By Christa Carone, chief marketing officer, Xerox

What’s the latest shiny object in the marketer’s toolkit? Branded content…or native advertising…or brands as publishers. Whatever you call it—and even though it has been around for decades– content marketing is certainly enjoying a star turn in 2013. I suspect that the red carpet won’t wear out soon for this approach to connecting brands with their audiences in more personal and authentic ways.  Forrester Research reports that 79 percent of marketers plan to generate branded content this year.

As I tend to do, I’ve become an avid student of all that’s happening in the content marketing space.  I pay close attention to when brands are engaging me through content.  That’s one of the downsides to being a CMO; we are always sniffing out marketing that happens to us.  Often, I notice what’s working more than what’s not.  Then, I have those “damn, why didn’t we think of that?” moments.  (And my team cringes because they get an email saying the same thing).

Here are some marketing moments that are prompting those a-ha moments for me:

As an avid runner, I’m always open to motivation to keep me moving faster and longer.  Lately I’m finding encouragement from an unexpected source: Nissan.  How did the car company get my attention?Creating Clutter-Busting Branded Content

It started with  a Nissan-sponsored post that wasn’t selling me a car or truck, but rather serving up relevant content about endurance sports, timed nicely to the marathon I was about to run.  In video interviews veteran marathon runners, including Kara Goucher, and Shalane Flanagan, share helpful tips on cross training and nutrition. Flanagan even confides   “13 Things I Hate About Running” in a blog post.  (I could add at least five more to the list…and, the “Things I Love About Running” list too.)

Besides cutting through my content clutter with information that is well produced, the material  is a natural fit for Nissan, a brand popular among athletes and totally aligned with its Innovation for Endurance communication platform (yes, @Nissan, I picked up on that). No wonder its Facebook page, a place for runners to connect, has nearly 138,000 “likes.”   And, look at me!  I’m talking about it in a blog post and serving as an advocate for Nissan.  Truth be told: I don’t own a Nissan but I’m open to considering one next time around.  Looks like my bike will fit well in the back of a Pathfinder.

Pepsi is another marketer that can teach us all how creativity and content delivers off- the-chart engagement. Its Pepsi MAX’s branded viral hit, “Test Drive”—in it, a disguised Jeff Gordon takes an unsuspecting used car salesman on a thrilling ride—has been viewed more than 36 million times.

Good news for small marketers: Good content can make shoestring marketers look “big.” Take Standard Culture, a magazine-like web site that features cool doers and doings in New York, Los Angeles, and Miami—cities where The Standard Hotel, the content creator, has properties. Think Vanity Fair meets Time Out. I’m not the target reader but, as a marketer, I like to think I could be hip enough to become one of their guests.

I’m certainly inspired to put some of these tricks to work as Xerox expands its content marketing initiatives. Our crystal-clear objective:  shifting legacy perceptions of the Xerox brand.   No surprise to us, we know what you’re thinking when you see, hear, or read the name Xerox.  That’s ok. We like being the leaders in the printing business.  But, just as important, Xerox now gets 55 percent of its revenue from a growing services business – and we need to strengthen our brand association with key areas of expertise in services, like health care, financial services, transportation, education, and more.  Content marketing is a logical place to make that happen.

Consider HealthBizDecoded.com, a web hub for people in the business of healthcare.  Our goal is to help people who work in the administrative and operational areas of running health care practices (IT, claims processing, electronic medical records, etc.)  better understand, distill and simplify the complex changes in healthcare.  Recent articles on the site include a piece on mobile apps—or chronic disease care “on the go”–the future of long-term care, and gamification in healthcare.

No one will compare our content to Vanity Fair, nor should they.  This content is specific to a niche audience.  One we know and one that we want to get to know us better.   As we build content specific for their unique business interests, we’ll integrate this information into other ways we engage with this important audience. Research shows that up to 70 percent of purchase decisions in the B2B space are made before suppliers are contacted. That means we must reach those folks while they are in their “information-gathering, getting smart about decision-making” mode to ensure we’re considered a credible and relevant partner.

There is a lot to learn in the content marketing movement. It’s a seismic shift away from traditional – but who’s to say what’s traditional anymore?  This is the new normal.  That’s why, like those Nissan-sponsored runners, we aim to go the distance.  In my next post, I’ll share the guidelines we’re following on our path.

This post originally appeared on Forbes.