3 Marketing Principles Jonathan Mildenhall Brings to the Startup World

3 minute read

Upland Admin

Jonathan Mildenhall moves to Airnbn from CokeAs a company that sells to large-scale enterprises and high-growth startups alike, we take notice when a heavy hitter moves from one world to another. Today’s news: Jonathan Mildenhall, one of the top creative minds at Coca-Cola, is taking over as Chief Marketing Officer at Airbnb—one of the largest and fastest growing startups in the world.

We’re admirers of both companies, and especially Mildenhall. His talk at last year’s Content Marketing World was the highlight of the event. And he really knows how to connect content, customers, vision, and product in unique way.

In fact, Mildenhall brings with him some solid content marketing principles  that will push new strategies at Airbnb, and in the startup marketing community in general.

Involve customers in the content creation process.

Mildenhall helped spearhead Coke’s Content 2020 strategy, which meant a deeper investment in content and connecting back to the popular culture for every brand that falls under the Coke umbrella. They put more resources into soliciting customer feedback—particularly on social channels—and using those insights to inform content creation.

As Mildenhall put it: “Our stories must add substance and value to people’s lives and it has to be the world’s most compelling content.”

Any Airbnb user (and I’m a heavy user) can tell you that other customers—both guests and hosts—drive much of the experience. I expect Mildenhall to double down on customer-generated content in his role there.

Storytelling must have a heart.

When you’re a big—some might even say “lifestyle”—brand, it’s not enough to just tell a story. You need to connect it to larger, important events in the community and world around you. Mildenhall called this #workthatmatters.

An excellent example of this would be the Coca-Cola campaign  where residents of India and Pakistan were able to see and wave to each other using an interactive soda machine. In exchange for greeting their neighbors, they received a Coke. It was not only a feel good campaign, but connected the brand to bigger issues in the world.

Startups can benefit from the same principle, telling stories that go beyond founder bios and product demos, and connect with consumers’ hearts rather than just their wallets.

Do what you know works, but embrace the unknown.

At Content Marketing World, Mildenhall explained how Coke followed a 70/20/10 rule. 70% of their budget went toward safe content, 20% was for new, innovative stuff they knew worked well, and the final 10% went to unproven, untested content concepts.

This approach ensures your content marketing will deliver on the goals you’ve set, yet keep you ahead of the curve. After all, if you’re only embracing new channels and approaches once they’ve become the norm, nothing you do will be novel.

My bet is Mildenhall brings tried-and-true content marketing methods to the startup world, and that he uses the opportunity to explore new ways to create, deliver, and promote that content.

No matter what, Mildenhall’s move is an exciting development—one that further solidifies content marketing as the focal point of modern marketing.

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