If you ask marketing pros what trends will change the game in 2014, you will undoubtedly hear all about content marketing. The practice of generating custom content has grown from 18.9 percent of the marketing mix in 2012 to 34.8 percent in 2013, according to Fast Company, and the upward trend is expected to continue.

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So what, exactly, is content marketing? Forbes defines it as providing valuable information to current or potential customers for the purpose of gaining awareness, building trust and currying favor. It involves things like “brand storytelling,” “crowdsourcing” and “social media saturation.”

These may sound like different names for the same strategies we’ve been using all along—like customer relationship management, marketing communications and public relations. But what’s new is execution and amplification via social media: brands are tasked to create content, share it with customers and prospects, then watch it spread.

We can look to leading brands for inspiration and examples of stellar content marketing can be found in almost any industry:

Apple’s Recipe for Success

Apple topped the list of the World’s Most Valuable Brands released by Forbes in November, followed by Microsoft , Coca-Cola, IBM and Google. At the core of Apple’s success is a three-point marketing philosophy:

  1. Empathy—Understand the customer better than any other company.
  2. Focus—Do a few things well and eliminate the rest.
  3. Impute—Let creative product presentation reveal the desired qualities.

Apple’s most memorable marketing ploys—from the Orwellian 1984 Super Bowl Ad to a Genius Bar in Apple Stores—have helped achieve the highest retail sales per square foot among U.S. retailers.

Buy the World a Coke

Coca-Cola’s CMO Joe Tripodi told an October meeting of the Association of National Advertisers that it takes constant reinvention to stay relevant—especially in the edgy Millennial-driven marketplace.

To appeal to this entrepreneurial, tech-savvy generation, Coke has created customizable packaging that can be shared via mobile technology, and encouraged video storytelling with the Sprite Films (formerly Coca-Cola® Refreshing Filmmaker’s™ Award) program at participating colleges and universities.

Go Forth and Curate

Of course, these insanely creative examples point out that you’re only as successful as your content is valuable. Ideas abound, it’s the execution that counts.

For meeting planners, iAQCUIRE.com recommends taking as much time developing your content strategy as focusing on other event logistics. As illustrated in the examples above, “homerun” scenarios are those in which the produced content has a value, not only to those in attendance, but also provides interesting fodder for those that come across it in different arenas. It’s a good rule of thumb to always include event information, dates, authors and contact information on each piece of produced content to encourage follow-up.

And, as we know, with the constant-changing world of technology, it’s important to ensure you’re producing content that hits a variety of pulse-points.  It doesn’t have to be over-complicated – the same idea of working harder, not smarter applies.  Quality custom content will lend itself to a variety of platforms, such as videos, e-mail newsletters, blog posts, social media updates etc.

Where do you get inspiration for your most successful campaigns, and how do you create content of value when planning your meetings and events?