Marketing storytelling

Innovative Marketing Tips from Jill Cress, CMO of National Geographic

by Jackie Davis

National Geographic – best known for their breathtaking images, grappling animal series (run gazelle, run!), and maybe the Comedy Wildlife Awards, has withstood the test of time. Seriously, the first issue was published in September of 1888, making this year its 130th birthday. With the magazine, shows, multiple websites, and a very engaging social media presence (baby penguins, need I say more?) National Geographic is slaying their marketing. So, what’s the secret? 

Jill Cress, Chief Marketing Officer for National Geographic sheds some light on marketing tactics for the empire that include non-traditional approaches in her interview with Incite Group. “To help promote National Geographic’s series “Genius,” for example, we created Genius Bot, a Facebook Messenger app that connected audiences directly with the show’s main character – Albert Einstein,” said Cress. “Through Genius Bot, audiences were able to chat directly with Einstein within a venue designed to educate people on the show – adding a witty human touch to the campaign that engaged with fans on a uniquely personal level.”

Cress explained that customers are wary to embrace a new brand, they don’t fall for the tricks they used to, so engaging on a human level helps. “We now get bombarded with so much content that anything not immediately relevant, authentic or interesting gets quickly ignored or pushed aside. But I think this new “era of distraction” has created an exciting challenge for today’s marketers – and it’s one that’s forcing us to really understand our audiences, their motivations and their preferences at a core level,” she said. 

Connection is the key to today’s marketing. Creating something that the consumer can be a part of pulls them in and keeps them coming back from more. “In our most recent initiative, Planet or Plastic?, we successfully rallied our global community of 760M people into action around a single cause. Our multi-year brand initiative is geared at reducing the amount of single-use plastics polluting our oceans and environment in a way only National Geographic can – through storytelling and science,” said Cress. “It’s these kinds of marketing strategies we want to focus on as they have the potential for limitless positive impact – for our brand, for our consumers and for the world as a whole.” 

National Geographic is successfully engaging customers through storytelling and immersive ads. “They (customers) want brands to meet them on platforms that were non-existent a decade ago. But it’s important for brands to recognize that these shifts in preference are not necessarily negative, nor do they mean that we must distance ourselves from the ideals our brands were founded on,” explained Cress.

Cress will be joined by marketing leaders from adidas, Lenovo, and Dell at the upcoming Brand Marketing Summit that will explore the topic “Marketing is Dead: Engagement is Alive.”

To learn more about the conference, click here.