The Art and Science of Emotional Engagement


Fun fact: Neuro-imagery shows that when evaluating brands, consumers primarily use emotions rather than factual information. This is as true for brand-created content as it is for traditional advertising spots and banners.

We can see the power of emotional content at work in marketing campaigns that went viral. Always’ Like a Girl, Dove’s Real Beauty, and Apple’s Misunderstood campaigns all spring to mind.

But we’ve also seen how emotional content can go terribly awry — like those sad ASPCA commercials with Sarah McLachlan or Nationwide’s Make Safe Happen campaign.

As content creators, emotion can be an incredibly powerful engagement tactic, but we have to use it artfully. Let’s explore the science of emotion and how we can use it in an empathetic way to create more meaningful content.

Science of emotion

Emotional engagement is affected by a number of scientific principles that directly impact content creation. Here are four key areas:

  • Design
  • Color
  • Images
  • Branding


Designs often fall into patterns of sameness around the latest trends. However, designs that evoke the greatest emotional response tend to involve something out of the norm. Elements of surprise can prevent your content from being filtered out by Broca’s area in the brain.

Designs that evoke the greatest emotional response involve something out of the norm says @SFBakerGeek.
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Additionally, introducing schema incongruity — information incongruent to an established schema — has the potential to increase interest, memorability, and persuasiveness in consumers.

As an extreme example, this marketing video for consumer product Squatty Potty went viral precisely because it was so weird and surprising.

Generally, you don’t associate unicorns, ice cream, and English guys in doublets with pooping … and yet, these all feature in Squatty Potty’s video. A bit disturbing? Yes. Memorable? It’s hard to argue with almost 28 million YouTube views. Persuasive? The company sold $15 million in merchandise in 2015.


Color can have a powerful impact on a viewer’s emotional response. Studies have shown that visuals in color can increase people’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80%. Using specific colors can have a significant impact on mood; for example, red evokes strong emotions, while yellow can foster happy feelings, and blue creates a calm, trustworthy atmosphere.

Visuals in color can increase people’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80% via @xerox @SFBakerGeek.
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Coca-Cola has consistently used red as its brand color. Red not only evokes a strong emotional response, it cultivates a positive, friendly energy that makes consumers want to participate. This recent ad from the Taste the Feeling campaign uses the color red to great effect, drawing attention to the people drinking Cokes and inviting consumers to join the party.


Virgin America is another brand that consistently uses color in its campaigns. In a recent print ad campaign, the airline used the color purple to cultivate a feeling of exclusivity, luxury, and imaginativeness while maintaining its trademark humorous visual tone.



A large body of research confirms the emotional power of visuals — Visual Teaching Alliance quotes David Hyerle’s field guide that 90% of all information transmitted to the brain is visual. In fact, images can increase trust and belief in the information being conveyed — a known phenomenon that comedian Stephen Colbert calls the truthiness effect.

Images can increase trust & belief in the information being conveyed via @ResearchDigest.
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Virtual reality company StoryUp created a highly impactful campaign for the nonprofit organization Central Missouri Honor Flight called Honor Everywhere. Using 360-degree video, it gave veterans a virtual tour of memorial sites in Washington, D.C. By creating such a rich, visual experience for veterans, it also gained a lot of media attention.

Images can also evoke specific emotional responses. For example, photos of people have been shown to increase empathy, and photos of attractive people, especially women, tend to be more engaging than other types of imagery.

In one case study, a South African financial institution sent 50,000 direct mail pieces that featured a photo of a person. In some cases, the person was the same gender as the recipient; in other cases, the person in the photo was the opposite gender. For male customers, using a photo of a female in the offer letter significantly increased take-up; the effect had about as much impact as if the bank offered a drop in the interest rate by 4.5 percentage points.


Most consumers have an unconscious aversion to being persuaded. When they see a piece of branded content, they become immediately resistant to the message. Experiments have shown that a more subtle inclusion of branding can increase views by as much as 20%.

A subtle inclusion of #branding can increase views by as much as 20% via @harvardbiz.
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Kate Spade has done a fantastic job of creating content that highlights the brand without explicitly talking about its products in its Miss Adventure series. In the first episode, the story of Anna Kendrick getting locked out of her apartment with her dog takes center stage while Kate Spade’s products are a secondary focus.

.@KateSpade is a great example of content that highlights the brand w/out talking product via @SFBakerGeek.
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Art of emotion

Knowing the science that impacts our audience’s emotional response is useful. However, it takes an artful approach to turn this science into impactful, engaging content. It’s all too easy for brands to misuse psychological levers in an attempt to make an impact on viewers or readers.

As content creators, how do we walk the line between good emotional engagement and audience manipulation? It takes empathy, continuous refinement, and above all, a relevant story.

1. Start with your audience’s motivation

What does your audience really want from your content: Inspiration? Education? Practical advice? Latest news? Depending on their motivation, the emotions you cultivate and the way you go about cultivating them will differ.

For example, if your audience is interested in inspiration, you’ll want to evoke emotions like awe and curiosity. Conversely, if your audience is interested in financial news, you’ll want to go after a different set of emotions — fear or reassurance, depending on the news.


Meditation app Headspace uses calming colors and cute line art to tap into the customers’ motivation to live a calmer, happier life.

2. Inspire trust with a believable story

This is where brands often fail when trying to craft emotion-driven content. If your story isn’t believable, your audience won’t trust you. If they don’t trust you, they’ll discount any emotions they feel from your piece. Content from brands is particularly at risk for a knee-jerk emotional shutdown because consumers are used to manipulative advertising tactics that play on their emotions.

If your story isn’t believable, your audience won’t trust you via @SFBakerGeek.
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To engage viewers, your story has to be relevant, and it has to be genuine.

Kleenex’s Messages of Care campaign highlights meaningful, real-life stories, including this one about a NICU worker in Marietta, Georgia.

3. Invite people to actively participate

The best stories pull in the audience, immersing them in the action. Allowing your viewers to actively participate provides an even deeper channel for emotional connection. With interactive content, you can put people in the driver’s seat, allowing them to follow their own path, answer questions, drill down for more information, and explore topics through multiple lenses or perspectives. This, in turn, provides you with insights on what your audience cares about.


Clinique’s Play with Pop interactive video campaign allows consumers to swap between musical styles and explore related cosmetic collections.

4. Create a full emotional arc

If advertising is a soap-opera episode, your content marketing should be a drama. A quick-hit emotional high may drive engagement fleetingly, but without a thoughtfully crafted emotional arc, your audience will quickly lose interest in your story.


Mattress company Casper manages to fit a full emotional arc into a few panels of a subway ad — impressive.

Without a crafted emotional arc, your audience will quickly lose interest in your story via @SFBakerGeek.
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5. Use data to optimize your approach

Refining your approach and figuring out the precise topic, tone, and slant that resonates with your audience requires testing. As you publish new content with an emotional thread, look closely at your performance metrics to uncover what’s working and what isn’t.


Content analytics platforms like Contently’s measure content performance by individual piece and by topic, persona, or funnel type, providing data to refine your approach.

Bottom line

Emotion is the key to driving strong engagement with your content. Using the science of emotional resonance and the art of creativity, you can design stories that appeal to your audience in a meaningful, real way. These stories will inspire your audience to share and keep them coming back for more.

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Cover image by Ryan McGuire-Bells Design, Gratisography, via

Please note:  All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team.  No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).

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How to Create the Ultimate Branded Content Style Guide


I’m a sucker for first-person stories. When people share their personal experiences, especially in B2B content, they draw me in and I often read to the end, consuming their message while I’m at it. Often personal content humanizes a corporate brand and can pack a big impact — but only if that’s what the brand intends for me to feel.

American Express Open Forum features Member Stories to demonstrate how the global financial services company understands the issues faced by small-business owners.


In the poignant blog post (When It’s Not) The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, a National Life Group staff member reveals a tragedy in his life and shares tips on how to cope with holidays. The life insurance company’s Main Street blog post (a Best Blog Post finalist in the 2016 Content Marketing Awards) expresses its desire to care for a customer.


These tones used by American Express and National Life could work well for some brands and for others it would miss the mark. Ensuring that your content reflects and expresses your brand essence or voice requires a comprehensive style guide. Without it, you risk sinking into bland drivel that takes your brand nowhere or worse, undermines it.

Ensure that your #content reflects & expresses your brand essence or voice via @heathrpemberton.
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A brand content style guide should cover more than grammar and specify tone, language, structure and the overall voice of your content. It contains four essential elements:

  • Brand attributes
  • Style and tone
  • Style rules
  • Examples of how to effectively use the brand voice and how not to do it

1. Define brand attributes

Has your organization documented its brand attributes? If your company has detailed brand documents, the challenge is to distill the information into sophisticated brand positioning incorporating four to five key attributes to guide content creation. If you don’t have detailed brand documents, the first step is to meet and brainstorm to define the core essence of your brand and then distill it. Don’t worry about perfecting your list of attributes. You can let them evolve over time.

For example, here are two types of companies’ brand attributes.

Premium chocolate brand:

  • Vibrant
  • Sophisticated
  • Personable
  • Dear friend

Security software brand:

  • Quality
  • Customer-centric
  • Innovative
  • Easy to work with

2. Translate brand attributes into style and tone

Words such as “vibrant,” “innovative,” and “quality” can have several meanings. For example, vibrant can mean active and energetic or it could mean positive, aspirational, and global. That’s why it’s necessary to specify how attributes should be articulated in content.

Furthermore, how writers express the terms “aspirational” and “global” in language, examples, and sentence structure defines how the content illustrates the brand.

For each brand attribute, first define its tone, and then specify the style of language and content that exemplify that tone.


Notice that in one example, the term “sophisticated” means that the branded content won’t use first-person language as this would be too colloquial and familiar with readers. For another brand, “easy to work with” translates into text that respects the reader’s time through the creation of short paragraphs, subheads, and bulleted lists.

3. Create style rules

Brand content rules give contributors specific guidelines to create content that reflects the brand attributes. For example, a premium food brand that wants the content to reflect a vibrant tone and style might create a rule like this, “Stay active: Use active verbs and active tense. Avoid gerunds and present participles in favor of active verbs.”

This same company demonstrates its “sophisticated” brand attribute with a rule: “Don’t be too cute: Speak with authority and familiarity yet avoid parenthetical, cute, and trendy statements to conspire with consumers.”

A software company that wants to be customer-centric might create a content style rule such as, “Start with stories: Start each article with a customer moment that puts the software into use to solve a customer problem or help meet a goal.”

4. Give examples of do’s and don’ts

Create examples to show content that follows the rules. You can pull examples of what not to do from existing content or create fictional examples to make your point.

Example A:

Content style rule: Be sophisticated, not cute. Speak with authority and familiarity yet avoid parenthetical, cute and trendy statements to conspire with consumers.

How to do:

A bowl of candy canes makes a sweet distraction for the younger set and shows your whimsical side.

How NOT to do:

Serve candy canes in a bowl on the children’s table (and watch how fast they disappear).

While both sentences are grammatically correct, each sentence communicates a distinct style or voice. What’s important is to give content creators a comprehensive brand style guide so they can align their creativity with the brand attributes. This approach engages your target audience with a style that reflects both the brand and their interests.

A comprehensive brand style guide … align(s) their creativity with the brand attributes via @heathrpemberton.
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Want to ensure that your brand voice is the most effective it can be? Subscribe to CMI’s free daily newsletter for tips, trends, and more insights to grow a successful content marketing program.

Cover image by Viktor Hanacek, picjumbo, via

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This Week in Content Marketing: Is Content Marketing Actually a Thing?


PNR: This Old Marketing with Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose can be found on both iTunes and Stitcher.

In this episode, Robert and I discuss whether there’s truly a difference between marketing and content marketing and, if so, whether one works better than the other. In M&A news, Google Acquires FameBit, while more publishers are starting to search for new media business models. Rants and raves include a celebrity-tinged perspective on marketing engagement, and some missed opportunities by Hewlett-Packard; lastly, we explore why MassMutual is sending its Millennial-focused Society of Grownups initiative into an early retirement in our example of the week.

This week’s show

(Recorded live on October 17, 2016; Length: 1:04:21)

Download this week’s PNR This Old Marketing podcast.

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1.    Content marketing in the news

  • Is content marketing a load of bollocks? (07:30): In his recent Marketing Week column, Mark Ritson gives his 2 cents on whether or not the emergence of content marketing as a separate discipline is distracting marketers from their “real job of communicating with customers and selling stuff?” Robert and I were confused about the actual argument being made here; but in general we both feel that, at this point, anyone who still feels the need to question content marketing’s existence should at least back up their assertions with solid factual evidence.

Questioning #contentmarketing’s existence? Back up your assertions w/solid factual evidence says @joepulizzi.
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  • Google acquires FameBit (23:45): TechCrunch reports that the Goliath of Google has swallowed up FameBit, a marketplace that connects video creators with potential sponsors for their content. There’s speculation that the move may be a way for the big G to compete with multichannel networks and/or overcome its issues with monetizing video. Regardless of the intent, Robert cautions marketers to remember that having access to an open marketplace of available content creators may be useful, but it’s not as critical as developing a trusted, exclusive relationship with the right influencers, so that both parties benefit.
  • Publishers become retailers in the market for survival (30:09): The Guardian examines the growing trend of magazine and newspaper publishers looking to prop up falling ad revenues by building e-commerce tie-ins for their publications. While I hope this discussion hits home with marketers — as it’s a trend that I see impacting them sooner, rather than later — Robert finds it curious that more U.K. journalists aren’t expressing their outrage over this form of uniting “church and state.”
  • What does HubSpot’s State of Inbound report mean for marketers? (35:49): A recent TopRank blog post offers an overview of HubSpot’s 2016 State of Inbound findings, including its analyses that educating the audience is the key to marketing success and that marketers’ investments in visual content will continue to rise. Though I have no issues with the study, I would like to see our friends at HubSpot place more of an emphasis on just how critical message differentiation is to marketing success.  

2.    Sponsor (39:05)

  • ion interactive: 50 Ways to Engage Your Audience — Interactive Lookbook: Want a fun way to get 50 ideas for improving content engagement? That’s what this interactive lookbook is all about. Each capability is illustrated as an example of itself. Have fun. Get ideas. Get results. Get the Lookbook.


3.    Rants and raves (40:51)

  • Robert’s rave No. 1: Robert sings the praises of two articles he discovered on this week. The first was written by the founder of OzComm Marketing, who just happens to be the son of iconic entertainer Donny Osmond. Robert felt that the entire article just kept hitting the right notes though he found one passage, in particular, that really struck a chord with him: “Storytelling marketing is not about tricking the mind; it’s about endearing the brand to the hearts of its clients and customers.”

Storytelling #marketing is about endearing the brand to the hearts of its customers says @DonOsmond.
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  • Robert’s rave No. 2: A second article also speaks to the need for businesses to find the points of passion they share with their customers — and use them to break away from the pack. Robert agrees with the article’s main points and shares his thoughts on how a business’ beliefs should serve as the foundation for its marketing strategy.
  • Joe’s rant/rave: While browsing on, I came across an ad for Hewlett-Packard Enterprise.nxt — an online publication that offers insights for businesses looking to make a digital transformation. Though I give kudos to HP for putting some advertising dollars behind its content marketing effort, my enthusiasm quickly dissipated once I discovered that, not only does the site lack clear calls-to-action, but it was also a total chore for me to track it down through search.

4.    This Old Marketing example of the week (52:00)

  • It’s rare for us to use a high-profile failure as our Example of the Week; but MassMutual’s recent decision to shutter its Society for Grownups flagship storefront in Brookline, Massachusetts, holds some important lessons for content marketers. As discussed in an article from the Boston Globe, the life insurance company is abandoning the much-publicized live interaction platform it launched in 2014 — which aimed to help Millennials become more financially responsible — and will instead focus on creating digital and online resources to improve financial literacy education. The innovative initiative earned plenty of attention when it first launched (including a detailed profile piece, which ran in the February 2015 issue of Chief Content Officer magazine), but quickly struggled to gain the necessary traction to succeed. While we applaud MassMutual’s enterprising idea, we see two critical flaws with its strategy: First, the company targeted an audience of “adults 40 and under” which is, arguably, too broad an age range to be served by a single set of financial resources. Second, rather than trying to drive the audience to engage at a single geographical location, Mass Mutual should have started out with an online initiative, built a strong following among engaged consumers, and then leveraged that audience base to expand its presence onto other platforms.


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For a full list of PNR archives, go to the main This Old Marketing page.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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Email Marketing: A Fresh Take From the Experts


Email and content are long-time buds. Subscribers are central to building a successful business. There’s no better content distribution channel than email. What would email marketers have to do if content wasn’t there to give them something to say?

In fact, 93% of B2B marketers reported using email to distribute their content in CMI/ MarketingProf’s B2B Content Marketing: 2017 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends—North America research.

But, more importantly, 93% of those who use email consider it to be an important channel for their content marketing success.

93% of those who use email say it is an important channel for their #contentmarketing success via @cmicontent.
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It’s clear that solid email strategies underpin successful content marketing efforts, but you can’t just send a weekly newsletter to your entire list and expect great results. Marketers need to create email that subscribers want to open.

A panel discussion with B2B marketing experts during Content Marketing World 2016 yielded invaluable insight into how content marketers can take their email to the next level and includes ideas about list segmentation, email relevance, and inactive subscribers.

Led by Chris Bondhus, senior director of demand generation for Brightcove, this roundtable featured Ardath Albee, B2B marketing strategist with Marketing Interactions and author of Digital Relevance; Carla Johnson, president of Type A Communications and co-author of Experiences, the 7th Era of Marketing; Skyler Moss, director of digital marketing for HCSS; and Dusty DiMercurio, content marketing and strategy, Autodesk.


Segment your list for increased relevance

You create content with a particular persona in mind, and you should do the same when drafting an email. It takes little effort to allow new subscribers to select their email preferences during their initial sign-up, but these few seconds can pay huge dividends during content delivery.

Create #content with a persona in mind when drafting an email says @andreafryrear. #cmworld
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As you onboard subscribers, ask them questions like:

  • How often would you like to receive emails from us? Daily? Weekly? Monthly?
  • What particular topics are you interested in?
  • What kinds of content interest you the most? Text? Video? Infographics?

These people might be engaging with your brand for the first time so don’t overwhelm them with too many questions. But asking a few targeted questions can help you deliver an email experience that’s resonant as well as relevant (yes, there is a difference). As Ardath explains:

I know vegetables are good for me, so they’re relevant to me, but they don’t resonate. I’m not going to go on and on about my vegetables. When you get that message that is really cool, that really resonates … it makes you want to do something, it drives intent, it drives action.

When you get a message that really resonates, it drives intent & action says @ardath421. #cmworld
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Providing an email message that resonates with a subscriber increases the likelihood that the recipient will do something with that content such as sharing it or taking another specific action.

Dusty offered one of his favorite email newsletters that resonates for him. He sought a subscription to a San Francisco-based email list called The Hustle because a friend shared it with him. Now, he’s an evangelist too, all because this list is, as he says, “playful and engaging. They’ve sorted out what persona I fit into …(They) are literally emails I look forward to getting.”

Think outside the newsletter

The B2B research also showed that 77% of content marketers are using email newsletters — and they are among the top five tactics that marketers say will be critical to their organization’s overall content marketing success in 2017. While newsletters are a critical tactic for many, these scheduled blasts don’t need to be your only email communication with subscribers.

77% of B2B content marketers are using email newsletters via @cmicontent. #research
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It’s time to embrace behavior-based automation triggers with your email distribution.

Epsilon reports that automated emails get 152% higher click rates than broadcast emails and, when done right, these emails can create a more personal relationship with your subscribers.

Automated emails get 152% higher click rates than broadcast emails via @EpsilonMktg. #cmworld
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Automation triggers should be based on your personalized buyer behaviors, but common choices include:

  • Welcome emails when new users join your service, start a trial, or create an account
  • Abandoned cart or incomplete account notifications
  • Anniversary emails to mark their time as a subscriber, customer, or both
  • Engagement-driven emails based on what a subscriber previously clicked on

If you take steps to collect some basic email preference data during the sign-up process, you can also use that to drive email automations.

For example, if one subscriber indicates liking daily emails and learning about managing a large team, it makes sense to let that subscriber know the day you launch a new e-book on structuring enterprise teams. A subscriber in a small business, however, probably isn’t interested in that content.

During the roundtable, Carla called on content marketers to keep their emails about the subscriber, not about the brand:

Too many brands, they may have that list right, but then they meander around. They’re talking about themselves first and the branding and what it is they want to say. They never get around to what is relevant and important to that persona.

Marketers need to keep their emails about the subscriber, not about the brand says @carlajohnson. #cmworld
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Focus on list quality over quantity

Let’s all pause for a moment and take a deep breath, because this section is going to be a little bit painful.

We’re going to talk about removing subscribers from your email list.

On purpose.

When you struggle to build your audience on your own land by growing an email list, deliberately deleting subscribers can seem like the height of poor decision-making.

But, if not every subscriber is a member of your target audience it stands to reason that not every subscriber is good for your brand. Plus, for B2B marketers, an unengaged email subscriber is unlikely to ever turn into a high-quality sales lead.

This means that you need to set up a workflow that reaches out to subscribers who simply aren’t that into you and offer a graceful exit from their inboxes.

If someone doesn’t click on an email for six months, for example, you might send an automated email saying you’re sorry they aren’t getting value out of your content, and you’d like to save them some time by removing them from your list unless they take an action.

Surprisingly, this can actually work to bring lukewarm email lurkers into a more engaged state.

For example, Carla had received this type of email from a brand a few days before the roundtable discussion. She took action to stay on the list because the message made her feel that the brand genuinely respected her time.

Bringing your email into 2017

Email and content are still BFFs, but both need to evolve in tandem to keep up with the increasing expectations of your subscribers. To get the most out of this tried-and-true distribution channel:

  • Segment your email list based on persona and preference.
  • Supplement your regularly scheduled newsletters with behavior-based automations.
  • Keep your list lean and mean so you can deliver value to your most valuable audience members.

Want to see how Content Marketing Institute offers options to prospective subscribers? Check out this subscription page (and sign up if you’re not already on our list).

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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How to Turn Research Into 27+ Content Pieces [Case Study]


A few months ago, our research report was complete. Instead of simply rejoicing at its delivery, we pounced on the opportunity to use it as a core part of our content marketing strategy.

Now, we share what we did, what we learned, and how we’re using it today to help you learn how a single piece of good content can launch a robust content marketing effort.

Research report

The 19-page study, Deliver Peak Experiences from Interactive Content, detailed the results of a randomly sampled survey of 20,000 marketers about interactive content crafted by the report’s co-sponsor, CMI.

The study provided a strong foundation for a host of targeted content highlighting the industry-wide move to interactive.


We didn’t just want to share a PDF that people could download (and hopefully read) after providing their contact information. We wanted to scale the content into something that would engage a broader audience. Here is how we did just that.

Create infographic-on-steroids landing page

We distilled the most engaging facts from the report — the top three types and most popular uses of interactive content — to create a freely accessible interactive infographic.

Distill the most engaging facts from a research report (into) an interactive infographic via @annatalerico.
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The goal of the infographic was to provide potential readers with an authentic taste of the report and offer them an impetus to give their information to download the full report through a sign-up form (in the upper right). That approach was more helpful than sending them to a landing page and saying, “Trust us. It’s good. Please download.”

We have found that lead quality goes up significantly with this “preview” strategy. Even though the total number of leads is similar, the people who engage with even a little content before providing their contact information are more likely to believe your brand can help them.

Interactive Content: The Good, Bad, and Wicked Cool Quizzes and Games

Share it

To increase reach, each of the 10 data pieces in the infographic included its own social-sharing buttons (Pinterest and Twitter).


The infographic quickly became one of our company’s top five interactive content assets, with a 10.2% conversion rate for downloading the research report and becoming a lead.

We sent a dedicated email drop promoting the study and the infographic to a highly segmented portion of the ion audience. Over 1,000 users from our email universe engaged with the infographic within the first few days of its publication.

The email drop resulted in an 8.5% lead-gen conversion rate for downloading the research.

An additional 625 engagements from organic website traffic earned a lead-gen 6.5% conversion rate for downloading the research report.

Test it

We also didn’t create a one-and-done infographic page — we developed a couple versions to test and see what resonated better with our audience. The infographic used today is the original (A) version that beat the challenger (B) version in head-to-head A/B testing with a 9% lower bounce rate and nearly double the conversion rate at 10.0% versus 5.5%.


Excerpt of infographic’s original version (A)  


Excerpt of infographic’s second version (B)

Teach it

One of the biggest pieces of content we did around the study was a 45-minute webinar during which I took listeners through the results step by step.

The webinar delivered 516 lead-gen registrants, which resulted in 41% attentive attendees (as measured by engagement throughout the webinar).


Subsequently, webinar registrants received a thank-you email including a link to the recorded webinar and a link to the infographic.

The Keynote-created file used in the webinar was turned into a standalone illustrated presentation on LinkedIn SlideShare.

Promote it

In addition, we authored two blog posts on Medium, another organic distribution platform. They were published a week apart, one previewed the study and the other offered insight into the study.


Print it

We didn’t stop with the online world. More than 3,500 copies of the report were printed to include in the bags for Content Marketing World attendees in September. While results-oriented measurement from collateral distribution is almost impossible to calculate, our intent with the report was to stand out among a sea of promotional postcards and fliers with valuable information on interactive content. We also had a few hundred copies available at our event booth.

We also printed a dozen 10-foot banners, each with a quote or stat from the report, and placed them around the party we sponsored during CMWorld.


From the single study, multiple pieces of content have been created, including:

  • 1 report
  • 1 infographic (multiple versions)
  • 10 social-sharing visuals (breakouts from infographic)
  • 2 blog posts
  • 1 webinar
  • 12 banners

It’s a rising-tide approach — leveraging the data into multiple formats lifts not only the findings of the study on interactive content but executes a multi-pronged content marketing strategy.

It’s a rising-tide approach – leveraging the (research) data into multiple formats via @annatalerico.
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What do you do with your company’s research?

Make sure you’re on top of the latest content marketing research. Subscribe to CMI’s daily newsletter so you’ll be one of the first to get our 2017 studies and other research.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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Here’s Why I Recommend Hostagor and Think You Should Use It

Pretty much every week I receive an email from people who want recommendations about web hosting. They want to know what hosting company I use, what plan I have, what plan they should get for a new blog or website and so on. That is why I decided to write this article, so that I can refer every one who asks here. I will structure the post as a Q&A, as I believe it will make it easier to follow along.

What Hosting Companies Have You Tried Over the Years?

I have been building blogs and websites for 10+ years (started in 2005). Over that period, I tried the hosting servicers of dozens of companies. Here are the ones I remember from thet top of my head:

  • Yahoo!
  • A Small Orange
  • MochaHost
  • DreamHost
  • BlueHost
  • Doreo
  • GoDaddy
  • HostGator
  • JustHost
  • iPage
  • 1&1
  • MediaTemple

Some were good, some were average, some were terrible. The good thing about web hosting is that it’s pretty easy to migrate to another company, so I didn’t stick with the bad ones for too long.

What Hosting Company Do You Use Now?

Out of all the companies listed above, the one where I found the best technical and customer service was HostGator, and that is why I host all my sites with them now. I started with their basic plan for a single site, and over time I upgraded to a VPS and now to a dedicated server.

The technical part involves the speed and reliability of the servers, and I always found both to be pretty good with HostGator (not perfect, but much better than the other providers I tried). Same goes for customer support. While it’s not perfect, they usually reply to my tickets and fix problems that emerge much faster that what I was used to with other companies.


Can You Give Me an Example of When You Experienced Good Customer Support?

Whenever I had technical issues with the sites, their customer support resolved them pretty fast, even if it was something in the middle of the night.

On different occasions I also asked them for favors, given that I am a very loyal customer, and they always agreed to help me out. Once they doubled the RAM on my server without any extra cost, and on another occasion I run out of dedicated IP addresses on my server, and they hooked me up with one free of charge.

What Hosting Plan Do You Use?

As I mentioned above, today I rent a dedicated server with HostGator. But that is because I host many sites, and some receive a good amount of traffic, so I can justify the monthly cost.

That being said, in the past I used pretty much all their plans, from the basic one (used to be called ‘Hatchling’, now it’s called ‘Starter’) to the Business plans and VPSs. All offered good value for money, and that is why I stuck around and upgraded over time.

What Hosting Plan Do You Recommend for a New or Small Site?

When people are starting out they tend to freak out about the hosting plan, imagining that they need a powerful plan to make sure their websites will be able to receive all visitors and be fast.

That is not the case. Even a basic plan will be able to handle a new or small site with efficiency. The limitation is usually the bandwidth (i.e., how much data your site can transfer), and it’s very hard to go over bandwidth limits. The speed of your site shouldn’t vary much from a basic to a more advanced plan.

In the case of HostGator, a Starter or Standard plan are certainly enough to get you started, and the cost starts at $6 monthly or so, which is pretty affordable.

What Do You Think About Cheap or Free Hosting Plans?

If you research around you’ll find that some companies offer free hosting, as in zero dollars per month. Some do that in exchange for placing links or advertising on your site. I used those in the past on experimental websites, mostly to know how it worked. The hosting does work, but the quality is not that great as you can imagine, so I wouldn’t recommend it for any serious project.

The same is true for cheap hosting services (i.e., those that cost $2/month or so). Sure, you get a better service when compared to free hosting options, but going from $2 to $6 is not a big jump in price, but it will be a big jump in service quality.

When Do You Think I Should Move to a VPS or Dedicated Server?

A basic VPS will cost around $40 per month. A basic dedicated server will cost about $100 per month.

My rule of thumb: as soon as your site is generating 3x the hosting cost, you should upgrade.

So when you reach $120 in monthly earnings, move to a VPS. When you reach $300 in monthly earnings, move to a dedicated box.

Why upgrade? Because the reliability you’ll get will be much higher. On a shared server what other users do on the server affect your site. If a user runs a bad PHP script and crashes the server, for instance, your site goes down together. On VPS and dedicated servers, your site is isolated from the others, and this is worth the extra cost in my opinion over time.

If you want to get all the details of pricing and specs, go to and click on “VPS” or “Dedicated” on the top menu bar.

What Is Your Relationship with Hostgator?

HostGator is not a sponsor of this blog, and I am not earning money to recommend them. I am an affiliate, though, which means that if you signup with them through my referral I get a small commission.

That being said, I am only recommending them because I have been a customer for 8+ years and I am extremely satisfied with their services. In other words, I am walking the talk here. I often get approached by other hosting companies to promote them, but I decline because I don’t trust their services. HostGator also offers a money-back guarantee, so you can test the service and see if you like it with no risk of losing any money.

How to Get 30% Off Your Hosting Plan

HostGator offers some very competitive prices to begin with. The Starter plan, for instance, costs $5.99 monthly (if you prepay). If you use the discount code dailyblogtips you’ll get an additional 30% off your order. Click here to view all plains and details.

Original post: Here’s Why I Recommend Hostagor and Think You Should Use It

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[New Research] B2C Marketers Need to Give Content Marketing Time


If you follow Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs annual research, you learned three weeks ago that our most recent survey shows that content marketing has taken a turn for the better. Sixty-two percent of B2B marketers consider their organization’s overall approach to content marketing to be much more or somewhat more successful than one year ago. The same trend holds true for 63% of B2C marketers as we see with today’s release of B2C Content Marketing—2017 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America sponsored by Hightail.

63% B2C marketers say approach to #contentmarketing is more successful than 1 year ago via @cmicontent.
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As I detailed in my blog post about B2B marketers, there are several reasons why marketers are reporting that their organizations are more successful with content marketing this year; B2C marketers report that they’re doing a better job with content creation (77%) and developing or adjusting their content marketing strategy (71%).

77% B2C marketers are doing a better job with #content creation via @cmicontent. #research
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But what can we learn from the 23% of B2C marketers who say their overall success is about the same as one year ago? To what factors do they attribute their stagnancy? The top two reasons they cite are strategy issues (49%) and not enough time devoted to content marketing (48%).


Quick hits vs. long-term results

One of the disconnects we observed in the research is that while 71% of B2C respondents agree that their organization is focused more on building long-term relationships than on getting quick (campaign-like) results from their content marketing, only 52% agree that their leadership team gives them ample time to produce content marketing results.


How can you build long-term relationships without time?

Too often, marketers expect quick results from content marketing, but it simply doesn’t work that way. In a metaphor borrowed from Chris Moritz, associate director of customer experience strategy at MRM//McCann, content marketing is like your 401(k) plan. No one should expect great 401(k) results at the beginning; rather, they should see the returns increase over time because of the compounded growth. Of course, if you want to see bigger returns faster, you can invest more at the beginning. In content marketing, quicker returns means paying to promote your best content to build an audience.

In #contentmarketing, quicker returns means paying to promote your best content says @joepulizzi.
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Need for commitment

Time and commitment also go hand in hand. Your organization must be committed to content marketing — in it for the long haul — if you’re going to see results and eventually be able to demonstrate ROI. As I have said, patience is often a missing, yet crucial ingredient if you want to be successful. Time and again, we see that it takes 12 to 24 months to get results — which is why commitment is so important. It’s a critical piece in building your subscriber base.


It takes 12-24 months to get results from your #contentmarketing efforts says @joepulizzi.
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The B2C research shows that only 60% of respondents’ organizations are extremely or very committed to content marketing. If the rest are lukewarm and/or think that content marketing is just an experiment or that it will generate quick results, they are wasting time and money.

60% of respondents’ organizations are extremely or very committed to #contentmarketing via@cmicontent.
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Everything about content marketing takes time

It’s not just great content that takes time:

  • Strategy takes time.
  • Figuring out the best places to distribute content takes time.
  • Determining what works and what doesn’t takes time.
  • Measurement takes time.
  • Getting results takes time.

Don’t get me wrong: B2C marketers are doing a lot of great things; there are many positive findings in this year’s B2C report. For instance:

  • 74% report having a content marketing strategy (40% said it’s documented and another 34% have a verbal strategy).
  • 76% of those who have a strategy said it includes a plan to operate content marketing as an ongoing business process, not simply as a campaign.
  • 78% agree they can demonstrate, with metrics, how content marketing has increased audience engagement (that’s encouraging news, as brand awareness and engagement are cited as B2C organizations’ top two goals for content marketing over the next 12 months).


View the report to see these and other interesting findings — including a chart on how the B2C top performers (those who rated their organizations most highly in terms of overall content marketing success) stand apart from their peers.

Download the complete B2C Content Marketing—2017 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America sponsored by Hightail. Want to get same-day notice of Content Marketing Institute research releases and learn more about the findings here? Subscribe to our daily newsletter.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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