The best in content marketing

Earlier this week, the 2012 Pearl Awards were handed out to the best in content marketing. While these awards may not have the name recognition of the Oscars or Emmys, they’re sure to gain more attention in the years to come. Content marketing — catch-all term for marketing efforts that make use of custom content such as videos, websites and magazines — has become the latest hot topic in advertising. Red Bull’s latest custom content sensation, Felix Baumgartner’s record-breaking jump from space, has garnered almost 30,000,000 views on YouTube.

Now in their tenth year, the Pearl Awards celebrate excellence in custom content across print, digital and multimedia platforms. The list of 2012 winners is extensive (you can see the full list here), so I’ve pulled out some of the most interesting examples from the different categories.

Sherwin-Williams Stir magazine and website (by Hanley Wood Marketing): Sherwin-Williams, the largest producer of paint in the US, created Stir magazine and website to appeal to interior designers and architects, with the ultimate goal of convincing “design professionals to specify more Sherwin-Williams products for their clients and projects”. The magazine itself is beautiful, full of eye-catching colors and illustrated tips for designers. This focus on aesthetics, presumably to appeal to the discerning eye of decorators and designers, certainly helped it win the award for best integrated print and web program in the B2B space.

BMW’s “Ideas on the Table (by The Economist Group): There is an obvious conflict of interest here, as I work for the company that produced this campaign. All bias aside, the comprehensive strategy of this content program is impressive. To position BMW as a “thought leader” in innovation, design and technology, The Economist Group hosted an underground event series that brought together chefs, foodies, tastemakers and intellectuals. Excerpts from the dinners were then transformed into print and digital ad campaigns that ran in The Economist and Bon Appetit. This campaign, which featured in-person events, is a nice reminder that content marketing isn’t just what happens on paper (or e-paper).   

Whole Foods Market magazine (by Rodale Grow): Designed for Whole Foods Market shoppers, this magazine offers tips for healthier living and eating. In fact, it almost seems like a no-brainer for an upscale grocery store focused on selling fresh ingredients: why not make a companion magazine with recipes and tips for how make the best use of your products? I’ve personally perused this magazine while shopping at the store and have even tried a few recipes. 

Business without Borders microsite (by The Globe and Mail): At first glance, this website looks like any other business-focused publication. But it’s actually a site from HSBC, the global bank. Designed to appeal to HSBC clients, the site publishes global business news from both internal authors and external content providers like the Wall Street Journal and The Economist Intelligence Unit (The Economist’s sister publication). This site has been around since 2010 and is still being recognized, showing that content creation can still be effective even when subtle. 

Proto magazine and website (by Time Inc. Content Solutions): This magazine from Massachusetts General Hospital summarizes itself as “Dispatches from the Frontiers of Medicine”.  This forward-thinking editorial focus aligns with the magazine’s clean design and innovative storytelling methods. Its iPad app has a lot of short, informative video clips about medicine, health and cutting-edge science. It’s no surprise this publication garnered one of the best all-around awards.