If you’re a content marketer, you spend your days toiling to find unique ways to tell your brand’s story. Sometimes, enlisting the help of others — from super fans to celebrities — can be an effective way to amplify that story, as long as it’s not forced or disingenuine.

Sharon Leath, Director, Integrated Marketing Content, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, considers herself “chairman of the lucky committee” because people are so passionate about their love for Dr. Pepper. Her mission is to take that brand loyalty to the next level by encouraging fans to share what they love about the brand and bring more people in.

Like Leath, Dan Sanborn, VP of PR and Entertainment Marketing, Diageo, is also charged with keeping the momentum going for brands that already have a strong connection with consumers, such as Johnnie Walker, Guinness, Ketel One, and others. “What’s unique about our category is that we’re part of celebrations the world over. Birthdays, weddings… We’re at the intersection of lifestyle,” says Sanborn.

Part of the success of both brands has been their ability to choose the right voices to tell their stories. Leath and Sanborn shared some of their insight on this topic at NewsCred’s Content Marketing Summit 2014. Here are the highlights:

If something’s not working, start over

Did you know that Dr. Pepper gives away over $1 million in college tuition during the football season? “We’ve been giving it away for a long time. It used to be a joke that it was the best kept secret in promotions,” says Leath. That’s because the old landing page just included the contest details and not much else. “We scrapped the site and built it social by design. Now people can tell us their one of a kind goal, you can nominate somebody, vote for your favorites, and you have a chance to win a portion of tuition,” says Leath. “Now it means something. We get to meet these kids and families…winners telling their stories about how far they’ve come.”

NewsCred Contetn Marketing Summit

Don’t chase cool, but be on the lookout when it happens

“A lot of time you see someone write large checks and chase cool for someone who doesn’t even like the product,” says Sanborn. “Consumers are smart — they know bullshit.” He says it makes more sense to align with credible people who actually use and enjoy the brand.

For instance, when Michael Strahan sent each of his NY Giants teammates an engraved bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue in 2008, that was an authentic moment. Fast forward to this year, and Johnnie Walker was a huge part of Strahan’s hall of fame induction party.

Similarly, one of Dr. Pepper’s most successful campaigns was when they discovered NFL player Justin Tucker’s love for the beverage via Twitter, along with his unexpected opera singing abilities. That connection resulted in a popular video campaign.


Move quickly in real time, but only when it makes sense

Because Dr. Pepper is so connected to football, Leath says the marketing team puts their game face on for game days. “We have a social war room running, responding in real time to what people are talking about. It’s important to speak to your customers at the right time,” she says.

The key is to not only understanding the cultural calendar, but also what is relevant for your brand, says Sanborn. “You have to have the access to move quickly, and the agility to create content that’s going to credibly disrupt the consumer and drive an emotion,” he says.

One example he shared was for Guinness. It’s brand purpose, “Made of more,” is very specific, so his team works hard to identify not only cultural moments, but individuals that embody that concept. Right before the Olympics, Guinness released this video of the Barnes sisters:


“A group of folks that work around that brand identified that story,” says Sanborn, and they were able to create the piece quickly.

The more people sharing your brand’s story, the better, but as with everything in content marketing, authenticity is vital. Says Sanborn: “You have to know what your role in culture is.”