A majority of internet users are discerning enough to know high-quality content from shoddy, mass-produced drivel. Similar to how you can judge a terrible show or movie within seconds of viewing by assessing camera angles, makeup, special effects, and other quality aspects, web users are constantly getting savvier at rapidly judging web media.
According to research by the Missouri University of Science and Technology, "It takes less than two-tenths of a second for an online visitor to form a first opinion of your brand once they've perused your company's website."
With 86 percent of marketers using content marketing as a component of their digital efforts, it's no secret that quality content is crucial for reaching new customers and attracting leads. Even within our own firm, clients have begun to exhibit a rising interest in optimizing their own web content. As the web has progressed and paradigms like HTML5 have matured, content creators have brought newfound interactivity and digital experiences online, making it easier for "traditional" content to stand out even further.
Sure, adding in bolded sub-sections and other readability tweaks can help spur traffic, but today's audience truly craves immersive and engaging content experiences. Below is a list of some of the most awe-inspiring immersive content executions over the recent past. And as you will see, this isn't your grandma's WordPress blog.
The New York Times: "The Jockey"
In recent years, The Gray Lady has made several high profile attempts to embrace digital. Like many newspapers, The New York Times is faced with an increasing generational gap in terms of how people consume news. Mobile devices, social media, and video streaming services have thrown the traditional news model out the window. This is why its move to incorporate more digitally minded content is worth noting.
The organization recently was awarded a Pulitzer for its initial step into immersive content for "Snow Fall." While the success was there, the newspapers most recent foray with "The Jockey" was just as impressive. "The Jockey" incorporates superb design, infinite scrolling, seamless video integration, and intimate audio narration.
All of the elements combine to tell the story of the winningest horse jockey in history. Reminiscent of a National Geographic production more than a newspaper article, at one point readers are treated to HD head-cam footage from the perspective of Russell Baze atop his horse.
CNN: "How 3D Printing Will Reshape the World"
One of the most mind-boggling technological and scientific trends out there is 3D printing. From talk of 3D printed guns, Aston Martins, and even mock human tissue, the concept is often hard to explain. Yet CNN did a great job of incorporating graphic animation, contextual web design, as well as interactive infinite scrolling. The background resembles a blue print and even the font serves to represent the "maker movement" through its scratchy style.
Particularly, the infinite scroll combined with animation and concise bursts of text allows for a visitor to view visual representations of the 3D printing process while reading. The immersive content format used by CNN allows for a dense topic to be easily accessible and comprehensible by the common person.
Navigating the content is also made easier by notification arrows and a menu bar for jumping to various sections. The act of physically scrolling your mouse wheel melds perfectly with the animated displays. Additional incorporation of relevant statistics, graphs, and quotes from thought leaders allows the concept and potential for 3D printing to be seamlessly communicated.
Google: "The Birth of the Eiffel Tower"
As a part of the Cultural Institute project, Google created an immersive look at 'The Birth of the Eiffel Tower." With inclusion of 360 degree panoramas from the precipice of the tower, audio recordings of Gustave Eiffel, and original sketches prior to construction, this digital experience from Google is a step above most online historically minded content.
Designers used a parallax scrolling method which shifts elements on the page as the user scrolls a mouse wheel or guides the story progress with arrow keys. While a user shifts through the various components of content, there are some standout images such as actual advertisements used during construction, newspaper clippings, and artistic renderings, as well as original architectural sketches from Eiffel's original plates.
Toward the end of the project there is also a well-placed link to visit the Eiffel Tower website. Digital marketers working in the attractions and tourism space for historical locales can benefit greatly from such content to increase enthusiasm from the general public.
Volvo: "3 Million Reasons To Believe"
Automobile brands are renowned for extravagant television spots and Super Bowl halftime commercials. Yet Volvo brought its marketing back to basics. For the "3 Million Reasons to Believe" microsite, Volvo tells a story through immersive content about the true connection between a man and his machine.
Irv Gordon purchased his first Volvo in 1966, which is still running today with more than 3 million miles. Not only does the content sell Volvo cars, by including extensive video, quotes, and audio commentary directly from Irv, but it also tells the story of American road trips. By connecting with an individual and observing how his life intersected with the brand -- and how his life relates to all drivers -- Volvo created a marketing experience steps ahead of higher profile campaigns, such as the Chrysler ad featuring Clint Eastwood.
The reason this content works so well, aside from the personal story of Irv and his Volvo, is that the integration of video, audio commentary, and historical information congregate to create a "Forrest Gump" like journey through American and Volvo's history.
Lincoln takes some serious steps regarding engaging and high quality content. A specific site, Now.Lincoln.com, serves as a next generation blog for the Lincoln brand. Interestingly enough, when searching through the blog, one may easily forget they are even on a Lincoln site, let alone viewing content made by the company.
Aside from the occasional small Lincoln ad, the content is absent of in-your-face ads or marketing messages. With minimalist design throughout the site, users are faced with little distraction from the content. From musicians such as Beck recreating classic songs with 160 other musicians to independent film-noir shorts, Lincoln does it all in terms of immersive content.
Rather than distill one single marketing message into a microsite, Lincoln uses the "Now" blog to consistently create content that reflects its dedication to quality, stylish design, as well as the company's undeniable link to 1950s American culture.
Now it's your turn
While some of these projects required a larger than average budget to create, digital marketers from companies of all sizes can incorporate their approach. Above all else, the immersive content examples listed above represent a focused marketing message that reflects a brand's main principals without any scent of overt promotion or shameless plugs. With these examples as guidance, it's now up to you to ramp up your content marketing efforts for today's digital world.
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