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True content marketing doesn't push products; it creates vision and value for consumers. With this marketing tactic, brands provide value by offering solutions to customer problems or by educating customers about a particular industry.

It can be challenging for brands to create great content, however, especially if they are unfamiliar with the process of planning or executing content campaigns. But there's one thing that can help, and surprisingly most brands are unaware of this little secret right under their noses.

Customer insight can be the secret sauce to forging content marketing initiatives. By tapping into the voice of the customer, brands can engage with customers to develop engaging, witty and relevant content marketing ideas. Customer engagement acts as a strong pillar supporting these ideas - often inspiring and validating specific narratives that can bring content marketing to life. This week, I've compiled three takes on brands that win at content marketing - and which can inspire others to create their own campaigns:

IBM is on Tumblr?

Tumblr can be a tough place for brands to get it right, especially if the brand isn't fashion, culture or design related. But IBM is taking a chance anyway with its new Tumblr IBMblr.

The idea behind the Tumblr is celebrating innovation. IBM has had the most U.S. patents for 20 consecutive years - that's pretty impressive - - so they have a lot to share about the invention and innovation processes. IBMblr features things like interviews and anecdotes from real IBMer's, posts about cool products that have resulted from different patents, predictions about what's going to happen with technology and innovation and even some GIFs - because what kind of a Tumblr would it be if it didn't have GIFs?

As Mazur explained, the audience for IBMlbr is meant to be mostly techies, but also designers, business people and anyone else who is curious and wants some new ideas and information for their own creative processes.

It's definitely surprising to see a B2B brand take to Tumblr, but IBM and Ogilvy are confident that IBMlr will find an audience there.

"Just because you can't go to Amazon or Best Buy to buy an IBM product, doesn't mean IBM should ignore everyday consumers," said Mazur. "Because from traffic lights to food shopping, IBM touches everyone around the world whether they know it or not. Not to mention it's full of influencers and early adopters and people who like to share." - Saya Weissman, Digiday

Tweet this: Did you know @IBM is on #Tumblr? See @VisionCritical's content #marketing roundup:

Chipotle promotes sustainability with 'Scarecrow' film.

Here's a paradox about content marketing: Your story is not about you; it's what you do for others.

Chipotle might be a fast-food company, but its story isn't about how you can get a cheap but good Mexican lunch on the fly. Instead, it's about what it stands for: Good food that's locally and responsibly sourced. You can see that key bigger message incorporated in the animation: Cultivate a better world.

The "better world" isn't corporate-focused, it's relentlessly customer-focused. It's about a better world for our children, for the chicken and cows, and for us all, in part through linking the content (both literally and figuratively) to the restaurant chain's Cultivate Foundation, which has contributed more than $2 million thus far to help fund initiatives that support sustainable agriculture and family farming.

In other words, Chipotle's animation might be marketing. But it feels more important than marketing. - Ann Handley, LinkedIn

Tweet this: .@Chipotle promotes sustainability with 'Scarecrow' film. See @VisionCritical's content #marketing roundup:

McDonald's Canada answers all food questions.

Launched in June, the Our Food, Your Questions program invites any Canadian to ask any question whatsoever about McDonald's food on a special website developed by Tribal DDB Toronto. To ask a question, participants must connect with either Twitter or Facebook, providing social visibility and a ripple in the pond viral effect.

So far, more than 16,000 questions have been asked (they are getting 350 to 450 per day), and nearly 10,000 have been answered. You've heard of Gladwell's 10,000 hours? How about McDonalds' 10,000 questions!

The program scope is only around McDonald's food. For example, this zinger from Jani S. in Nova Scotia:

"When you say 100% beef, do you mean the whole cow: the organs, snout, brain, kidneys, etc. or just the plan beef we buy at the grocer?"

Whoa. Historically, companies would do whatever possible to put as much distance as possible between themselves and that line of inquiry. But the rules are changing. Here's McDonald's answer - comprehensive, factual, and not laden with artificial marketing hype:

"Hi Jani. We wouldn't call it plain beef, but it sure is beef. We only use meat cut from the shoulder, chuck, brisket, rib eye, loin and round. In fact, our beef supplier is Cargill, a name you might recognize. They're the biggest supplier of beef in Canada." - Jay Baer on Convince and Convert

Tweet this: .@McD_Canada's answers food questions. Is it good content #marketing? See @VisionCritical's blog roundup:

Brands such as IBM, Chipotle, and McDonald's have done an excellent job providing real value to their target demographics without necessarily promoting their product features. IBM's blog sought to inspire techies and designers; Chipotle promoted sustainability with their "Scarecrow" film; and McDonald's put customers to ease by answering their questions. More importantly, the content marketing employed by all three brands stayed in-line with their industry and product offerings, while at the same time tapping into their customers' perceptual identity and in doing so establishing an emotional connection.

Perhaps your marketing or creative teams are able to come up with fantastic content marketing pieces. But also keep in mind that many of these ideas can be sourced, refined & validated via your very own insight community - providing a scalable customer platform for deep, ongoing, incremental learning.

The Secret Ingredient to Killer Content Marketing

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