Taipei boasts the tallest green building in the world. Amsterdam has its first 3D printed Canal House. Singapore is on track to become the first fully-fledged smart city in Asia. While you can expect to learn more about these breakthroughs in Wired or Fast Company 's Co.CREATE, this urban innovation-specific project actually comes from a new content studio, proving once and for all that B2B marketing has evolved far beyond white papers and slideshows.
International stories are all part of “ Cities of the Future ,” a series that explores the future of urban mobility in five locations through video and a mini-website. The project is the brainchild of MasterCard and Skift, a travel news publisher and global marketing platform. Launched in July, “Future Cities” also incorporates data from MasterCard cards 2015 Global Destination Cities Index to project models for cities that will exist in the coming years. The resulting B2B content was both imaginative and razor-sharp, causing target users to spend up to five minutes interacting with MasterCard online.
“Future Cities” is the latest in a collection of notable B2B marketing efforts Skift has undertaken since launching its content studio, Skift X , last year. The store has Skift project managers, developers and designers, and senior editors working with a team of freelance journalists to create its expert content.
“We set the bar high for ourselves so global brands like MasterCard started reaching out to us to reach that global travel audience,” said Matt Heidkamp, branded content strategist at Skift said.
Sponsored content is becoming a significant part of the company's revenue, which also includes subscriptions to trend reports and Global Forum an "innovative business conference" for the travel industry that Skift launched last year.
In the case of “Future Cities”, the opportunity arose from the existing relationship between Skift and MasterCard (the brand is a sponsor of the Global Forum). When the two began discussing complementary strategies to highlight the Global Destination Cities Index, they came up with the idea of a video-rich mini-website of the future model city.
“More than fifty percent of the world's population currently lives in cities and by 2050, the United Nations projects that number will increase to sixty-six percent. There will be some major issues affecting travel,” said Heidkamp. “We see this as an interesting way to promote MasterCard's insight and position it as a thought leader.”
While the campaign drives downloads for the report, MasterCard's primary goal is to connect with travel influencers, government agencies, and technology companies to raise awareness about engagement. and the company's advocacy role in the smart city space.
“So far, we are very pleased with the quantity and quality of engagement and interest that stories have generated in the travel and smart city communities,” said Bernhard Mors, Sub-VP MasterCard's digital and corporate communications manager said. Mors also noted that Skift and MasterCard share a passion for the intersection of travel and technology. This, along with the publication's "new approach to storytelling," is what prompted him to partner with Skift.
The result is original content that goes beyond the sponsored articles and trend reports commonly associated with B2B marketing. At the same time, Heidkamp emphasizes that stories adhere to journalistic best practices and are clearly marked as sponsored content.
“We keep it high, and our editorial team is appreciated as well,” he said. "We're really trying to convey the message that B2B doesn't have to be boring." For Skift, “Future Cities” has proven to be an outstanding case study that helps highlight the immense creative potential of B2B marketing content. Since going live, the small site has driven between 10,000 and 20,000 pageviews.
Currently, Skift X approaches its projects from two different angles: either creating utility content for the purpose of generating leads or developing aspirational content for the purpose of branding.
“We really wanted to bring these B2B brands into the media — get them out of the box and think in a big way,” explains Heidkamp. “The more interesting you are, the more people will notice you, so you don't necessarily push someone down the sales funnel but start a conversation.”
In addition to MasterCard, this strategy is also working for both the Travel Channel and Amadeus, a travel company that provides search, booking, ticketing and reservation technology.
For the Travel Channel, Skift X created Motion picture , explore the "new era of travel video". The Travel Channel is using the site to remind advertisers that it's not just a TV network, but a leading content destination across platforms. The projects use drones to shoot video footage providing useful information such as proprietary tourist survey providing video marketing case studies about organizations like Travel Oregon and more.
Skift's game plan for Amadeus is to develop a video series on the psychology of entrepreneurship and what it takes to be an innovator in the world of travel tech. Take off released in September, consists of three short episodes video and the collection of 40 – second clip Covers high-level topics like vision, adaptability, and networking through interviews with five startups. To promote the campaign, Skift also wrote a positioning report called “ Building the future of tourism: 5 takeaways for startups” said.
Upcoming work from Skift X is about current B2B marketing thinking: dry yet data-rich webinars and slideshows are being supplemented with vibrant content as well as informative entertainment.
“We are working as an extension of these brands' marketing teams. We know what kind of content is right for our audience,” says Heidkamp. “We have this motto that we build around trendlines, not headlines.”