NEW YORK: Office Depot, the retailer specialising in office products and services, is using content marketing to build emotional ties with consumers, and thus engage shoppers in what is sometimes seen as a low-interest category.

Emery Skolfield, Office Depot's senior director/digital marketing, discussed its efforts at the Social Media World Forum, a conference held recently in New York.

"This whole idea of emotional marketing, as opposed to just content marketing, I think is really interesting for us, because it allows us to make a connection to users in a way that our brand doesn't typically do," he said.

"We're not a super-emotional, sexy, interesting brand: we know that about ourselves. But we're trying to be that way, especially to our key audiences." (For more, including the challenges of working with famous faces, read Warc's exclusive report: How teachers trumped celebrities for Office Depot.)

Telling stories that can pull on the heartstrings provides Office Depot with what Skolfield described as "content food to put out there in the world."

One example is a current campaign promoting its partnership with, a not-for-profit, enabling consumers to make donations to schools and teachers in the form of vouchers to spend on supplies.

According to the charity's figures, teachers typically spend $1,000 of their own money on supplies for the classroom every year. It has raised over $21m to date, and helped more than 5m students in the process.

Office Depot's campaign centres around online video content that focuses on roughly a dozen inspirational educators who employ techniques from hip-hop to incredible science experiments to engage their students.

"It wasn't about product integration and trying to sell to people. It was about telling a story that we care about, and we know other people care about, and making that emotional connection," said Skolfield.

"Everyone's been touched by a teacher; if you have kids who've been in school, everyone knows a teacher. So it's a nice bit of reach."

This content was made available in locations including YouTube and Office Depot's own website, and has been supported by paid advertising to build on the content's organic viral appeal.

And the impact of these stories is evidenced in the positive PR coverage Office Depot has enjoyed during the campaign's opening months.

"Through these stories, and through the teachers that we've featured, we've got a lot more TV opportunities … to get that message out there," said Skolfied.

Data sourced from Warc