This is How You Tell Your Story Online: A Content Creation Checklist

“Ads with storylines are very effective.”   

This was the main takeaway (!) of a massive 3-year data study by AT&T designed to outline the characteristics of successful advertising.

You’re probably thinking, “wow, someone got seriously paid here to state the obvious.”

But seriously, the point is that data irrefutably supports quality storytelling – and we now have the tools to apply this to branded content and to brands that are not nearly as massive as AT&T.

If you’re reading this you already know you need an approach to creating and distributing content for your business.  Content that doesn’t just disappear after you release it.

With that in mind, we took a quick look at the impressive ways J.Crew, Barbour, and Frankbody approach online content creation, and even included a step-by-step Content Creation and Distribution Checklist to get you started.


Content Strategy.   What it is.

Content strategy refers to how you set up your website, create email campaigns, blogs, social channels, videos, and SEO – it’s also your overall approach to conveying your brand narrative to the right audience.  How are you bringing your brand story forward?

Why is this Important?

61% of consumers feel better about a company that delivers custom online content – and are more likely to buy from a company that does so (Inbound Writer).

50% – the average cost of lead generation through content marketing is 50% less than via advertising and outbound marketing (Marketo).

Quickie Case Studies:   J.Crew, Barbour International, Frankbody

J.Crew:  The Billion Dollar Content Challenge

For a multi-billion dollar brand with so many categories, J.Crew’s content is really well organized on their homepage. They also do a great job of creating shoppable editorial content around fantastic product.  It’s an enormous challenge to not bury content with product when you’re this big.  And vice-versa.

You’ll see roll-over tabs on the left side of their homepage that take you for a deeper dive into commerce and quality editorial.


J Crew Roll-Over Content Tab

Roll-Over Content Tabs


J Crew Content-Rich Commerce

Content-Rich Commerce


J Crew Films

J.Crew also features high-quality brand films in a section called “J.Crew on Film.”

 J Crew Ludlow Shop Button


Since J.Crew uses YouTube as their player, they’ve enabled YouTube’s “Annotations” feature which allows you to embed call-to-action links inside the videos themselves.  Here’s an example:

J Crew YouTube Annotations

J. Crew Monogram Shop YouTube Annotation

In their other films, they use a related tasteful click-to-buy button off to the side in order to keep their filmic content pristine.



Discoverability: the “J.Crew on Film” series is exceptionally well done, but difficult to find on the home page (only in the footer) and takes a back seat to products and other content.  We might add a homepage tab for this.

Calls-To-Action:  We would recommend tastefully embedding a link back to product available on the site at the end of each video.  (e.g. “Feeling this Suit? Click Here.” or “Want more videos like this delivered right to your inbox?  Click here.”) We might also embed ‘share’ prompts inside the video itself (at the end).  But we’re totally nitpicking here.  The films and calls-to-action are great.

Separate Content-Focused Domain:  in addition to having their editorial and filmic content live on their E-commerce site, it may make sense for J.Crew to house all of it (and B-roll, the overage, outtakes etc) on a separate, yet associated website domain. Club Monaco  and Dolce & Gabbana do this well.

Tracking: This way the brand can focus purely on tracking behavior and conversions around all of this content – a brand insight bonanza. 

Content-to-Product Balance: The billion dollar challenge for larger ‘catalog’ brands is all about balancing product quantity and their editorial content.  Brands like this need to be careful not to hide stories behind product, or product behind too much content.

Disclaimer: We are admittedly taking an outsider’s view here.  We’re big fans.


FrankBody. 2 Products.  Big Impact.

In stark contrast to companies like J.Crew, Frank Body only sells two (2) kinds of coffee body scrub, and that’s it.   But they do so simply and brilliantly.  Their messaging, branding, social engagement, emails, and user-generated content is off the charts. If you’re starting a company with a limited product range you would do well to use Frank as your roadmap.




Brand voice: They’ve turned their product into the main ‘character,’ giving him/her(?) unique, tastefully cheeky human traits in a clear, distinctive voice on their blog and all of their messaging.  Not easy to pull off.

Call-to-Action: Their online content, social, email notifications, and website are all beautifully integrated in terms of brand voice and call-to-action. And so simple. Guess what? That’s all content.

Frank Body also does something really clever with their shipping notification emails.  They use them to encourage selfies, posting to Instagram using the hashtag  #thefrankeffect   No opportunity to engage is wasted.

This has led to 231,000 followers on Instagram.

frank body shipping confirmation

Recommendations:  I wish we did this one!  But it will be interesting to see how they approach content (especially video) as their product offerings grow.


Barbour International.    Storytelling to a New Audience.

Barbour is a 120-year old British fashion brand that is effectively conveying their high-cache heritage, while simultaneously gaining new, younger customers by mixing their own content with clever Instagram-based film contests.

Barbour integrates product, story, contest, and E-commerce throughout all of their brand categories – all of which comes alive on their social channels.  Follow them on Instagram and you’ll get one interesting story after another. They lead with story, and finish with great product.


Barbour International


User-Generated Video Content:  They regularly run well-structured Instagram based film contests that solicit user videos/films.  These submissions supplement their own video content while supercharging social engagement.  One of the biggest challenges brands have today is creating enough quality content – this goes a long way towards solving that.




@barbourinternational on Instagram –

 Barbour International Instagram



RecommendationsDon’t overdo it.  Continue to balance content and product without one overwhelming the other.  You don’t want your content to bury product. Sometimes the best content can ‘hide’ product and hinder sales.



Start-ups: What if you don’t have a billion dollars?  Here are some emerging brands killing it with content.


Content Strategy.  What You Can Do.

In short: Develop a compelling (and real) brand narrative, a content plan, measurement strategy and tracking infrastructure. Optimize and refine.

Define your audience:  Who are you creating content for?  No, really, who is this person?  What are his or her online shopping preferences?  Social channel preferences?

Define your goal: Attach a business goal (or conversion) to each piece of content.  Is it an email sign-up,  E-commerce revenue?  Social sharing? Brand Awareness? Content Downloads?

*These are Content Performance Metrics, or what we like to call “The New CPM.”

Content Performance Metrics refers to tastefully (and artfully) attaching business goals to each piece of content you create.

Plan and Create Content that lives on Your Website: Content engagement starts here. Your goal with content should be to entice your audience to move off of outside social channels and into your ecosystem – your website and your email newsletter.

This is more important than ever as social platforms start closing off the content spigot unless you pay up.

SystematizeInternally set up a content distribution system and editorial calendar that allows you to generate and deliver great content consistently – but also be reactive.


Tracking and Optimization:  

Video, Images, Editorial:  We now have tools to measure response to brand films, commercials, videos, images, and blog posts, even content in the pre-release phase.

Tools: Use Google’s Custom URL builder and Mixpanel so you can track how web visitors/viewers interact with your content. Do they watch the video, do they sign up to receive your emails?  How many people come to your website and also watch your video?

Content Performance:  Start by measuring content performance from your own website. Although important, just measuring social channel amplification can be misleading especially since said channels are starting to throttle organic (unpaid) content discovery.  But we already said that (file under: disturbing trend).

The Combo Platter:  Establishing your “New CPM” combined with custom tracking will help you get the most out of what you spend on content.


Your Content Creation and Distribution Checklist.  Finally.


Content Creation and Distribution Checklist

*SEO Keywords should be integrated into great blog headlines, title tags, & meta tags. 


Conclusion?   Good Art Wins.  The Data Tells Us So. 

Thankfully quality content is in the winners’ circle again – and not just from an artistic point of view.  The data proves it.  You just need to know where to look.



If you want to learn more about how this might apply to your biz, join us for a coffee.  We’ll try and make sure it’s single-origin.


By Jed Wexler

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Epilogue:  A Word About SEO and Content Strategy.

“Great content writing [and creation] is no longer about stuffing in high traffic keywords and phrases. It’s about writing compelling, engaging, informative, relevant and entertaining content. It’s about standing out from the crowd as a credible and authoritative resource. It’s about creating the kind of blogs, articles, and website pages that people can’t help but share.” (Business2Community)

Well said!!

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