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We're living in an age of perpetual information overload. Consumers are bombarded with content, to the point where it eventually becomes white noise.

To stand out, brands go to great lengths to engage with their target consumers in short bursts of stunt-like proportions—such as the recent case with Justin Timberlake and Sauza 901 tequila. Rarely is it effective to dress your celebrity founder up as a lime that molds with the downfall of his industry, but it worked. Message received.

The flashy advertising campaign or the high-profile founder isn't always what will rake in repeat customers. Those may pique interest, but it often quickly evaporates when there's no substance. The steady drumbeat of meaningful engagement needs to take place.

So how do you create such engagement? That answer is different for every company.

Here are some innovative ways companies are employing digital long-form content to meaningfully engage with their target consumers.

1. General Mills serves up e-books as part of a balanced breakfast

General Mills has a long history of distributing books to children through purchased Cheerios boxes, but in 2015, for the first time, the program went digital to distribute free e-books to children. The company replaced the cost of physical books with the ease and accessibility of books available any time, anywhere on a digital platform.

More than 70% of households now own a tablet. Giving customers e-books ensures consistent engagement with the brand, long after the cereal is consumed. This customer engagement helps to encourage repeat purchases of Cheerios and create lifelong customers.

2. Paramount distributes "Selma" movie to inspire students to dream

To increase awareness of the DVD release of "Selma," Paramount launched an educational campaign that sent every US high school (public and private) a copy of the movie about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s efforts to secure equal voting rights.

Paramount also provided an online resource center, complete with lesson plans and talking points that used "Selma" to catalyze a conversation around the importance of voting and Martin Luther King, Jr.

This innovative approach created an engaging educational experience for many students getting ready to vote for the very first time. By providing value beyond its movie, Paramount shows that it cares and invests in the lives of its customers.

3. Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, and Toronto Pearson International Airport take free reading material to the skies

In recent announcements, Southwest, JetBlue, and Toronto Pearson International Airport unveiled their own versions of reading campaigns for the weary traveler.

By providing free e-books, travel companies and national brands are realizing that digital content is a powerful and cost-effective tool for satisfying customers and staying connected to them. We are seeing what many believe is the first wave of true P+E (product and e-book/digital content) bundling.

* * *

Brands are using almost every facet of digital content to meaningfully engage with their target consumers and create loyal brand advocates—creating a steady sales cycle and happy companies.

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image of Jason Illian

Jason Illian is founder and CEO of BookShout, a company that empowers partners to offer e-books alongside their products.

LinkedIn: Jason Illian 

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