Long before I planned editorial calendars in my sleep, I dreamed of owning a rugged bag (think Indiana Jones), filling it with the right tools, strapping it to my back and searching the globe for great stories. No whip necessary.

For years the search floundered. Then one fateful day (August 24, 2009, to be exact) I met her. Perfectly tanned, smooth and supple, she was…a leather briefcase.

Here she is in all her radiant beauty.

While the bag met my imaginary criteria, what convinced me I must own it were the stories. That day, Saddleback Leather Co. opened my eyes on two things: fine leather goods and beautiful content marketing. Six years later, I am far from over the infatuation, still drooling over the bag (which I have still yet to purchase) and crushing over Saddleback’s content marketing.

As a healthy (and therapist prescribed) outlet for my current content marketing infatuations (yes, there are others, but please don’t tell Saddleback) I want to share 6 valuable, long-term takeaways I learned in the midst of my admiration.

The Crush: Saddleback Leather Co.

The Takeaway (1): It all starts with story.

Every successful trek—whether through the Sahara, across Austin traffic, or to your next conference—starts with packing the right gear into the right bag. In content marketing, every successful journey begins with a reliable, relatable story. Defining the larger story establishes a direction to strive for, becomes a reliable anchor to unify all content-marketing efforts and ensures no one (or thing) gets lost along the way.

Mastering both—the bag and the story—Saddleback has crafted a remarkable brand and dedicated following. Not unlike their sturdy bags, Saddleback consistently stitches together high-quality, timeless content that builds upon (and points back) to their story—a lifelong adventure.

Like the rich, unmistakable smell of thick leather, Saddleback’s intoxicating story, authentic values and unique personality permeate every piece of content (and for that matter, leather) they produce. It’s hard not to stare, and smile, at their handiwork.

What other brands do you know that willingly guide your through the process of knocking off their signature design?

Saddleback founder Dave Munson walks through how to properly knock off his signature design. If you haven’t seen it yet, or even if you have, it’s definitely worth the watch. So just click the shiny GIF already.

The Takeaway (2): Be authentic. Don’t be afraid to share your personality—and even your secrets.

Still not convinced that raw, authentic content connects Saddleback to their audience—read this tribute the founder penned to his dog and try not to feel emotionally intertwined with the company.

Need more of Saddleback’s storytelling? Check out their latest endeavor “The Not Dead Show” for a weekly look inside the company, the adventurous lives of their owners, and an audacious plan to survive the Texas wilderness in Safari tents.

The Crush: Microsoft

The Takeaway (3): Transform inspiration into innovation.

Remember the innovative, beautifully designed, long-form piece you gleefully shared to convince everyone of the value of investing in high-quality storytelling? Same thing happened at Microsoft, except when the New York Time’s award-winning “Snow Fall” multi-media masterpiece was passed around Redmond, a bit more than buzz words came out of it.

Meet the world-class brand storytelling over at Microsoft Stories, the direct result of “snow-falling” inspiration into an actionable idea and a resilient brand’s renewed company-wide commitment to innovation.

“88 Acres” was the stunning result of Microsoft’s “Snow Fall” inspiration—and ultimately the beginning of Microsoft Stories.

As content marketers, we all dream about producing a jaw-dropping, viral-inducing piece: equal parts world-class design, inspiring innovation and impressive power—all wrapped into a sleek, versatile package.

The Takeaway (4): Focus on delivering content (and products) you would want to consume.

Pull a Microsoft (never thought I would write that) and bring those dreams to life. Take big risks in the context of meeting your customers’ (not your) desires. Drive constant innovation geared toward improving your customers’ lives and reap the rewards.

“If I were to describe our overall approach to storytelling, I’d say we live by the Content Golden Rule: ‘Content unto others as you would have them content unto you.’ The buck starts and stops with us; we try not to create anything that we ourselves wouldn’t enjoy.

– Jennifer Warnick, lead writer for Microsoft Stories wrote in a great piece on Contently

Examine the awe-inspiring work Microsoft is creating, and get to work developing the inspired content ideas it will no doubt spark.

The Crush: Field Notes

The Takeaway (5): Create a rhythm to hook your audience into your beat.

Unsure of how to create compelling content around your product (or service)—much less how, and when, to deliver it?

Take note of Field Notes, who built a memo pad empire through stunning, creative content. Content marketing so stunning and remarkable, it will capture your heart, stoke your creative fire and leave you craving something you didn’t even know existed: a year-long subscription of notebooks.

Every three months Field Notes shares amazing packages like this (try not to binge through all 27 in one sitting) to introduce (and sell) their seasonal releases of custom-made notebooks. Field Notes found a rhythm that fit their business and sticks to it, consistently delivering quality content right on time, every time.

Keep up the beat, distribute strategically, and steadily over time you too can build a hooked audience.

Seriously, if quarterly content packages can leave me itching for memo pads, then you can attract an engage an audience in any field. Create a culture of content, find the beat your customers are dancing to and deliver the content your audience is craving at the right moment.

The Crush: American Giant

The Takeaway (6): Frame an irresistible story within the larger cultural context and earn priceless coverage.

It only takes one well-timed, strategically-delivered piece of storytelling to revolutionize your business, or in the case of the American apparel industry, shift an entire landscape. Just don’t expect it to happen by accident.

After two years perfecting the quintessential startup uniform, the humble hoodie, American Giant focused on crafting their brand’s story into the perfect package. By weaving their story into the context of a larger narrative—the death of American manufacturing—American Giant’s efforts were better constructed to capture the cultural zeitgeist. Thus, when their CEO personally pitched their unique story (building hoodies in America) to Slate reporter Farhad Manjoo, it resonated. The result: a viral article headlined “This Is the Greatest Hoodie Ever Made,” which cemented American Giant as an overnight success and jolted a revival in American apparel manufacturing.

“If you have something you think is important, present it. For good reporters I think that is rarely a bother. If they are interested, they will pursue,” Winthrop said in a podcast interview. “The press helped give larger awareness. The word-of-mouth drove credibility.”

The Slate article that launched American Giant into the stratosphere.

As the shining star of an irresistible made-in-America story, this not-so-humble hoodie is a reminder of the power of resonant content marketing. Like American Giant drive long-lasting impact through strategic content marketing, stitched together with your brand’s core values and tailored specifically for your target audience.

“Focus on what your service or product has solved, and why it matters. Then tell that story to anyone that will listen, starting with your customers.”

– American Giant CEO Bayard Winthrop wrote in a Reddit AMA

That felt good.

I appreciated being able to let it out, bare my soul and share what I’ve learned with like-minded people. People who, from time to time, can become smitten (verging on stalkerish) with beautiful content marketing.

Speaking of, I am always looking for my next content marketing crush—so introduce me to yours (on Twitter). Or, am I the only one who feels this way about content marketing?