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Learning from the best: lessons from today’s leading brand content factories

Learning from the best: lessons from today’s leading brand content factories

Marketing content is like sand at the beach. It just gets everywhere.

You leave the beach and you've washed the sand off your feet, shaken it loose from your clothes and dusted off your towel. You get home, and somehow, there's sand in your kitchen, your bed and your bookcase.

Marketing content is the same.

It can very easily get out of hand and, before you know it, it's everywhere; you have drafts of articles in your inbox, images in Dropbox, videos on a hard drive and your editorial plan stuck to the back wall of meeting room F. It’s at this point that it becomes obvious you need a system to make this thing work for the long term.

There are so many different ways of approaching this challenge, however, that it’s not as straightforward as just choosing some content themes and getting stuck in. The best brands have adopted a ‘content as a product’ mentality and scaled their operations up to create modern, effective content factories.

First things first, a modern, effective content factory is not about churning out high-frequency, low-quality, spammy content; in fact, it stands for the very opposite of that.

By systematising the production of content, implementing tech that helps to remove friction from the production and publishing processes and working with experts to inform your overall strategy and approach, you’re guaranteed to be able to up-level your marketing content with less headaches.

Big international brands are leading their marketing efforts with major scaled-up content factories and there’s plenty to learn from them.

Case Study #1: by Tourism Australia

In 2016 and 2017, the global content team at Tourism Australia worked on a major project to realign the national tourism body’s digital content to pre-defined stages of the consumer journey. 

Partnering with Story(ation) and Fairfax Media, Tourism Australia delved deep into data about their global target audiences’ travel needs, the performance of their current content experience and best-practice approaches to digital content. The goal was to make sure they were delivering content that helped the consumer at every stage of the journey in booking a holiday to Australia.

The key changes in Tourism Australia’s strategy centred around creating more rigour and consistency both in their content brand and the way content was produced. 

By implementing a series of new templates where previously there were only loose guidelines, more deeply integrating user-generated content across and measuring all interactions - big and small - with their content, they were able to scale their marketing operations to a new level.

The results of this realignment speak for themselves; engaged visitors to increased by 46% in the first 12 months and leads to tourism business grew 350%, helping to support Tourism Australia’s central mission of growing the size of visitor economy in real terms.

While Tourism Australia already had significant technology available to support this transformation, it was the implementation of audience-centred content themes, formats and methods of production that created a tangible impact on the organisation’s mission and the broader tourism industry across the country.

Bluenotes by ANZ

One of the true pioneers in the branded content publishing space, ANZ launched Bluenotes in early 2014 with the aim to be able to break their own news and revamp their approach to media, investor and customer relations.

The bank’s approach is particularly unique as it doesn’t place marketing metrics on the content, but instead focuses on reach and engagement with the content as the key success markers. Producing an average of 37 content items per month with much of that authored by senior ANZ staff, the team are focused on publishing long-form, in-depth expert material that appeals to media and stakeholder audiences as much as website visitors.

This approach has delivered in spades for ANZ as it has managed to attract above-average volumes of organic (unpaid) traffic from search engines, third-party websites and social media.

With many marketers focusing on creating content specifically to fit in paid environments, it’s still possible to make hay with earned media approaches - as long as that content is unique, delivers utility to the audience and is published in a timely fashion. By investing in qualified, experienced talent, ANZ has been able to scale its marketing operations from literally nothing in 2014 to one of Australia and the world’s leading publishers in the financial services space.

The Blue Room by Bupa

Bupa operates in one of the most cluttered and undifferentiated industries of all - healthcare and health insurance.

The Blue Room was designed to be disruptive and change the conversation Bupa was having with all Australians. To put health – and Bupa – front and centre, but in a way people actually cared about. It also led Bupa’s brand repositioning, helping build ‘love’ and to articulate ‘why, how and what’ in a much more sophisticated, engaging and scalable fashion.

Bupa launched The Blue Room in May 2015 as a magazine-style content publishing hub aimed at establishing brand preference and driving commercial outcomes in this noisy, overwhelming category.

The first year was a significant learning experience for the brand as it started a new team, worked with external content partners and finessed its distribution strategy to create a sustainable, relevant presence for The Blue Room. Critical to that first year’s success was the use of journalists to create content for the site, rather than copywriters or internal junior resources. Those journalists worked to specific formats, audience needs and life stages and consistent briefs.

Over the following two years, Bupa has scaled its content approach globally, including Hong Kong, the United Kingdom and Spain.

However, instead of simply replicating The Blue Room in each of those markets, Bupa’s approach has been to take the best processes, themes and learnings from the content factory approach used in each country and to try and extend those to marketing content in each of the international markets in a more bespoke way.

Three years on and The Blue Room’s content has been read by more than a quarter of all Australians (more than 6 million people) with more than 30 million minutes of time spent on that content.

More specifically, The Blue Room has had a measurable impact on brand and business metrics with 70% of site visitors saying they ‘love Bupa’. Those who engage with content on the site are also twice as likely to consider purchasing a Bupa product than those who haven’t visited the site.

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