• Liz Hayes

Case Study: Masthead Maine gets creative with branded content campaigns

Updated: Nov 7


The sales force at Masthead Maine was prudent to allow their local credit union client to open up about his passions. It led to an incredible partnership that had little to do with finances, but had a big impact on the community. This was one of the powerful examples of a successful branded content partnership shared on our Big Branded Call this month.


We were pleased to welcome Masthead Maine Content and Marketing Strategist Molly Adams, Business Development Manager Mackenzie Gregory and Creative Services Director Melissa Pritchard who shared details on some recent campaigns.


The first campaign the crew showed off featured a biological laboratory and its fascinating discoveries around regenerative medicine. The client wanted to focus on brand awareness, making branded content the perfect advertising solution. The advertiser was prepared with high quality content that just needed some tweaking from the marketing experts at Masthead Maine.


"All of their content pieces kind of follow them under this umbrella of amazing discoveries happening in Maine," said Gregory. "They provide us the content and the great thing about working with them is that they're so collaborative with us."

The team worked on changing titles to make them more captivating and engaging to the Maine audience (see above image) and created attractive graphics to accompany the content. The 9-part campaign included print and a microsite, as well as display and native advertising impressions, plus paid and organic social posts to drive readers to the site.


Masthead Maine recently transformed the Portland Press Herald's annual Home Improvement sections to focus on custom branded content opportunities. One of the publication's most successful special sections, the home improvement section, is now centered around custom sponsored content designed to tell advertiser stories by highlighting their products and services and positioning the clients as experts in their field.


Knowing just talking about windows could come across as boring for their audience, in another example of a happy client, the sales rep discussed how branded content provides an opportunity to educate the public in an interesting way. The window company happily took their advice and were pleased with the new strategy that focused on energy efficiency.


"They were immediately amenable to doing a larger story that was about the energy envelope and improvements you can make to your home's energy envelope beyond your windows," Adams said. "They want to talk about the Federal tax rebates and Efficiency Maine, which is our state-level rebate."

Building on the success of the home improvement sections, they are now launching a new redesigned weekly real estate section called HOMES with multiple branded content features alongside traditional real estate offerings.


"Right now we sell these features to realtor groups, to brokers and developers," Adams said. "We've now opened that up to retail, to financial services, to senior and assisted living places. We need to diversify the basic clients that we can be selling into this section to sustain the print further into the future and sustain our ad sales in general, so we are really excited about this."

One of the team's greatest success stories (and referenced at the beginning of this post) is a content campaign sponsored by a local credit union that was a long time advertiser typically investing in display print and digital. The credit union loves content, makes quick decisions, and actively tries to reach a broad customer.


According to Adams, the credit union is actively involved in nonprofit work, supporting the Animal Refuge League and Portland Trails. The team understood that not every piece of branded content had to be centered around finances, but instead took this cause marketing angle to create a sponsorship opportunity for the credit union, highlighting the nonprofits.


They created a campaign called Tales of the Trails featuring Ollie, a canine mascot who would review the dog-friendly Portland trails in an adorable and engaging way, always leading back to the Animal Refuge League, where he was adopted from.


"What happened, which is very cool, was that Portland Trails just loved this artwork so much, they loved this campaign so much, that they kept it growing," Adams said. "It's just been this really nicely growing organic partnership with a bank in our community and one of our major, most beloved nonprofits here."


Portland Trails ended up commissioning the staff graphic artist to create even more illustrations of common wildlife found along the trail, plus facts about the animals and how to donate or volunteer with Portland Trails.


The entire concept may never have happened if the sales team hadn't thought outside of the box to listen to the client about what they're passionate about and execute an idea that would benefit everyone.


"He always spoke about his passions, he always spoke about Animal Refuge, always spoke about Portland Trails," Gregory said.


She says the team listened to the client and brainstormed to figure out how to turn his passions into an exciting opportunity.


We always recommend sales reps ask clients what nonprofits they support and what causes are important to them and their organization. Just like in the example above, it can lead to an amazing partnership and campaign!


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The Meta Branded Content Project is designed through a strategic partnership between the Local Media Association, the Local Media Consortium, and the Facebook Journalism Project to help facilitate additional growth, engagement, and revenue success for more publishers of all shapes and sizes.

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