalog cover to cover, parents can scan QR codes, cutting down on their search time to find the product page for each item that made their children’s list. But Amazon also fills the time with family-friendly features like Fox’s Jolly Adventure. Scanning that QR code brings the catalog’s woodland map to life through augmented reality overlays, so kids can play with some lively forest creatures that appear to be right in the room with them.
@Amazon’s catalog uses QR codes for parents to easily find the products on wish lists and for kids to consume family friend content like Fox’s Jolly Adventure, says @Joderama via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet
Appetizing tidbit: It’s hard to catch consumers’ eyes and capture their interest during the frenzied holiday shopping season. But immersive and sticky content that delivers surprise and delight can certainly help.
Giving back to others
Of all the traditions and trappings of this holiday, perhaps the most important is related to a purpose-driven message: Show gratitude by sharing our good fortunes with those in need. (I mean, it’s not called “Thanks-taking,” now, is it?)
Consumers, particularly those from younger generations, increasingly prefer to do business with brands that make it their mission to give back, and these shoppers expect those businesses to clearly communicate how they contribute to the greater good.
Brands like Bombas skillfully rise to this occasion in multiple respects. For starters, for every purchase made, the company donates a reciprocal comfort item, such as its socks, a T-shirt, and underwear, to a person affected by homelessness. But Bombas also enables its fans to make their own contributions. For example, this recent Instagram post offers simple activism tips, suggestions, and ideas, and reinforces them with emotionally resonant images that focus on people, not their products.
Appetizing tidbit: People who want to help others don’t always know where to start. This effort lowers the barrier to personal involvement, helping the audience turn their good intentions into active participation.
13. Bank of America
Another example in this vein comes from Bank of America. It’s community-focused content marketing program, Local Impact, demonstrates how private-sector organizations drive positive societal changes and improve lives in local communities economically disadvantaged due to systemic racism and other factors.
The initiative resulted in more than 75 videos, articles, slideshows, and infographics on four key topics: (1) food insecurity, (2) access to medical supplies and health services, (3) social vulnerabilities; and (4) racial equality and economic opportunity. The content highlights Bank of America’s support of its community members and the critical local institutions they rely on, such as hospitals, schools, and grocery stores.
Appetizing tidbit: Using your content to start meaningful conversations on issues like food insecurity, racial injustice, or financial instability is the right thing to do. But providing clarity on how your business is actively working to solve them is the smartest way to do it.
Fill your plate, but don’t forget to fuel your intentions
From the CMI team to yours, we hope you find time to take a break this holiday season to be reenergized and ready to create amazing content that enables your businesses to do and be better for your customers tomorrow.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute