Content marketing has the power to help companies articulate and communicate the brand promise—which goes beyond a corporate mission statement. Marketers can craft content that shows what they really stand for.

"The promise of content marketing is that we can directly connect to our customers," says Ann Handley, chief content officer for MarketingProfs. "Customers don't want to hear about what you do; they want to hear about what you can do for them. The smartest brands are aligning their content to something greater than themselves."

A brand that has expertly demonstrated brand promise over the years is Subway. The website is full of content—mainly health advice, fitness tips, and meal suggestions from expert trainers, doctors, and dieticians—none of which advertises Subway in any way (and which sometimes even advises making your own meals at home). In addition, the brand sponsors shows, such as The Biggest Loser, and events like the American Heart Association Heart Walk.

All together, this content builds a picture of what Subway's true brand promise is—helping you live a healthier life. There's no mission statement telling you so; the story is told through the content. However, some brands find understanding the line between content that demonstrates the brand promise and advertising difficult.

"We are classically trained as marketers to describe value. We look at a product or service, and we can come up with very clever ways to talk about features and benefits to convince you that this product is great," says Robert Rose, chief strategy officer for the Content Marketing Institute. "But we're not very good at creating original value. What we often get is a mishmash, where brands try to sprinkle a little bit of sales into informative content and end up with something that just feels like a watered-down ad. It doesn't feel valuable to consumers nor does it enhance the brand's story."

Before any brand can create meaningful content that also lives and promotes the brand promise, they have to ask some hard questions.

"You have to understand who all of these buyers are and what their pain points are," says Steve Farnsworth, content marketing strategist for B2B High Tech at the Steveology Group. "You have to ask, 'Who are these people and why do they care?'"

Rose concurs adding, "Who is it we are trying to move? Who is our audience? What value will they get from this? How will they be better off after having received it?"

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Ryan Johnson is an award-winning Web content producer, SEO practitioner, and digital marketing strategist based in Chicago.

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Twitter: @rsj8000