Lyndsey Wheeler / Staff Writer -

Movie buffs, tech nerds, and cultural critics have just published the publicly-anticipated "Best of 2012" lists. In the content marketing world it's not debating the vagaries of Carly Rae Jepson or Psy that consumes our time. Instead, it's great content strategy. From the drink brands to beauty, 2012 was a year marked by dramatic growth in content marketing.

What sets great content marketing apart? Authenticity, simplicity, and -- more often than not -- a sense of humor. So, in the spirit of the season, we’ve identified the best in content design to carry us into 2013.

10. Perrier — For a cool and refreshing beverage company, Perrier’s nightlife and culture site Societe Perrier is hot. Billing itself as an arbiter of what's in around the world, the site curates nightlife, art, music, fashion, and travel content. The engaging graphics portray a hip, jetsetting lifestyle and match Perrier’s branding perfectly. The site is also home to “Mixology by Perrier.” “Mixology” puts a Perrier spin on cocktails and showcases original combinations of flavors and textures, recipes, and mouthwatering photographs.

9. Kate Spade — Kate Spade New York’s blog, "Behind the Curtain," takes the cute and classic Kate Spade aesthetic and brings it to a content experience. Expertly blurring the line between content and marketing, "Behind the Curtain" features product spotlights, editorial columns, top ten lists, and look book galleries. The result is a loyal band of readers and customers who can’t get enough of the Kate Spade.

8. Standard Hotel Group — For a group of luxurious, boutique hotels, the Standard Hotel Group does a good job of encapsulating the novelty of a boutique experience through its website. On the main page, moving photograph gifs bring the hotel to life and help to mimic The Standard’s simultaneous quirkiness and luxury. A link to Standard Culture takes visitors to the hotel’s blog featuring cultural news from New York, Los Angeles, and Miami.

7. Mercedes Benz — Simplicity is key to the luxury aesthetic but when it comes to automobile websites, there’s a lot of content to cover. Mercedes Benz does a great job of providing a high volume of information while still maintaining the simple and sleek look of a luxury automobile. Wide photographs of the vehicles are the central focus of the site while smaller white content boxes convey all necessary information without distracting readers.

6. Tablet Hotels — Travel websites are a dime a dozen these days. One that incorporates lifestyle content, stunning photo spreads, and itinerary assistance, on the other hand, is not. Tablet combines the content of a travel magazine with the utility of an online booking site to achieve the best of both worlds. Tablet’s high quality images from around the world speak for themselves and serve to illustrate the luxury vacation that a user can expect when booking with Tablet.

5. “The Cut” — New York magazine’s style blog “The Cut” takes the large, editorial feel of a fashion magazine and brings it to the digital era. Its simple black and while color scheme brings life to the variety of eye-catching photographs that grace its pages. Covering a range of topics from fashion to fame, "The Cut" jam packs its site full of content but artfully ensures the end result isn’t cluttered or confusing.

4. Whole Foods Market — Traditionally, supermarket websites are for utility only — product searches and online ordering. When it comes to Whole Foods Market, forget what you know. The gourmet, health food store’s website doubles as a food blog. The site’s handwritten font and earth toned color scheme reflect its natural and organic mission. Recipes, health information, and tons of lip smacking photographs, bring added utility to the food market’s website and turn shoppers into regular readers.

3. USA Today — USA Today’s redesign was big news back in September when the thirty-year old paper decided it was time to dive into the 21st century and adjust its online experience. The resulting digital newspaper certainly did the trick. Cleaner and more organized, USA Today’s new site caters to mobile devices as well as readers’ personal preferences. Visitors can opt to read the headlines in a grid, list, or big page format.

2. Coca-Cola — Coke is a giant when it comes to branding, but with a more than 100-year legacy, keeping a brand fresh can be the biggest challenge. The company’s online design strategy, however, suggests that Coke has it under control. As part of its Happiness campaign, Coke has designed an entire section of its site to foster user happiness. From quotes by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, and Aristotle to facts about happiness, and even a step-by-step guide to achieving happiness, Coke successfully bolsters its brand. The bright colors, large, interactive, and clickable elements further serve Coke’s happiness mission.

1. Red Bull — It’s been a big year for Red Bull. As the content marketing trend has swept the digital landscape, these branding wizkids have certainly demonstrated their mastery. Red Bull’s press and profit-driving Stratos project isn’t the only thing the energy drink company is setting records for in 2012. The content design on Red Bull’s website is one more way in which Red Bull solidifies its brand. Including everything from musical information, events, sporting news, culture, and a plentiful collection of photos and videos, the site is simple, sexy, and screams “Red Bull.”


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