The Future is in the Hands of Brands

The Future is in the Hands of Brands
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By Paige Samson, VP, Ketchum Sports and Entertainment

With the evolution of the content landscape -- particularly over the past 10 years -- there has also been an evolution of the definition of “Branded Entertainment”; “Brand Integration”; “Branded Content”; or whichever term you prefer. As content options and consumption behaviors have become more and more expansive (and increasingly in the control of the viewer), so have the ways brands are utilizing content to access their consumers. It didn’t take streaming TV to get brands thinking; it took the invention of the good old “World Wide Web.”

Now, yes, of course, there’s product placement (which remains a tried and true form of branded entertainment), but that’s such a small part of the ever-evolving, bigger picture. If we take an objective look at what success means in the entertainment landscape, we realize it ultimately all comes down to one thing…and that’s the viewer. The viewer wants to feel emotionally connected. He/she wants to feel understood. It’s no longer solely about the exposure; it’s no longer solely about brands flanking entertainment platforms; and it’s no longer even solely about the refined quality of the content. It’s about brands knowing their consumers; relating to them; giving them what they want… or even more so, creating it for them.

To prove my point, let’s take a closer look at the Social Influencer world. I challenge you to take 30 minutes out of your work day to play around on YouTube and watch some videos from the thousands of popular channels you come across. Some of the channels contain content that’s absolutely fantastic; it’s emotionally riveting, hilarious, inspiring. And sometimes the content is just awful! Like seriously…it’s really not good -- people singing to themselves in a mirror; kids challenging each other to down hot sauce; a girl getting ready to go to school in the morning – you get the gist. So if the content is not always that great, why are these people so successful? Now pay very close attention to the answer: it’s because viewers relate to these stars; they feel connected to them. Brands must not only learn from these new celebrities, but also continue exploring ways to work with them.

How about another entertainment approach? It’s one of my favorites: unbranded branded content. Just last year, we worked with our Haagen-Dazs client and Academy Award®-nominated director Morgan Spurlock to support the launch of a line of new artisanal ice creams. Instead of creating a predictable, and likely unstimulating, video about the brand and all of the flavors, we took it up a notch. We created a short-film documentary to explore the mindset and lives of today’s artisan and determine how artisanship has evolved along with — or, at times, in spite of — new technologies that allow for instant production and gratification. The amount of times ice cream appeared in the film? Zero. The results? We received earned pick-up from some of the top streaming platforms, including Amazon Instant Video (where the film remained in their top 10 films for 3 weeks), Hulu, and Vimeo. And yes, the brand noticed a significant increase in sales too. And now I’ll get off my soapbox…

Ultimately, the bottom line is this: as the landscape continues to evolve, brands must continue to explore ways to utilize and create content/entertainment platforms to further engage with and impassion, their consumer. Brands must no longer solely associate themselves with the destination; they must become the destination. Clearly, the future of entertainment is in anyone’s hands…so why not let it be in the hands of the brands?

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