5 Strategies for Creating Magnetic Online Content


Traditional advertising worked through distraction — an interruption to our sitcom, a page between magazine articles, a banner teasing our attention at the top of a webpage.

Then entertainment channels fragmented as digital moved to the center of culture. “The goal now is to attract rather than distract, to engage rather than intrude,” as eMarketer puts it in its Top Digital Trends for 2012 report.

The result? Brands are content publishers. And the Holy Grail of brand-produced content is magnetic content — an emerging buzzword eMarketer describes as a form of marketing that “involves blurring the lines between content and advertising,” and calls out as one of the top trends for 2012.

The Role of Magnetic Content in Your Marketing Mix

Magnetic content is content that’s good — content that gets people’s attention with great story or outright hilarity. It’s the sort of thing people want to engage with and share.

As one element of a brand’s broader content marketing strategy, magnetic content is the premium stuff: It can powerfully augment the everyday flow of comments and questions and links you’re sharing in your social media channels, garnering earned media attention that drives interest in your brand and builds audience for it. But how do you do it right?

Here are five strategies to get you started defining magnetic content for your 2012 marketing mix.

1. Make It Brand-Relevant

Properly produced magnetic content manifests your brand strategy. If there’s no relevance to your brand, there’s no magnetism for your brand, so you want the content to reflect your brand aspiration and engage around its promise.

Denny’s web series “Always Open” features comedian David Koechner conducting short interviews of fellow comics like Will Arnett, Amy Poehler and Sarah Silverman in a Denny’s booth at a live, working restaurant. The quirky questions and silly interactions don’t open any new doors, but they meet Denny’s millennial target through recognizable actors and goofy situations, evoking a cultural sensibility toward diners as places where people come together and talk and eat in a casual environment.

2. Connect Across Time

The most magnetic content lives over time, building community around an experience — think of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, or Seinfeld. But that doesn’t mean it has to be episodic. In fact, you can maximize your impact if you design your content experience to live as a platform.

Look at Lancome’s Visions of Beauties, which invites people from around the world to share what beauty is to them through photos, videos, and tweets. As a crowdsourced campaign, Lancome has set up an aspirational, brand-resonant experience around beauty that anybody can participate in as a contributor or voyeur. The seductive, elegant interface speaks to a global audience. The experience evolves over time, bringing people together across space to weave together a story about the very thing Lancome’s products aspire to: beauty. The brand promise becomes the story, linking the brand’s global audience.

3. Extend Across Media

The Internet makes it easy to extend excellent content, creating a transmedia (multi-platform) experience that builds off an initial execution to offer many different ways to engage. Hornbach, a German home improvement and DIY chain, created the 10-minute film The Infinite House, to introduce the launch of its online stores.

While the video itself is a masterful story that speaks of Hornbach’s core values of loyalty, friendship, and neighborliness, it served as one piece of a broader experience that included Facebook profiles of the film’s characters and construction manuals for the furniture featured in the film. These extensions from the video provide ways for people to immerse themselves more deeply in the story and engage in a richer experience with the brand.

4. Inspire People

Magnetic content doesn’t have to offer something inspiring, but, when done well, inspiration can have an enormous effect. It can root the content in the brand’s values and associate the brand with a meaningful stand. Levi’s Now Is Our Time plays with this idea, pulling together brand values of pioneering, freedom, and equality to connect with its young, independent-minded customer.

The campaign extends across multiple media, but the film that provides a framework and platform for a series of crowdsourced philanthropic fundraising hits an emotionally resonant note that’s fresh and unexpected, especially from a brand: “Your life is your life. Don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission. Be on the watch. There are ways out. There is light somewhere. It may not be much light, but it beats the darkness. Be on the watch. The gods will offer you chances. Know them. Take them.”

5. Draw From the Everyday

Some of the best ideas are taken from everyday experience. Everybody relates to meeting friends in a diner; we all have personal experiences of beauty. Finding ideas that can produce magnetic content only means thinking hard about what a brand, product, or service stands for, and how we might relate it interestingly to our experiences.

Consider how IKEA Sweden communicated its promise of “better sleep for everyone.” It commissioned six Swedish musicians to modernize classic lullabies — a simple idea, harmonizing perfectly with the product’s promise.

Then IKEA took the idea a step further, extending beyond the simple lullaby (which it later sold as an album on iTunes, with an album cover that looked a lot like a banner for IKEA) to commission six different artists, each of whom created a music video for a lullaby, featuring IKEA beds. The lullabies aired on the radio and a website provided a place to watch the music videos and read about the artists and their beds.

Magnetic Content Tells a Story

The best magnetic content begins with a strong, compelling idea. It offers a platform and extension that goes beyond a simple, dead-end execution, and creates conversation around an experience that is relevant to your brand.

But that doesn’t mean the content is about your brand primarily, or even secondarily. The story must come first. Magnetic content is always about human experience. It is an attractor because it is fundamentally and meaningfully social. And its power lies in the degree to which it reflects and expands people’s vision of themselves.



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