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A Viral (Foods) Report, an ‘Ugly’ Content Gift, and an Email Treat

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A Viral (Foods) Report, an ‘Ugly’ Content Gift, and an Email Treat


This week, Instacart hits the content jackpot with a fresh annual report. Adobe helps subscribers get ugly. And a small chocolate shop curates a newsletter that delivers a sweet treat.

Instacart delivers food trend data – and explores what the numbers mean about 2021

Do viral food trends leap from social media platforms into the kitchens of viewers?

According to Instacart’s 2021 Year in Groceries, they do. Forty-four percent of U.S. adults who responded to an Instacart survey (conducted by The Harris Poll) said they’d tried cooking up a social media food trend this year. And more than one in three (36%) said social media has changed how they approach cooking at home.

But Instacart didn’t just take their word for it. The grocery delivery service went into its first-party data to see if people shopped for the ingredients used in trending social media food content. The answer? Yes. When baked feta pasta was a viral TikTok hit in February, orders for the recipe’s main ingredients jumped 107%. Orders for salmon rice bowl ingredients increased 97% in October, while orders for the ingredients in nature’s cereal jumped 94% in March.

2021 Top Social Media Food Trends chart from Instagram showing the increase in orders for ingredients in recipes for baked feta pasta, salmon rice bowl, and nature’s cereal during the months each recipe went viral. The Instacart report also lists hot (and not) grocery items across the country. Gemelli pasta, cereal bars, prepared sandwiches and wraps, frozen French toast, and energy drinks are on the rise. Wax-covered cheese, yeast, hand sanitizer, all-purpose flour, and disinfecting wipes are on the decline. An interactive tool lets readers explore the hot items in cities and delivery areas around the country – and download social-friendly cards to share those stats (#2021Delivered).

Instacart #2021Delivered chart showing which products rose and fell in popularity in 2021.

Another section of the report looks at the return to something close to “normal” by studying the trend line of pre-packaged snacks (for eating on the go) throughout the pandemic. The Pudding Pack Index charts aggregated sales across 10 snack categories – pudding, fruit bars, fruit snack cups, gelatin snacks, granola bars, gummy fruit snacks, pre-cut fruits, snack bars, variety snack packs, and yogurt pouches.

Instacart Pudding Pack Index showing aggregate sales of prepackaged snack categories throughout the pandemic.

WHY IT’S HOT: Instacart’s 2021 Year in Groceries shines in a galaxy of dull or predictable year-end reports and articles, showcasing how to tell great stories using your first-party customer data. And it highlights how to combine original research (the survey conducted with Harris) with customer data to tell stronger narratives.

Hot take: @Instacart 2021 Year in Groceries shines in a galaxy of dull and predictable year-end #ContentMarketing. (via @CMIcontent) Click To Tweet

Adobe decks its newsletter with creative gifts

Adobe Creative wants to help its customers get ugly this year. So it sent subscribers a newsletter (subject line: Free creative kits for winter holidays) offering “Ugly Christmas sweaters in a few clicks with a free Photoshop action.”

The action lets Photoshop customers turn any image into a digital sweater in a few clicks (including choosing from a range of knit sizes and pressing play). The feature comes from Pixelbudda, a design studio from Volgograd, Russia.

Image showing Adobe ugly sweater Photoshop action turning half of a reindeer image into an ugly sweater-style pattern.

If an ugly sweater isn’t someone’s cup of tea, Photoshop also offers templates for cozy winter cards that can be sent digitally or printed and mailed.

The Adobe Creative newsletter also includes non-holiday options, including how to make a risograph-style print in Photoshop.

Adobe risograph-style print template gif

WHY IT’S HOT: Adobe Creative makes a smart content play. Its newsletter offers specifics on how to create using the brand’s tools. And audiences always love free things, so templates and images make wonderful gifts. Bonus points for the attention to detail – notice the pun in the CTA button for the sweater activity: I wool try it.

Hot take: Audiences love free things – templates, tools, and images make great #content and great #email subscriber gifts. See examples from the @AdobeCreate newsletter (via @CMIcontent) Click To Tweet

Sweet Designs crafts emails worth every character

Sweet Designs, a chocolate shop near Cleveland, Ohio, delivers Truffles to its fans’ inboxes every month. While it doesn’t contain any chocolate, the newsletter does contain delectable content.

A Behind the Counter section in each issue comes from a Q&A with an employee. In December, customer service associate Sam Sweeney tells of her nearly lifelong love for chocolate, her world travels, and her work at the shop. (The newsletter links to a longer version of the interview on the company website.)

And this month’s Bet You Didn’t Know feature revealed that Leonardo da Vinci was a vegetarian for humanitarian reasons – and shared an image of the Mona Lisa holding a package of vegan chocolates.

Bet You Didn't Know section of Sweet Designs' Truffles newsletter showing the Mona Lisa holding a package of vegan chocolates.

Truffles subscribers get the chance to win prizes by taking a quiz. This month, a multiple-choice question asked readers to guess the most purchased wine at the company’s Lakewood retail location. Prizes included a $25 Sweet Designs gift card, the Katie Couric memoir Going There, and a Sweet Designs beanie.

And it always concludes with a funny cartoon in a section called Last Laugh.

WHY IT’S HOT: The Truffles email newsletter from Sweet Designs shows how well this small business understands that newsletters shouldn’t be all promotions and sales focused. Instead, this chocolate shop’s newsletter with their customers on many levels – sharing details of employees’ interests and background, relevant trivia, and even a good laugh.

Hot take: Truffles, a monthly #email newsletter from Cleveland-based small business Sweet Designs, shows how to take #content beyond promotions to connect with heart (via @CMIcontent) Click To Tweet

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute





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The Ultimate Guide to Storytelling

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The Ultimate Guide to Storytelling


Storytelling is an art.

Not a process, method, or technique. And — like art — it requires creativity, vision, skill, and practice. Storytelling isn’t something you can grasp in one sitting, after one course. It’s a trial-and-error process of mastery.

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How to Blog When You Have No Time

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How to Blog When You Have No Time


Finding the time to blog is a frequent challenge for many marketers. Marketers often wear many hats and it can be difficult to focus long enough to churn out quality articles when you’re pressed for time.

How to blog when you have no time? We spoke with author and marketing expert David Meerman Scotton how to avoid common time management mistakes by developing a routine.

No matter what you’ve got on your marketing plate, it won’t get done without proper time management. Learning how to make the most of your time will greatly affect your productivity and overall success as a blogger.

Why is blogging time management important?

When it comes to creating content, maintaining consistency is key. This is why blogging time management is so important. You may not always feel motivated to create on a regular basis, but establishing a schedule will help you to stay consistent with your blog output.

For example, you may find that you’re better at writing in the mornings. So you can set aside 2 to 3 hours each morning to work on writing based on how many articles you’d like to produce each week.

Create a content calendar to help you plan your content in advance and set reasonable deadlines. Make note of holidays or seasonal events that may impact your content schedule.

Getting organized will help you set and achieve goals for your blog. If you’re starting from scratch, check out our guide to starting a blog.

How to Blog When You Have No Time

1. Use blog templates.

An easy way to jump-startyour creative process is to start with a template. Why suffer through writer’s block staring at a blank document if you don’t have to? HubSpot’s free blog post templatescan help you format your article and get started writing faster than starting from scratch.

[Include screenshot]

Templates function as an easy to follow outline where you can organize your thoughts and start to flesh out your content. HubSpot’s offer includes six templates ranging from how-to posts to pillar pages and infographics.

2. Develop a blogging routine.

In many ways blogging reminds David of exercising. In order to be successful at it, you will need to develop a routine. “It is programmed in,” David says. “It is about building it into your life and making it a second nature, like running in the mornings or doing yoga after work.”

Dedicate time each day to writing or allocate one to two designated writing days per week. Block time off on your calendar and turn off messaging apps to avoid interruptions while you write.

Once you’ve gotten organized and created a routine, you may find you had more time to write than previously thought.

3. Keep a list of ideas.

One way to save time coming up with content is to make sure you always have a running list of fresh ideas to work with. That way you’re not scrambling at the last minute for worthy topics.

Creating topic clusterscan help you flesh out your blog content strategy. A topic clusteris multiplearticles grouped by a shared topic or related topic. For example, you may have one pillar page that gives a broad overview of a topic. From there, you can create more in-depth, specific articles on related subtopics.

This will not only help you plan content but organize your site architecture as well.

4. Perform research prior to writing.

It’s much easier to write when you have all the pertinent information you want to include in one place. Research your chosen topic before sitting down to write and organize the information in a quick outline.

Include any keyword researchin this process so you can ensure your content aligns with what readers are searching for online. This way when you sit down to write, your only job is to write — not look up new facts.

5. Don’t edit while writing.

When writing it’s very tempting to want to stop and make corrections. Don’t do this. It breaks your writing flow.

Instead, write a rough draft withjust pops into your mind first. Follow your train of thought without stopping to fix typos or edit. The goal is to just get your thoughts on the page. Once your initial draft is written, you can always go back and make changes.

6. Perform article updates.

Another strategy is to build upon existing content by performing an article update. Giving your older content a refresh is not only good for SEO and your readers, but it can be a quick win for adding new content in a time crunch.

With older content, you may need to include additional research and update it for accuracy, but it generally takes less time than writing a new article from scratch. Review your existing content. Are there articles you can do a deeper dive on? Have there been industry advancements you can include? Is there a new angle to explore?

7. Find content ideas wherever you go.

By making blogging a life routine, you will come across creative content ideas much more frequently. Keep an open mind, observe new things that interest you personally and find ways to turn them into fodder for a blog post. By noticing world dynamics that get you excited and relating them to your audience, the process of blogging becomes a lot more natural and fun.

Accumulate content ideas from different situations in life and find ways to apply them to your industry.

8. Hire a freelancer.

Sometimes your workload is just too heavy and your efforts can be better used elsewhere. If you have the resources and budget to do it, hiring outside help may also be a great option.

Sites like Upwork, Contenta, and MediaBistro make it easy to find writing professionals. If looking to generate content on a larger scale, consider working with a content agency.

Blog Like A Pro

Creating content with a consistent cadence is an obstacle busy marketers frequently struggle with. Creating a schedule and mastering blogging time management will allow you to create even when you’re short on time.

This article was originally published in December 2010 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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How clean, organized and actionable is your data?

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90% of marketers say their CDP doesn't meet current business needs


A customer data platform (CDP) centralizes an organization’s customer data, providing a single 360-view of each consumer that engages with the company. Yet there are still data-related considerations that organizations have to make beyond what the CDP does.

“[CDPs] were designed to fill a need – to enable a marketer to easily get to the data they need to create their segmentation and then go on and mark it from that point,” said George Corugedo, CTO of data management company Redpoint Global, at The MarTech Conference. “But the issue is that CDPs really don’t take care of the quality aspects of the data.”

Maintaining data quality also impacts segmentation, campaigns and privacy compliance challenges for marketing teams that use this data.

Data quality

The data in a CDP depends on the quality of where it came from. Therefore, an organization using a CDP must also consider the quality of the data sources and reference files used to build out the CDP.

“The inevitable question is going to be, how good is this data?” said Corugedo. “How much can I trust it to make a bold decision?”

This is something that has to be on every organization’s radar. For instance, when identity resolution is used, the issue depends on the quality of the third-party reference files. If they are provided by a telecommunications company or credit bureau as the data partner, those files might only be updated quarterly.

“It’s just not an optimal solution, but every single CDP on the market uses some form of reference file,” Corugedo stated.

It’s up to the data scientists and other team members working within the organization to own the accuracy of these data sources.

Read next: What is a CDP?

Segmentation and other actions

The quality of the data using specific reference files and sources will vary and will impact the confidence that marketers have in creating segments and using them when deploying campaigns.

Marketers have to make this decision at a granular level, based on the trustworthiness of data from a particular lineage.

“If they have a campaign that is reliant on suspect data, they can actually delay that campaign and say maybe we wait until that data gets refreshed,” said Corugedo.

Otherwise, marketers are just “spraying and praying.”

Using rules instead of lists

The advantage of having a CDP is unification of all data. But the data is being updated all the time. Instead of deploying campaigns based on a fixed list of customers, the use of rules to define segments allows marketers to update who they engage in the campaign.

“A list, as soon as it’s detached from the database, starts to decay because it doesn’t get any updates anymore,” Corugedo, adding that using lists takes longer to execute a campaign.

Lower quality from data that isn’t updated can have serious implications for healthcare and other industries, where accuracy is essential. 

“Instead, rules are passed through the campaign just like they would be with a list, but those rules reevaluate every time there’s a decision point to make sure that only the qualified people get the particular content at that point,” Corugedo explained.


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Privacy and regulatory compliance

Maintaining data quality through a Redpoint Global dashboard, or a similar combination of tools and data personnel, will also help an organization manage privacy.

The crucial point is that people on the team know where the data came from and how it’s being used in campaigns. The stakes for sending out relevant messaging are high. Privacy and compliance issues raise the bar even higher.

If you’re using a CDP, you can save headaches and extra labor by using a tool that has compliance and privacy baked in, so to speak.

“What we’ve done is embrace some of this complexity and absorb it into the environment, so the marketer never even sees it,” said Corugedo. “What we do is with every implementation, we will implement a PII vault that keeps PII data super secure, and we can anonymize the marketing database.”

This way, personal information of individual customers (PII) is never violated.

“Marketers ultimately don’t necessarily need to have visibility to PII,” Corugedo explained “They like to see it for testing purposes and making sure that it looks right and everything, but the truth is we can do that in other ways without revealing PII.”

Having a handle on data quality adds to the confidence marketing teams have in creating segments and executing campaigns, and it can also help protect the customer’s privacy and guard against regulatory infringements.

Facts not fiction: Beyond the CDP from Third Door Media on Vimeo.


About The Author

Chris Wood draws on over 15 years of reporting experience as a B2B editor and journalist. At DMN, he served as associate editor, offering original analysis on the evolving marketing tech landscape. He has interviewed leaders in tech and policy, from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, to former Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Vivek Kundra, appointed by Barack Obama as the country’s first federal CIO. He is especially interested in how new technologies, including voice and blockchain, are disrupting the marketing world as we know it. In 2019, he moderated a panel on “innovation theater” at Fintech Inn, in Vilnius. In addition to his marketing-focused reporting in industry trades like Robotics Trends, Modern Brewery Age and AdNation News, Wood has also written for KIRKUS, and contributes fiction, criticism and poetry to several leading book blogs. He studied English at Fairfield University, and was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He lives in New York.



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