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5 Top Creative Digital Content Strategies From 2021 To Inspire Your 2022 Content Marketing

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When you log onto your computer, open your phone, or walk the dog, you’re bombarded with what? Content. Content includes words, ads, websites, videos, social posts, articles, music, podcasts, quizzes, courses, and more. Content creators, no matter what type, are all thinking the same thing — “We need more content, we need better content.”  After all, we’re all competing for the attention of the billions of digital users at our fingertips. My point is, content is everywhere, but it’s not always great. Have you ever seen an ad or social post from a company and literally cringed? I know I have … especially if I’m looking at some of my early copy!

But the wonderful thing about being in lockdown and then slowly coming out of it, is it has forced people to rethink their content strategy. And some truly innovative digital content strategies and campaigns came out of this past year. Being a content creator, I probably consume a lot more content than most. I have an email that is subscribed to over 300 businesses, media outlets, educators, businesses, etc. across all industries that I’m constantly diving into to find out — What is going on in the world of content? What is resonating with people? What are the trends for content creation? 

And that’s just email. As mentioned before, content is literally all around us.

Looking through a lens of creativity, I picked out five strategies/campaigns that stuck out to me in 2021 that represent some of the trends that are likely here to stay for the new year. I picked these strategies for their innovative way of getting a message across and resonating with people. Even if you’re not in any of the industries/fields that these organizations are in, you can still learn from a great content strategy and apply it to your own for this new year, or better yet – make it better!

But first… 

What Makes A Creative Content Strategy?

A creative content strategy isn’t one that got the most clicks, drove the most followers, or the most sales ( although creativity definitely helps in that department). Creative content at the end of the day is about brand awareness and driving forward the essence of you with innovative campaigns. I think three main, characteristics make up a creative content strategy:

Value First:

The content was obviously created with the end user in mind and brings some sort of value. And value comes in many shapes and forms with content such as:

Uniquely You:

The content has that brand or person written all over it (not just literally, but throughout the whole design). It’s essentially branded content without having to necessarily brand it.

Memorable:

Creative content is almost always memorable because it’s so value-driven and unique. 

Creative content is about creating QUALITY content in a way that is value-driven, unique, and memorable, often through innovative design, technologies, writing, and more.

Creative content strategy is not getting on the “content treadmill” to post every single day, spending tons of money on ads to achieve followers who don’t engage. Creative content strategies are carefully designed campaigns that are posted to deliver value.

5 Top Creative Digital Content Strategies From 2021 To Inspire Your 2022 Content Marketing

1. Oatly – Content Marketing That is Anti-Marketing

Since the beginning Oatly has distinguished itself as a brand by breaking the “fourth wall” of advertising, and writing ads literally about being ads. In essence – they break all the rules of content writing and marketing in the process.

Their tone of voice is super witty and conversational with a dash of sassy. In 2021, they continued this with a combination of digital and physical (billboards, buses, their own cartons, etc.) advertising that consistently yields steady user engagement and one of a kind sense of community.

Why It Worked:

Their anti-marketing approach to copy does two things: It creates an engaging experience for consumers who are constantly bombarded with salesy copy. And its wittiness wins their audience over, creating further brand loyalty. It’s innovative copy for an innovative product.

Your Action Step for 2022: Analyze your brand voice. What words come to mind? Does it sound different from your competition or other businesses/organizations that your audience follows? When in doubt – split test it!

2. IKEA Bernie Chair – Jumping On Trends Without Being Cringy

You could not click into anywhere in January 2021 without seeing the  “Bernie On A Chair,” meme, showing Bernie Sanders bracing the cold in unique mittens at the inauguration of the 46th President of the United States. They were literally everywhere.

And many brands jumped on the Bernie bandwagon, reposting memes and what not. But IKEA innovated a step further by actually compiling some of their own products to recreate the meme with the words, “Get The Look” – three words which I guarantee a great copywriter spent ages changing, critiquing, and editing. It’s brilliant because it got people sharing an actual product while also obviously being playful and jumping on a trend.

Why It Worked:

IKEA took a response marketing approach – something a lot of brands do, but not many do well. To me, the “Get The Look,” phrase really drives the ad home because it shows that they’re in on the joke without being too salesy. I truly doubt that they sold THAT much more VARDAGEN gloves as a result of this meme, but what they did do was creatively create value that will make people more likely remember IKEA for their next furniture shopping spree. 

Your Action Step for 2022: Integrate time in your content planning process to track trends and create at least one reactive post per month. Remember, you don’t have to post 2 hours after the thing has gone viral. Take your time and ask yourself – “How can I do this in a way that brings value, but has my brand at the forefront?”

3. Indeed’s “A New Beginning” Commercial – Bringing Social Awareness With Authenticity

 

Indeed created an entire content campaign as part of their #EmpathyatWork program, which provides resources about underrepresented groups in the workplace for employers and job seekers, including creating an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace and hiring process. Their Pride series was among my favorites, especially their “A New Beginning” commercial which showcases actor River Gallo, who uses they/them pronouns in real life, preparing for a job interview. 

In the video, Gallo nervously shows up for the interview but is put at ease when the interviewer says, “I use the pronouns he/him. Are you comfortable sharing how you’d like to be addressed?” Gallo then feels comfortable to share, “I use they/them pronouns,” before continuing with the interview. 

Why It Worked:

Indeed didn’t just create content for the LGBTQ+ community during pride, they created content for allies, as the commercial in particular not only encourages job seekers to be comfortable in their identity, but also spreads awareness about how businesses can be more inclusive towards the LGBTQ+ community. The video is also great at succinctly telling a story without using too many words and avoiding cliches, hallmarks of great content.

Your Action Step for 2022: When you design your social awareness campaigns, (Whether it’s for Pride, Black History Month, Disability Employment Awareness Month, etc.) ask yourself how you can bring value to both the targeted community AND their allies. And put in the work to include their voices in your content planning.

4. Good Mythical Morning LIVE 2021 Charity Event – Utilizing Live Video to Spread Brand Awareness & Showcase Brand Values

Good Mythical Morning (GMM), hosted by life-long friends and influencers Rhett and Link, is a daily morning show on Youtube that has accumulated over 17.3 million subscribers and an incredibly loyal fan base of “mythical beasts,” who count on their unique brand of humor in their constantly evolving variety show. In 2021, GMM jumped on the live video trend of the past few years, a strategy that many organizations should start dipping their toes into.

According to Youtube, daily live streams increased by 45% in the first half of 2020, and 58% of live stream viewers reported that watching live videos helped them feel connected during the pandemic. This trend has continued into 2021. You can find thousands of live streams at any given time about a wide range of topics (it’s just gamers anymore).

One of my favorite live video campaigns from this year was their charity event for Save The Children, a humanitarian non-profit providing aid and resources to in-need children around the world. The event was 8 hours long and included interactive bits featuring themselves and the crew that correlated with the amount of money being donated live. They already have a huge audience, but the live event drew in many more and at the end raised over $403k for Save For The Children!

Why It Worked:

The staff at Mythical (the overarching entertainment company presiding over GMM) created 8 hours of value for their audience that they knew has worked before, often repeating bits that they’ve done in earlier episodes while also creating an element of surprise by designing new games specifically for that event. They didn’t create this content just to sell things, they created the content for a purpose – to fundraise for Save The Children, which in turn makes people more likely to tune in and more likely to associate their brand with charitable values (something that has become more and more important to consumers today). 

Your Action Step for 2022: Plan a live streaming event – even if it’s just a 25 minute talk or product promo to get your feet wet. If you’re already streaming – think: How can you surprise your audience? And even better, how can you utilize partnerships with organizations who share your values?

Here is a really basic but helpful guide to planning a successful live stream event. And for tips on hosting events with guests, check out Monica Kang’s incredibly thorough guide to hosting an online event with guests here.

5. Lemonade Insurance Expands Art Insurance Campaign, Makes Unexpected Partners & Creative Content

Lemonade is an insurance company, and if you knew nothing about it you would probably expect to click on their social media and website and see a bunch of stock photos of people with taglines like “We’re cheaper than the rest!” or “You’re going to die one day. Don’t forget that.” (Okay they aren’t THAT extreme). Instead, Lemonade’s social media is essentially an art gallery – videos, audios, graphics all created by different artists. Lemonade’s graphic designer is…all their artistic partners that they’ve insured.

In 2021, to support its art insurance business line, Lemonade expanded its hubs featuring artworks of various artists — including an Instagram account and a Medium page. Its #ConnectedByLemonade campaign commissions artists from around the world to create branded art for their social media and more. They’ve continued to partner with these artists to create sponsored videos, like for their recent launch of Lemonade Car, their new car insurance that also happens to plant trees based on your mileage.

Why It Worked:

Lemonade asks you to “forget everything you know about insurance” on its homepage. Their 2021 content strategy definitely shares this sentiment of being different and unexpected. Lemonade does not post every day, instead they post well-thought out, diverse pieces of content that generates buzz and, in doing so, continue to do what they do best – present themselves as a one-of-a-kind insurance company. And especially in 2021, Lemonade has leveraged artists, their own customers, as content collaborators creating a true community within their brand. 

Your Action Step for 2022: Revisit your mission statement or vision statement and ask yourself, how is my content reflecting that? Is my content on my website, socials, and more bringing value to my audience, if so what values? Take time to really brainstorm something unexpected you can bring to your audience in 2022 that ties to your “why.” 

Because those who win in content are the ones who are constantly trying new things – they innovate. They don’t just redo what has worked in the past. 

What’s Coming For Content In 2022?

Reflecting on 2021, we know that content is more important than ever as content consumption becomes increasingly digital and mobile. With that, we know that content is everywhere and thus, competition for our audience’s attention is higher. And accordingly, your audience needs to be convinced that your content is worth consuming immediately, or boom – swiping on. Taken what we learned from some of my favorite creative content campaigns from the last year, here is an overview of what worked in 2021 to keep in mind for 2022:

  • Make It Personal: Everything we consume now is personalized – based on past data, past search history/watch history, our demographics, etc. Audiences today increasingly don’t respond to content that is trying to attract everybody. Target your messages and your content.
  • Video Content is “King:” Words are great (I’m a bit biased as a writer) but video is ESSENTIAL in integrating into your content strategy. Videos not only increase engagement and oftentimes sales, but they are said to further enhance trust with your audience. 
  • Partnerships Are Key: We spend a lot of time thinking about our competition, but not always enough time thinking about potential collaborators. The brands who partnered with other businesses, charities, or even their own customers, thrived and created a better sense of community. Use 2022 to start leveraging more partnerships – whether it’s to complete a new project or to do more for causes you care about.
  • Stand Up For Something: It is no longer acceptable to say nothing. The upcoming generations are vocal, and there’s too much going in the world to ignore it. As an organization or business, you have a platform, and your audience expects you to use it for good. This doesn’t mean you have to speak about every single issue — rather be authentic and integrate awareness campaigns about the issues you care about the most.

And in terms of some trends that haven’t fully formed but I think are worth chewing on …

1. AI – Artificial intelligence like chatbots and other AI tools can be an incredible enhancement to a content strategy and are increasingly being used by businesses and organizations. In 2022, I suspect that AI tools will only become more sophisticated and help brands not only enhance their user experience, but increase their own content production productivity.

For instance, The Washington Post uses its Artificial Intelligence technology, Heliograph, to publish hyper-local reports and alerts. 

2. Voice Search & Audio Content – Virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa, and more are on the rise, with over 50 percent of people using voice search when looking for answers on their smartphones. Content marketers in the next year will need to continue to start thinking about optimizing for voice search, which are much longer and conversational queries than typed. Additionally, audio-only content such as podcasts and Clubhouse are also increasingly becoming a great marketing tool and way to bring value to your audience.

And while following trends and reflecting on what worked in the past is important, it’s also incredibly important to be nimble in your content strategy. One day you’ll be producing longer video ads that were said to work, only to replace it with the next trend or consumer demand. And with technology increasing at a bigger pace than ever along with new apps, social media features, and more – content creators need to adapt, adapt, and then adapt again.

Now it’s your turn — What content do you remember from 2021? How can you apply their success to your own? Or…how can you innovate to create something even better?

About the Author

Sarah Bloodworth

Sarah Bloodworth

Sarah Bloodworth is a writer and sustainability & culture specialist located in Austin, Texas. She studied Journalism and Environmental Science At The University of Texas at Austin and partly at the University of Sheffield in the UK. She worked as a freelance writer for several years, eventually founding my own LLC where she helped mission-driven organisations understand and connect with their audiences through clear, impactful communications. She now works at Flex International, a global manufacturing partner dedicated to creating products that improve people’s lives and make the world a better place. Her specialties include writing/editing, research, customer relations, community-building, and data. The views Sarah expresses are her’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Flex.

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