Last summer, two days of computer woes forced Delta Airlines to cancel
hundreds of flights nationwide—dozens of them at Minneapolis-St. Paul
International Airport—and many more were delayed.
As passengers prepared to bunk in on sleeping mats and airport restaurants
extended their hours, Mall of America newsjacked the event by offering an
The 5.6 million-square-foot shopping megalopolis is a 13-minute light-rail
ride away from the airport, and the mail cranked out a blog post titled, “Flight delayed? 11 things to do at MOA.” (Among other attractions, the site boasts a 27-ride amusement park and a
1.3 million-gallon aquarium.) Then MOA pushed the message.
“We targeted social ads to people at Minneapolis airport,” says Timothy
Pate, blog and digital project manager. “It was a huge success, where we
not only saw readership [increase], but through social listening were able
to see those people stuck at the airport enjoying their layovers at Mall of
As the mall celebrates its 25th birthday this year, its blog,
named 55425 for the mall’s ZIP code, seeks to hook customers at a time when
online shopping threatens many brick-and-mortar retailers.
In the countdown to
MOA’s Aug. 11 birthday, the mall launched a series called “25 weeks—25 stories.” One of them
celebrities such as Michael Jackson, Whoopi Goldberg and Angelina Jolie who have
appeared at the mall in over the years 55425 has been around for under two years, and it marks a new strategy,
changing “from a marketing approach to more of a content-brand journalism
approach,” Pate says.
Asked about readership numbers, he declines to lay out his cards, but he
says the blog has grown consistently each month.
Although 10 to 15 marketing staffers write posts for 55425, the mall also
contracts with journalists to tell some of the stories. Mpls St Paul
magazine’s food and dining editor tells how she and the mall
have grown up together.
The sheer scale of the mall and its entertainment sites means a brand
journalism approach makes sense, Pate says.
“We have a lot of stories to tell and a lot of different audiences to tell
those stories to,” he says. “Taking a brand journalism approach allows us
to tell these stories on a continual basis and direct the stories to those
we know will want to read them.”
Have a cigar
Another 25th anniversary story recalls the
movies and TV episodes that were shot at the mall. While performing in a movie being filmed at the
mall, Arnold Schwarzenegger would drop in on a Planet Hollywood restaurant
he co-owned there.
“He’d come in all the time for Chicken Crunch,” the eatery’s publicist told
55425. “He’d still be in makeup.”
Disappointed to find his restaurant half empty, he dreamed up a charity
cigar party and was able to pack the place at a week’s notice, raising
money for the Minnesota Film Board and Camp Heartland in the process.
MOA uses a variety of ways of finding stories, starting with social media
monitoring, says Jill Renslow, senior vice president of marketing. The mall
also engages with people after learning about them from their posts.
“When people are out celebrating birthdays and they’re posting on social
media with photos from here, we will actually surprise and delight those
individuals by meeting them up in the mall or giving them a gift card or a
ride pass,” she says.
Social media can also reveal common questions that the staff can turn them
into blog posts, Pate says.
Free download: 6 steps to crafting an internal social media plan
Another source of stories is reacting to pop culture trends and
conversations, Pate says, such as a story
on Pokemon Go tips. “We pay attention to what would make sense for our brand to join in those
current topic conversations,” Pate says.
Tacos and toddlers and tulle (oh, my!)
Contributors themselves are also a wealth of ideas. The senior experiential
marketing manager is a huge fan of tacos, Pate says. So, when actress
Jennifer Aniston touted the so-called “taco cleanse” diet, the manager
with a report from eateries in the mall (and a Barnes & Noble bookstore).
MOA also does its best to attract customers around events in their lives
when they’re looking to spend money. A two-part series advises girls
looking for the
for that festival of teenage awkwardness known as the prom.
At the other end of the kid spectrum, “When Toddlers Take Over” offers news of a weekly “Toddler Tuesday” that is no doubt welcome among
caregivers tasked with entertaining screaming tots or joining them in
vrooming plastic fire engines around the living room carpet.
Asked for tips for organizations covering their own stories, Pate offered
- Let your writers have their voice.
- Don’t try to pigeonhole your writers to sound like robots.
- Embrace your brand.
- Make your content as evergreen as possible. “Even if there is an
‘of-the-moment’ topic, we try to make it content that will still be
relevant in a year,” Pate says.
“Mall of America happens to have a lot of quirky stories, and we aren’t
afraid to share those with our readers,” he adds. “We find when you really
let your quirks shine through, readership goes up.”