Content Marketing
How to Pick a Theme for Your Content (Plus Examples)

How to Pick a Theme for Your Content (Plus Examples)

October 21, 2016
6 min read

One of the most enjoyable parts of Halloween is getting to dress up. Right?

Sure – the candy is great. The old scary movies on TV are a kick. But donning a costume is a special kind of fun.

You get to show the world a little something about you that they might not know – like your favorite superhero is The Tick.

Or put on an outrageous or hilarious outfit that gets you all kinds of attention. Like that time you dressed up as a walking shower.

Or briefly live out that childhood fantasy of being a fireman.

One thing’s for sure. Dressing up for Halloween is never dull.

All eyes are on you. As they should be.

You can get more eyes on your content with a great costume, too.

No, I don’t mean dressing up in a costume to write your next blog post. I mean giving your content a costume. In other words, giving it a theme.

In this post, we’ll cover seven awesome content theme examples, plus four tips on how to implement themes in your own content.

Creating Your Content Around a Theme Does Two Things

  1. It gets audience attention faster than you can say “BOO!”

Let’s face it. There’s a lot of content out there. And it all sort of looks – and reads – the same.

Creating content around a theme allows you to get really creative with a motif, and tie the content and design together in fun ways. This can really help your content pop and not only grab, but keep viewer attention.

  1. It makes your job easier than handing out candy to trick-or-treaters.

There’s a psychological phenomenon called “decision overwhelm.” When we’re faced with too many choices, we human beings can’t make a decision to save our lives. Creating content around a theme narrows your focus and eliminates a lot of that decision overwhelm.

Creating content around a theme narrows your focus and eliminates a lot of that decision overwhelm. Tweet: Creating content around a theme narrows your focus and eliminates a lot of that decision overwhelm. @snap_app

Use this very post, for example. It has a Halloween theme. Say I wanted to come up with a better word for “strange” or “unusual.” To stay with my theme, the choices are more limited – but much more potent! Nightmarish, creepy, spooky, macabre, ghastly, ghoulish, grim, frightful, eerie … the list goes on – but not forever. I can make a decision pretty easily with my limited selection of theme-appropriate words.

7 Spine-Chilling Content Theme Examples

Let’s look at costumed content in action, shall we?

I’ve pulled together 7 examples of themed content sure to startle you into creating an enchanting theme for your own content.

1. Spiceworks Playbook: Spicy Marketing Menu

This inspirational lookbook is full of marketing campaigns running in Spiceworks. The theme circles around food, cooking and a restaurant menu. In fact, the table of contents is a menu.

The copy in this piece is heavily themed. Most businesses wouldn’t try something this bold – but with the spirited food-themed design, it makes a big impact without being off-putting.

2. Space Needle Website

The Space Needle website homepage is an interactive content masterpiece. The theme revolves around climbing in altitude and scaling heights, and has a slightly futuristic motif.

Even the way users interact with this homepage is unusual. Instead of scrolling down, you scroll up – like you’re going up the Space Needle and exploring Seattle from the elevator to the top of the world-famous tower.

3. Oracle E-book: Seven Deadly Sins of Content Marketing

Published the day before Halloween two years ago, this e-book is so well-themed, it’s spooky. Not only did Oracle capitalize on the holiday for this supernaturally effective piece of content, but the design of the entire piece is a real treat (not a trick).
The copy doesn’t go as heavy on the themed words as the Spiceworks playbook did, and the graphics aren’t as pointed. That is actually a good thing. The reader can take this content more seriously. Plus, even though there’s a clear theme, that theme doesn’t distract from the point the content is trying to make.

It’s a well-executed piece, and one I’m sure gets a lot of attention every October.

4. Oracle Guide: Demand Gen Pro’s Cookbook

Yes, another food-themed example! In this case, Oracle goes much heavier with the theme. Each interior page is laid out like a recipe card, complete with corny case-study name, ingredients list, prep time, step-by-step directions and expected results.

This piece will clearly be taken less seriously than the Oracle e-book above – but that’s okay. Its purpose is different. This guide is a showcase of Oracle Marketing Cloud case studies, and spicing it up with a heaping spoonful of themed copy and design makes this a lot more palatable to read.

Evidently this content made an impact on me. Because suddenly I find myself using food metaphors instead of Halloween metaphors! Point, Oracle.

5. Everstring Blog: Taco-based Marketing

This taco-themed blog is part of Everstring’s Taco-Based Marketing (TBM) campaign for Account Based Marketing practitioners.

Aren’t you curious how tacos relate to marketing? I sure was. And that’s the point. This content stretches the imagination. You have to read the content to know the answer to the question.

It’s an attention-grabbing theme, for sure.

The theme was part of a larger campaign Everstring was promoting, Taco Tuesday Fiesta:

“Introducing Taco Based Marketing. That’s right, Taco Based Marketing. For those that take the time to see our EverString Audience Platform this quarter, we will send you everything you need for your Taco Tuesday Fiesta. We call it a Fiesta in a Box. What is a Fiesta in a Box, you ask? Think tequila, margarita mix, and basically everything you need to have the perfect Taco Tuesday Fiesta”

BUT – this theme is also handled in an unusual way for their blog. You might expect that each taco ingredient would be correlated to a marketing tactic (or something like that), but Everstring didn’t write it that way. Instead, this blog talks about why we love tacos. So creative!

6. Cross Country Home Infographic: Winter Theme

Here’s an interactive infographic example from Cross Country Home Services. The winter theme for this infographic fits perfectly with the purpose of the content – to help you protect your home against wintertime risks.

Adding interactive elements allows user to actually engage with the theme just like Seattle Space Needle example. You can see snow actively falling in the background, and each of the illustrations in the blue bubbles are clickable. When clicked on, they present the reader with specific information about that area of the home.

This theme combined with the interactive elements is a smart way to make typically boring homeowner tips come alive for readers.

7. Valve Employee Handbook

This is by far the most unusual example I came across. Valve Software’s employee handbook wasn’t originally designed as marketing content – it was internal communications content … but it went viral. And once it went viral, it took on a life of its own and quickly spread the word about the company (like all effective marketing content should do!).

As you can see, it’s designed to look like a children’s book. The copy isn’t childlike, necessarily, but it’s simple. The illustrations are playful yet mature.

Valve has long held the reputation of being an unusual, and some would say extraordinary place to work, and the company has attracted out-of-the-box thinkers because of it. I personally believe this children’s book theme is a great example of the company’s personality.

How to Think Thematically for Your Own Content

Feeling inspired? Great! Here’s how to give your own content a “costume” any time of the year.

  1. Consider your target audience

Are there any themes that would be especially meaningful for your target audience? Some examples might be a garden theme for landscapers, a party theme for office managers, or a video game theme for IT technicians.

  1. Get out your editorial calendar

Is there a holiday or season coming up fast? Using that as a theme in your content can be both fun and timely.

  1. Put a fresh spin on an old topic

Are you writing about a topic that everyone seems to write about? Get creative. Make an unusual connection for your audience, like Everstring did when they related account-based marketing to tacos. Think of a motif that may add some lift to the main points,  like an amusement park graphics along with some simple metaphors in the copy.

  1. Vary your content types

Sometimes creating a piece of content in a new format can spark a theme idea. Think about that Oracle cookbook example. If they had written it as a blog post, the cookbook theme might not have been as apparent – nor would it have worked nearly as well.

You don’t need hocus pocus to come up with a great theme for your content. By getting a new perspective using one (or more) of these 4 tips, you could scare up some great ideas for your content costume!

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Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula", and Founder of Marketing Insider Group. Recognized as a Top Content Marketing expert and Digital Marketing Leader, Michael leverages his experience from roles in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as his leadership in leading teams and driving growth for thriving startups. Today, Michael delivers empowering keynotes on marketing and leadership, and facilitates actionable workshops on content marketing strategy. Connect with Michael today.