A sophisticated industrial design company posted this question to its Facebook fans: “Does content trump design when [design] is the company’s product?”

The short answer is this: Content is king, but content is more than words. If your brand is about style your entire Internet footprint must project sophistication.

In my experience, “content” started out as a goofy term created by Web programmers who didn’t really care what the site was about. Visual webmasters worried about the visuals, programmers worried about the code, ad agencies wanted to preserve the integrity of the brand and clients wanted whatever was in the brochure to be on the Web site. In the early days, nobody worried about “content” the way we think of it today.

The struggle between style and technology took a turn for the worse when SEO experts started dumbing down site designs to feed the search engine spiders. They wanted content, but mostly as a means to enhance keyword density. This created amazing results for some companies for a while until search engines got wise and started looking more at backlinks (links from other, credible sites back to yours) and other factors, as an indication of the quality/relevance of a site.

In order to build backlink love, site owners learned that they needed to provide people with interesting stuff to read. Programmers still didn’t care what the “content” was, but they knew Web sites needed content and plenty of it. They even came up with ways to let site visitors help create it. Web 2.0 was born, the Web became awash with fresh content and the rest, as they say, is history.

But the story continues to change as the demand for information, entertainment and community evolves to include multimedia dialogue between companies and customers. In the ten minutes or so it took me to write this, 100 hours of new video has been uploaded to YouTube, ranging from slick movie trailers to homemade video reviews of products by end users.

I believe in content-based “inbound” marketing and I understand how it can cause people to think of Web sites as plain boxes to hold content. (This blog is a good example; check back soon to see some evolution here.) But demand for multimedia content is exploding. The next batch of hot content marketing books will talk more about this.

Thanks to the multimedia content revolution, brands have more opportunities to project style than ever before—and customers want it. From a design-constrained environment like Facebook to the wide-open canvas of multimedia content, to emerging opportunities like iPhone apps., style is back, baby!