04/21/2014 04:43 pm ET Updated Jun 21, 2014

Why Good Content Is a Must

"What you call 'love' was invented by guys like me. To sell Nylons." Mad Men's Don Draper summed up the marketing scene of yesterday, when advertisers told consumers what to buy, where to buy it, and in what color. Today, consumers want to know why they should buy it from you.

Marketing has evolved from quick flings with hot products to committed relationships with brands.

In the consumer dating scene, content is what gets you a second date. Content is the witty banter, discovery of mutual interests, and soul-baring that creates the bond. The content isn't created to sell a product or service, but to connect. But what should you say and how should you say it? That depends on who you are and who you're trying to date.

The best content marketing generally falls into three categories: useful, transparent, and entertaining. These types of content can be presented in a variety of ways. Content doesn't have to be written, or words at all. Content can also be images, video or audio. Different forms of content appeal to different audiences, and some content is better suited to one format than another.

News you can use.
What author Rohit Bhargava dubs "branded utility," this content is useful to a consumer. Airlines text ocean safety tips to travelers. A toilet paper company creates an app to guide people to quality restrooms. John Deere's The Furrow and American Express' OPEN Forum are excellent examples of useful, written word content. Full of information about issues and topics related to their industries, they generate followers by focusing on customer interests, not sales pitches. According to a 2013 report, 90 percent of web traffic for American Express came from people who landed on an OPEN Forum article.

Baring your company soul.
Here, content is designed to give the audience a glimpse into the organization, projecting an image of transparency, openness and humanity. Organic Valley and Cascade Farms, popular natural food brands, incorporate visual content into their product packaging. Their milk containers and cereal boxes feature images of the farmers who raise/grow the ingredients used in their products, reinforcing consumer trust in the quality and authenticity of these companies. Recorded CEO greetings, a popular feature on many business websites, are examples of a transparency message delivered as video or audio content.

Few marketing efforts can engender customer loyalty like well-executed entertainment. The long-standing Oscar Meyer brand stays relevant through humorous campaigns like "Baconbarter," where comedian Josh Senkey went on a USA road trip using bacon for currency. This category is often delivered through video and/or audio platforms, especially when targeting a younger demographic. But a satirical product review posted on a company's social site or an inspirational Pinterest board are examples of other forms of entertaining content marketing.

Whatever category or form you choose, remember that good content marketing doesn't sell something, at least not in the short term; it forms connections. Make them laugh, make them cry, give them an app to die for and you'll create a long-lasting relationship with your consumers that will have other brands singing the blues.