L’Oréal and Procter & Gamble: content marketing masters

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In our always-on marketing world, it’s tempting to never look back. But sometimes reflection can be instructive. For instance, I was just reviewing a January 2011 Forrester Research report that cited trends for CMOs to watch in 2011. If you give the report a close read, you find Forrester forecasting the uptake of content marketing – something that did not jump out at me when I read the report nine months ago:

Brands will begin managing owned media like a product. Marketers are taking a more hands-on approach when it comes to the creative product by producing their own content. This past year, Procter & Gamble and Wal-Mart stole a strategy from the early days of soap operas and developed three prime-time made-for-television movies through P&G Studios. Meanwhile, Converse launched a community-based recording studio called Converse Rubber Tracks.

In fact, the rise of content marketing, which merited a small mention in Forrester’s report, has become an important part of the CMO’s agenda. And major brands like L’Oréal and Procter & Gamble have made content marketing (defined as building your brand by sharing useful information that engages people) an integral part of their marketing.

L’Oréal: beautiful content

In 2010, L’Oréal asserted itself as one of the most digitally savvy beauty and skincare brands in the L2 Digital IQ Index: Beauty & Skincare report (which was created with the support and sponsorship of my employer iCrossing). Among L’Oréal’s forward-thinking moves was working with popular video blogger Michelle Phan (through L’Oréal’s Lancome brand). In 2011, L’Oréal has relied on content marketing in the digital world to strengthen its brand, like so:

  • L’Oréal turned up the heat on its Makeup.com content marketing site. Makeup.com now posts useful beauty and skin care content – such as how-to videos – on a daily basis. And L’Oréal is relying on an editorial team that includes former editors and writers for publications such as Glamour and Redbook. The Makeup.com site reads like what it is – a leading fashion site employing top-notch writers, and one that just happens to be operated by L’Oréal.

  • L’Oréal secured exclusive rights to place innovative content matching advertisements on Demand Media sites such as the Tyra Banks web venture typeF.com. As reported by the eTail Blog, “If a woman searches on Google with the question, ‘How do I apply green eye shadow to fair skin and hazel eyes?’ she will be directed to one of Demand’s sites that has a relevant article, a collection of videos from leading make-up artists on how to apply the makeup and an ad from L’Oréal about its green eye shadow.” The eTail Blog described L’Oréal’s move “a prime example of a major brand retailer truly taking advantage of and understanding the value of leveraging online content.”

L’Oréal must be doing something right. According to L2, 2011 is shaping up to be a successful year financially for the luxury brand even amid a down economy.

Procter & Gamble: content marketing pioneer

Procter & Gamble, which merited a brief mention in the Forrester report, has burnished its reputation as a content marketing leader. Its Life Goes Strong website – a lifestyle destination for men and women aged 40 and over — has garnered reactions such as “How to Do Content Marketing Right” (a headline that would make any marketer envious).

And in June Procter & Gamble launched My Beauty Advisor, a mobile app that provides advice about beauty, hair, and skin care for consumers. The effort was just one in a series of smart content marketing efforts from Procter & Gamble stretching back years.

Since January, Forrester has been paying more attention to effective content marketing as a differentiator – significant because when you see a trend like content marketing attract the attention of big brands like Procter & Gamble as well as mainstream research firms like Forrester, you know branded content has arrived.

My sense is that if Forrester were to update its January report now, content marketing would be in the headline, L’Oréal’s and Procter & Gamble’s content marketing digital plays would be featured as case studies.

For more insight into successful content marketing, check out the Content Marketing Institute and the iCrossing Content Lab (where I blog regularly).

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