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Content marketing has been a buzzword for some time now, and while the overall approach has been around for a while, the majority of businesses I come across are still not taking advantage of this great opportunity right at their fingertips.

Defined as the creation and sharing of content to increase brand awareness and sales, of course, content marketing is an ongoing process and it focuses on owning media – not renting or recycling it.

Content marketers also don't focus specifically on selling. Rather, they carry and relay information that existing customers and potential clients would find useful or interesting. The point is to spark and maintain brand loyalty via delivering consistent, valuable information to the audience.

It's also great for SEO. Search engines reward websites and video channels that publish quality, consistent content such as articles, blogs, photos, video, podcasts, case studies, newsletters, how-to guides, infographics, ebooks, white papers and apps. You can either do this in-house, or hire professional content creators in a variety of mediums to do this for you.

The digital world has opened up a variety of new methods in which businesses are taking advantage of this opportunity. According to a Content Marketing Institute study, content marketing is now a top priority for most organizations, with an average of 54 per cent of businesses in North America increasing content marketing budgets, with brand awareness and customer acquisition at the top of content marketing goals.

Some examples of today's top brands using content marketing to their advantage include:

1. Red Bull. Likely the most cited content marketing success stories, Red Bull is an awesome example of a brand-turned-publisher, mastering the art of storytelling. Red Bull's videos, blogs and events have been created to offer a network of exciting playgrounds for its target audience.

2. Target. Target's blog "A Bull's Eye View" offers online video and articles from the stores' home and clothing designers, celebrities and thought leaders tied to each of Target's departments; food, entertainment, home and garden. The approach keeps customers interested in their content, and also in what's new in-store.

3. Kraft. Kraft Foods launched in 1992 to add content marketing to its lineup of strategies. From recipes, cooking tips, cost saving ideas and a growing interactive community, the site has proven to be an engaging resource and a source of income for the brand. Kraft Foods Director of CRM Content Strategy said in an interview with Forbes: "The ROI on our content marketing work is among the highest of all of our marketing efforts."

While 'digital' has really brought content marketing to the forefront, there were many businesses already taking this approach, going back a hundred or more years:

In 1895, John Deere created the magazine "The Furrow" which contained information for farmers on how to become more profitable. The magazine was considered the first custom branded publication and is still in circulation, reaching 1.5-million readers in 40 countries in 12 languages.

In 1900: Michelin launched the "Michelin Guide" offering auto maintenance and travel tips to drivers. The first copies were distributed for free, and the publication set a precedent for info guides and distribution of branded marketing distribution. It still exists today, and is also published online.

And in 1904: Jell-O reps went door to door, giving out their cookbooks. The content within showed people how versatile the product was, and the company saw its sales rise to more than $1-million by 1906. The brand continues with the strategy today, offering consistent content via its website.

One of the main keys to content marketing success is consistency. This means that taking the time to create and distribute content on a regular basis is critical, whether done internally or via hired content marketing professionals.

In my next column, we'll explore video content marketing specifically, how it's worked in the past, who's currently doing it best, and how you can integrate one of the most popular mediums today into your marketing strategy for great results.

Lisa Ostrikoff is a TV journalist and anchor-turned-creator of BizBOXTV, a Canadian online video production, advertising and social media marketing agency. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook .

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