NEW YORK: Brand owners such as General Mills, Visa and L'Oréal are enhancing their focus on online content as they develop new ways to engage consumers.

General Mills, the food giant, has utilised a range of online material, like recipes and healthy eating tips, in promoting offerings including Betty Crocker and Pillsbury baking products.

On behalf of Nature Valley snack bars, it has also rolled out the Trail View tool, similar to Google Street View, but enabling web users to digitally explore national parks across the US.

"In 2012, many marketers will start with content as a way to engage their best customers and grow their business versus advertising," Mark Addicks, CMO of General Mills, told Forbes.

"They will realise the power of content to enhance the brand experience, deliver the brand's purpose and extend the opportunities for the brand to serve."

Visa, the financial services group, has leveraged its tie-ups with sporting events like the Olympic Games, FIFA World Cup and NFL, based on the overarching principle of "care enough to share".

"We've found tremendous success creating share-worthy content, particularly utilizing assets and relationships from our sports sponsorship portfolio," Antonio Lucio, global chief marketing, strategy and development officer at Visa, said.

"Before venturing into creative development - in order to create content that's entertaining, relevant to them and, most importantly, provides consumers with an outlet to display their passion and drive the conversation - make sure you've done significant behavior and consumption analysis," he added.

L'Oréal, the cosmetics specialist, recently rolled out dedicated US ecommerce sites for five brands, and is also using YouTube and editorial-led websites built in partnership with Demand Media.

Marc Speichert, CMO, L'Oréal USA, said: "In the end, it's about one consumer journey that includes both an online and offline experience - and the weight of the online piece is growing exponentially."

Steve Phelps, CMO of NASCAR, the motor racing championship, cited Panasonic's installation of the world's biggest HDTV at a track last year, giving a unique view of the action and fuelling buzz via mobile and the web, as an example of new trends.

"What I see happening over the next 12 months are brands becoming more adept at successfully translating their digital content to the out-of-home and live event experiences," he said.

Data sourced from Forbes; additional content by Warc staff