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Willy Wonka content marketing

10 amazing content marketing examples

What does Willy Wonka have to do with content marketing? Or James Brown? Or Clive Owen? Here are 10 examples of genius content marketing that harnessed everything from star power to guerrilla tactics.

Scott Bampton 4 months ago

Did you know one of the most widely-loved films of the 1970s was actually an early example of a content marketing stunt? Or that Canon so excelled at organic content marketing that even their competitors unwittingly asked to get involved with their campaign?

The art to effective content marketing is, of course, to promote your product or service in such a natural way that the person seeing it isn’t even aware it’s marketing at all. The key is, as always, to put the customer (or potential customer) first. To offer enough value that it doesn’t feel like being marketed to. That means enticing with content, not pushing content down throats.

Here are 10 of the best examples of how different brands managed to nail this fine art – some from way, way earlier than you might think…

BMW “The Hire”

  • Year campaign started: 2001
  • Media/channels: Cinema, online streaming
  • Overview: In 2001, BMW faced a challenging advertising landscape. Traditional methods were losing effectiveness, and luxury car manufacturers competed fiercely for consumer attention. To address this, BMW embarked on an innovative approach with “The Hire” film series. In a landscape dominated by standard commercials, BMW’s decision to create high-production short films was groundbreaking. This choice allowed them to tap into the rising popularity of online streaming and leverage cinema to captivate audiences in a way that traditional ads couldn’t. By featuring Clive Owen as a mysterious driver navigating thrilling scenarios in BMW vehicles, the campaign not only showcased the performance and luxury of BMW cars but also immersed viewers in an engaging narrative, setting BMW apart as a brand associated with excitement and sophistication.
  • Success: “The Hire” series garnered widespread acclaim for its cinematic quality and innovative approach. It successfully positioned BMW as a brand that values creativity and luxury while effectively cutting through the advertising noise.
  • Inspiration: Other advertisers can draw inspiration from BMW’s bold move to invest in high-quality storytelling. By focusing on creating engaging narratives that align with their brand values, advertisers can differentiate themselves in competitive markets and forge stronger connections with their audience.

Patagonia Stories

  • Year campaign started: Ongoing
  • Media/channels: Website, social media, documentary films
  • Overview: Patagonia’s “Patagonia Stories” initiative emerged in response to shifting consumer preferences and increasing environmental concerns. With traditional advertising struggling to address these concerns authentically, Patagonia sought to connect with its audience on a deeper level. Through blog posts, documentaries, and social media updates, Patagonia shares compelling narratives centred around environmental activism, outdoor adventure, and sustainable living. This content not only resonates with Patagonia’s environmentally conscious audience but also establishes the brand as a leader in corporate social responsibility.
  • Success: “Patagonia Stories” has strengthened Patagonia’s brand authenticity and loyalty among environmentally conscious consumers. By aligning its content with its brand values, Patagonia has fostered a community of like-minded individuals who are passionate about sustainability.
  • Inspiration: Advertisers can learn from Patagonia’s commitment to authenticity and purpose-driven storytelling. By creating content that resonates with their audience’s values and interests, advertisers can build stronger connections and foster brand loyalty.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

  • Year campaign started: 1971
  • Media/channels: Film, merchandise
  • Overview: “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” stands as a classic example of successful content marketing through film adaptation. Released in 1971, the movie served as a promotional vehicle for the Wonka candy brand. At the time, traditional advertising methods were prevalent, but leveraging a full-length feature film as a marketing tool was a bold and innovative move. By immersing audiences in the whimsical world of Willy Wonka, the campaign aimed to drive candy sales and establish Wonka as a beloved confectionery brand. The film’s enduring popularity continues to bolster the Wonka brand, with merchandise tie-ins and nostalgic appeal contributing to its longevity.
  • Success: The enduring popularity of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” has cemented Wonka’s status as a beloved and nostalgic brand. By leveraging storytelling and cinematic experiences, the campaign successfully cut through the advertising noise and captured the hearts of consumers, driving candy sales and reinforcing brand affinity.
  • Inspiration: Advertisers can draw inspiration from the timeless allure of storytelling and nostalgia. By leveraging popular culture and immersive experiences, brands can create memorable content that resonates with audiences on a deeper level, fostering emotional connections and driving brand loyalty.

B&Q DIY hub

  • Year campaign started: Ongoing
  • Media/channels: Website, social media, mobile app
  • Overview: B&Q’s DIY hub emerged in response to changing consumer behaviours and preferences in the home improvement sector. With the rise of online research and social sharing, consumers increasingly sought inspiration and guidance for their DIY projects. B&Q recognised this trend and launched a comprehensive DIY hub featuring how-to guides, project inspiration, and user-generated content. By providing practical assistance and fostering a sense of community among DIY enthusiasts, B&Q strengthens its brand authority and cultivates customer loyalty.
  • Success: B&Q’s DIY hub has become a go-to resource for DIY enthusiasts, driving traffic to its website and retail locations. By offering valuable content and facilitating peer-to-peer interaction within its niche community, B&Q has established itself as a trusted authority in the home improvement sector.
  • Inspiration: Brands can enhance their content marketing efforts by providing educational resources and fostering community engagement within their target audience. By addressing consumers’ needs and interests, brands can strengthen their brand positioning and build lasting relationships with customers.

IBM Business Analytics content hub

  • Year campaign started: Ongoing
  • Media/channels: Website, blog, social media
  • Overview: IBM’s content hub dedicated to showcasing the capabilities of its Watson AI technology emerged in response to the growing interest and curiosity surrounding artificial intelligence. With businesses seeking to understand and harness the potential applications of AI, IBM recognised an opportunity to educate and engage its audience through informative and engaging content. By producing articles, case studies, and interactive demos, IBM aims to position itself as a thought leader in AI innovation while providing valuable insights and resources to businesses across various industries.
  • Success: IBM’s content hub has garnered attention from businesses seeking to leverage AI technology, driving engagement and brand visibility. By offering informative and actionable content, IBM establishes itself as a trusted advisor and partner for businesses navigating the complexities of AI adoption.
  • Inspiration: Advertisers can emulate IBM’s approach by leveraging content marketing to educate and inform their audience about emerging technologies or industry trends. By providing valuable insights and resources, brands can build credibility and trust, positioning themselves as leaders in their respective fields.

Spotify Wrapped

  • Year campaign started: 2016 (Wrapped feature)
  • Media/channels: Mobile app, social media
  • Overview: Spotify’s “Wrapped” feature emerged as a response to the growing demand for personalised experiences and social sharing in the music streaming industry. With users increasingly seeking ways to discover and share their favourite music, Spotify recognised an opportunity to engage its audience with personalised year-in-review summaries. By analysing user data and generating personalised playlists and statistics, Spotify aims to deepen user engagement, drive social sharing, and reinforce its value proposition as a personalised music discovery platform.
  • Success: Spotify Wrapped has become an annual tradition for Spotify users, driving engagement and social media buzz. By offering personalised insights and experiences, Spotify strengthens its relationship with its audience, fostering brand loyalty and advocacy.
  • Inspiration: Brands can leverage user data and personalisation to create engaging and shareable experiences that resonate with their audience. By providing personalised content and insights, brands can deepen their connection with customers and drive brand loyalty.

Holland & Barrett Health Hub

  • Year campaign started: Ongoing
  • Media/channels: Website, social media, email
  • Overview: Holland & Barrett’s Health Hub emerged in response to the growing consumer interest in health and wellness. With consumers seeking reliable information and advice on holistic health, Holland & Barrett recognised an opportunity to position itself as a trusted authority in the space. By curating expert advice, articles, and product recommendations, Holland & Barrett aims to educate and empower consumers on their wellness journey while driving traffic to its website and retail locations.
  • Success: The Health Hub has strengthened Holland & Barrett’s brand authority and credibility in the health and wellness sector. By providing valuable content and resources, Holland & Barrett builds trust with its audience, driving engagement and loyalty.
  • Inspiration: Advertisers can learn from Holland & Barrett’s focus on providing informative and actionable content that addresses consumers’ needs and interests. By positioning themselves as trusted advisors and educators, brands can build credibility and loyalty among their target audience.

Share a Coke

  • Year campaign started: 2011 (Share a Coke)
  • Media/channels: Packaging, social media, experiential marketing
  • Overview: Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign emerged as a response to shifting consumer preferences and the growing demand for personalisation and social sharing. With consumers seeking more personalised experiences, Coca-Cola recognised an opportunity to engage its audience in a unique and memorable way. By replacing its logo on bottles and cans with popular names and encouraging consumers to share personalised Coke bottles with friends and family, Coca-Cola aimed to foster emotional connections and social sharing.
  • Success: “Share a Coke” revitalised Coca-Cola’s brand image and drove social media engagement. By offering personalised experiences and tapping into the power of social sharing, Coca-Cola strengthened its relationship with its audience, driving brand affinity and loyalty.
  • Inspiration: Brands can leverage personalisation and user-generated content to create memorable experiences that resonate with their audience. By encouraging social sharing and fostering emotional connections, brands can deepen their relationship with customers and drive brand advocacy.

Nike Training Club

  • Year campaign started: Ongoing
  • Media/channels: Mobile app, social media, website
  • Overview: Nike’s Nike Training Club app emerged in response to the growing demand for personalised fitness experiences and guidance. With consumers increasingly seeking ways to achieve their fitness goals, Nike recognised an opportunity to leverage its expertise and brand authority in the fitness space. By offering personalised workout routines, training tips, and motivational content, Nike aims to inspire and empower athletes of all levels to reach their full potential.
  • Success: The Nike Training Club app has garnered widespread adoption and loyalty among fitness enthusiasts. By providing valuable content and personalised experiences, Nike strengthens its relationship with its audience, driving engagement and brand loyalty.
  • Inspiration: Advertisers can learn from Nike’s focus on providing personalised experiences and expert guidance that align with their audience’s fitness aspirations. By leveraging their expertise and brand authority, brands can position themselves as trusted partners in their audience’s fitness journey.

Canon EOS Photochains

  • Year campaign started: 2012 (EOS Photochains)
  • Media/channels: Social media, website
  • Overview: Canon’s EOS Photochains campaign emerged as a response to the growing popularity of social media and user-generated content. With photography enthusiasts increasingly sharing their work online, Canon recognised an opportunity to engage its audience and showcase the capabilities of its EOS cameras. By launching the EOS Photochains campaign, Canon invited photographers to contribute images inspired by those in a previous chain, fostering community engagement and showcasing the creativity and versatility of Canon cameras.
  • Success: EOS Photochains generated widespread participation and social media buzz, highlighting the capabilities of Canon cameras and reinforcing the brand’s association with creativity and innovation. By leveraging user-generated content and community participation, Canon strengthened its relationship with its audience and drove brand advocacy.
  • Inspiration: Advertisers can learn from Canon’s focus on leveraging user-generated content and community participation to showcase product capabilities and foster brand advocacy. By engaging their audience and inviting participation, brands can strengthen their connection with customers and drive brand loyalty.
Written By

Over the past 17 years, I've developed a passion for helping businesses understand content marketing in simple terms. I've been lucky enough to work at some of the most well-regarded agencies in the world - on successful campaigns for Bosch, Optum Health, University of Southern California, JD Sports Brands, Fosters Wine, Greene King, Tough Mudder, University of Arizona and Disney Interactive. I've also held in-house content marketing roles at Silicon Valley tech unicorn Truepill, and WPP-owned AI company Satalia.