Apologies for the Robbie Williams/Oasis mashed-up headline. The mid-Nineties just called and they want their songs back. There has been a lot of chatter lately about brands becoming publishers and, more specifically, turning themselves into entertainment channels. In this article, I’ll look at the reasons why this makes sense and try to explain how brands can transform themselves into entertainment channels, easily.
The reasons have been pretty well hashed out over the past few years…consumers are in control, interruption/adjacency doesn’t work any more, channels/devices are proliferating, audiences are fragmenting and, most importantly, we’re in the middle of a seismic shift from paid to earned media. We call it a post-advertising age, where the only way brands can reach consumers is to create content that is useful or entertaining. In other words, they have to become the channel.
This becomes especially important when you consider the way that consumers digest media and make buying decisions. A recent Nielsen report, “Global Trust in Advertising Survey Q3, 2011,” states that after personal recommendations from someone you know (92%), the second most trustworthy source of advertising are online recommendations from complete strangers (70%). What is shocking (and alarming if you’re in the traditional media business) is how low the levels of trust are in editorial pages (58%) and traditional ads (47% for both TV and magazines). Online video and banner ads fare even worse, near the bottom of the advertising trust pile at 36% and 33%, respectively.
This comes at a time when opportunities are opening up for brands to create original content in new and powerful ways. Recently Yahoo, AOL, YouTube, Hulu and Microsoft held the first-ever Digital Content Newfronts, alongside MTV, SyFY and Oxygen. The opportunity here is for brands to create original content – mini-series, films, documentaries and so on that will engage deeply with audiences and be part of their shared media brand ecosystem and not create video ads, as that would just be transferring an old, tired, ineffective approach to a brand new channel.
But before jumping headfirst into the entertainment and story-telling business, first brands really have t know their story. We call it their story platform. This is not a tag line but an internal-facing foundation that underpins all content the brand produces and provides a filter through which the brand’s authority to publish is defined. To get to the heart of the brand’s story, they have to gather narrative insights, from the audience, from brand stakeholders and from the category (other channels/media outlets that will be competing for the audience’s attention). Then they take these insights and using a combination of tried and tested techniques, including metaphors, archetypes and story circles and distill them into a cogent, authentic story platform that resonates with the audience and fulfills the brand’s promise. Then and only then should a brand become an entertainment channel.
So who’s doing it well? For several years now, Lexus has been producing entertainment videos, interviews and humor to entertain its audience through L Studio. Also we compiled a list of “post-advertisers” doing it right, which you can see here.
That’s all, folks!