Why Brands should think like a TV Show
Cultural Context: We are living in an era of marketing where consumer engagement and empowerment is at a level we have never seen before. Combine that with the massive proliferation of media vehicles in the past year and the branding and marketing landscape as we know it has forever changed.
With the economy having an effect on annual marketing budgets, brand planning and marketing activation now takes razor sharp focus to effectively create emotional connection, engagement and profitable relationships with consumers.
Determining where to focus has become more complex:
· “Should we spend all our dollars on live TV when people fast-forward through commercials and look at multiple screens while watching more than ever? Or is the smarter move to go with on-demand and streaming TV where ad viewing is still mandatory, engagement is stronger and it can move with you?”
· “Should we buy print pages or digital print when print publications themselves are going digital to remain relevant?”
· “Should we invest more in Internet advertising when online ad spend reached $31.7 billion in 2011, eclipsing the $31 billion spent on cable, making the category second behind broadcast TV?
· “If Americans viewed more than 8.3 billion online video ads in March 2012 alone, should our TV campaign be developed for the small screen from the beginning?
· “Should we expect people to come to our retail store or e-commerce site just because we built it? Or should we take our shopping experience to where consumers spend more of their leisure time enjoying themselves- on social media platforms, mobile devices, within apps and attending live events?” “The shopping toolbar could become the new storefront. Should we build one before our competition does?”
From the consumer point of view, they find themselves living in a time of constant catastrophe, scandal and economic instability. Life in “high-anxiety mode” is now the new norm. Forget about obesity, anxiety and depression are the new epidemics affecting more families and children than ever before and the “feel good” prescription drug market is booming because of it. If watching TV, staying in to play video games or eating fast food makes kids feel better, worried parents say go for it. And wasn’t this generation supposed to be our most optimistic yet?
Today, brands should feel like “little pills of joyful experiences and/or stability” to be more relevant and meaningful. But how do you accomplish this effectively when attention spans are lower and splintered, life is mobile and everything is transparent online?
No one knows how to do this better than the Entertainment Industry. Here are 10 ways brands can behave like a TV Show to better market themselves in this changing environment:
1) Consumers as Viewers: Tune-in ads are key in driving viewership for a show. In today’s on-demand, cross-platform world, creating an “Episodic” communication and media strategy is key. In other words, messaging take on the spirit of “tune-ins” to drive engagement with your brand, its content and portfolio of products/services on a continual basis. Further, a continual brand story broken down into smaller bites entices viewers to come back for more. Can you think of ways to go beyond building or retaining your customer base to building and retaining your brand viewership? And, expanding this brand viewership across an ever-growing eco-system of devices- laptops, tablets, game consoles, smart tvs and smartphones?
2) From Viewers to Fanatics: It is not enough for a TV property to build viewership. To maintain viewership season after season, it is necessary to build and reward a strong fan community. To do this, it is necessary to have a storyline, cast, setting, cinematic feel and characters so engaging, enjoyable, suspenseful and addictive, it drives intense passion and buzz. Does your brand have a storyline, brand voice, personality and cast of characters (iconic products/services) so appealing and addictive it moves consumers from buyers to passionate fanatics? Is your brand identity system cinematic enough with stunning visualization, exhilarating language, dramatic feel and sound?
3) Fan Media: Many TV shows use their own Fan Fiction -blogs, Twitter feeds and websites to do the marketing for them. Fan Fiction is treated like paid and earned media today. And often, the most influential fans are given first dibs on previews and content. Old Spice and Kraft Mac n Cheese recently took fan engagement to a whole new level. Both brands created TV ads using Tweets from their own brand fans on Twitter and Facebook and airing the spots the same day or quickly afterward. This made their consumers feel famous, heard, empowered and appreciated- a psychological recipe for success. How can you utilize, engage and empower your brand’s fans, using their own media platforms, to do the marketing work for you?
4) Pre-season: It has been found that people who engage with a show’s content early on will influence up to five other people to watch it before the show even airs. Pre-season sneak previews are important. When launching a new product/service, how can you incorporate “The Leak” (http://bit.ly/IzOKCO) to have a more successful launch? And more traditionally, how can you turn a product/service launch into a Red Carpet Premier Event?
5) Character development: As important as a compelling storyline are the strength of the characters within them. They can have a huge impact on fan following, fan fiction and licensing deals. Strong characters can be people, but they can also be places, sets and fashion as in the case of Gevalia’s Johan from Sweden, Mad Men, Downton Abbey and The Hunger Games Capitol Couture. When developing your own characters (geography, products/services, experiences), how can you make them so iconic and irresistible that they themselves command their own fan following, sites and Twitter Feeds? For example, there are tons of iPad handles on Twitter separate from Apple.
6) Characters among us: One of the most intelligent, creative and successful TV show campaigns is for True Blood. The whole campaign targets the “Vampires living among us”. True Blood is marketing to their viewers as if they live in the fantasy world/set they have created. This deepens the brand story and story is currency in the social media space. Can you expand your brand story by advertising/messaging to your audience as if they live on your set?
7) Game On: Another way TV shows further deepen their story is to license their brand and characters across many categories from apparel, dolls and fragrance to live theatrical events. However, gaming is now one of the fastest growing platforms to allow fans to “go deep” with a TV show’s story and characters. Why? 72% of the American population plays video games, the median age is 37 and 42% of gamers are now female. Does it make sense for your brand to get into the gaming market?
8) Product Placement: Product Placement within episodes of scripted and non-scripted storylines has become so common place, it is now almost expected. Often this brings in additional revenue. How can your brand get paid financiallly or in kind by placing other’s brands inside your story?
9) Secondary markets – Successful TV Shows today have secondary audiences who discover the show through syndication, DVDs and via streaming bringing in large after-market profit. Should you rethink target audience? While you market to a primary target audience, why stop there? Can you create a new audience with extended product formats and time-shifted occasions? In addition, “aftershows” create deeper engagement and dialogue with the show’s characters and even the people behind the show. Is there a way to create an “aftershow” for your ad campaign online where fans can engage and interact with the characters and/or even the people behind the campaign?
10) Check-in: Social TV activity in the form of conversations and check-ins has nearly doubled in the past year. TV shows are carefully thinking through the right handles and hashtag naming conventions to make it easier and more fun for people to check in and drive buzz. With the launch of Girls on HBO, the handle name is strategically linked to the Network Masterbrand @GirlsHBO and the trending topic #mistakesgirlsmake links to the storyline. Are you strategically naming and linking your brand’s user names and hashtags across the entire portfolio? And are the names simple enough for brand fans to easily check-in or create their own Fan Fiction around those names–Twitter feeds, fan sites/pages and pin boards- and do the marketing for you?