The World Cup explodes into our lives every four years.
It provides not only a sizeable platform for brands to piggyback the euphoria with timely, relevant and engaging content, but also plenty of time to plan their attack.
Some will do it well, disseminating clever content to the right people, on the right channels, as the tournament progresses. Others will produce ad hoc messaging that, at best, fails to resonate and, at worst, makes them look downright stupid or out of touch.
The event shines the spotlight on a timely lesson: successful content marketing relies on planning. So what can B2B brands learn from the successes and failures of their B2C counterparts when it comes to formulating a plan? And what are the golden rules?
Only good planning will smash it - adidas knows
During the last World Cup, adidas created a multi-episode YouTube series called ‘The Dugout’, hosting Q&As and Google+ Hangouts with top footballers. The campaign used footage gathered before the event to edit and launch reaction videos in real time.
It smacked of careful planning based on exact personas, segmented audiences, proven channels, and the most effective formats. And it paid off too.
Its video for the World Cup Final garnered almost 19 million views.
adidas also used several hosts from KICKTV, one of the most popular soccer channels on YouTube, who brought millions of engaged YouTube fans with them. Together, they nearly tripled subscriptions on the adidas YouTube channel during the World Cup, with content earning over 1.5 billion impressions. It demonstrated the power of partnership.
Some kick it into row Z
It isn’t all wins and worldies. Brands that don’t plan ahead—or swerve away from their core values and messages—risk embarrassing themselves.
Take Dutch airline, KLM’s rash ‘Adios Amigos’ tweet after The Netherlands beat Mexico in the World Cup 2014. The airline was forced to issue an apology.
And look at Delta Airlines who, following a match between the United States and Ghana, posted celebratory images featuring a giraffe and the Statue of Liberty, before realising that Ghana doesn’t have giraffes. That too prompted a vocal backlash on social media.
Would planning have helped to avoid these damaging gaffes?
Most marketers are shocking at content planning
One of the major bugbears of the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) is that the majority of marketers don’t document their content plans in any way.
In its 2016 study, just 37% of B2B marketers had a written content marketing plan. As CMI founder, Joe Pulizzi says, this number is, quite simply, “woeful.”
As Pulizzi says, “When we advise enterprise clients, we find that those brands that write a plan, review it consistently with their team, and treat that plan as a living document, adapting it as they receive data, are by far the most successful.”
So how can B2B brands develop a content marketing plan that delivers results?
There are some golden rules:
1. Plan three months ahead
This will give you enough time to produce quality content that hits the spot, allowing you to prepare thoroughly for key dates or events ahead of time.
It also leaves you agile enough to stay in tune with your audience, adapting to trends and capitalising on opportunities at short notice.
For example, if your brand’s content is getting a leg up from a global event such as the football World Cup, your content strategy needs to stay relevant as the tournament progresses.
It isn’t, after all, unheard of, for heroes to become villains overnight (think Beckham in 1998), or for favourites to be knocked out in the group stages (think Germany in 2018, the World Cup holders sent packing by South Korea). Make sure your communications reflect the mood of the moment, but stay on brand and on message.
“Games are going to be close, goals are going to be scored, red cards are going to be issued. How do we react? What do we have to react with? The brands that are going to win on Twitter during the World Cup are the brands that are planning that out and strategising now.” - Alex Josephson, Head of Global Brand Strategy, Twitter
2. Learn from the past
Look at previous content and be clear about what has worked and what hasn’t.
Identify which topics, channels and formats sent your KPIs into orbit, and which ones fell flat on their face. Be brutally honest with yourself. You might have a soft spot for the 30 second video shot on location at your factory in Wigan, but if it didn’t work last time, lose it.
3. Be clear about your key themes
Establish your key themes based on your customers’ pain points.
Keep updating and checking in with your personas to see how their needs and behaviours are changing. Have new worries knocked old concerns off the top of the list? Has the economy, Brexit uncertainty or Man City winning the Premier League shifted attitudes?
Keyword research will also elevate your content here.
It will enable you to nail the words and phrases with sufficient search volume to drive traffic, presenting you with the best opportunity to get eyeballs.
4. Work your way up
Start from the bottom of the funnel—the action stage—and plan content outwards, towards the awareness stage. Decide exactly what you want your reader to download from your site to provide a solid starting point to inspire and spawn the rest of your content.
Your core topics and themes will fuel your heavyweight assets, such as ebooks, short films or white papers. But while these might prove to be the strikes that count, you’ll still need to provide some solid support play…
5. Fill in the gaps
Your major content pieces need to be complemented with more bite sized additions to tease, entice and cajole. These clever assists can take many forms, depending on where your audience spends time and how they like to consume content.
It could be an punchy blog post, an insightful infographic or an entertaining podcast. Just make sure it sustains the momentum, ultimately driving people to invest in the meatier content.
Ethical outdoor specialist, Patagonia is a winner in this sense.
The brand has a large and engaged social media following, boasting over 3.4 million followers on Instagram alone. It uses social media channels to drive people to its longer-form blog content, spreading the environmental message which is at its core.
6. Create an editorial calendar
Develop an editorial calendar to schedule when you will publish content and on which channels.
This could be as simple as a spreadsheet or as sophisticated as a content marketing platform. However you do it, its role is to help you to create seasonal and timely content as well as the evergreen ideas that live on. Every single piece must be tethered to your ultimate goal.
A calendar will make you think like a publisher, an integral part of good content marketing.
7. Think big
Don’t crash out early. Once you have put the time and effort into creating incisive, informative, original—hell, exciting—content, make it work. Find ways to reversion it for different channels or formats, or rework it to resonate with different audiences or industries.
Just look at Red Bull.
The often jaw dropping, white knuckle video footage on its Red Bull YouTube channel has attracted over 7.3 million subscribers. But it also repurposes clips for Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels, and its daily tweets invariably include videos or photos.
The devil’s in the detail
Of course, any content plan will echo your overall marketing strategy and support your wider content goals, delivering on those all-important KPIs. But the devil is in the detail.
So make like adidas and plan well ahead - it means you’ll be ready to convert that unexpected scissor kick too. Back of the net.