It's Time To Play

Today’s consumers across all demographics are living and experimenting in the great playground where marketing serves up new toys on a daily basis — their phones. 

As we thumb our way through apps, screens and sites, entertainment brands have unlimited opportunities to deliver new ways for consumers and fans to experience their properties. With an arsenal of characters, settings, stories and more, the little screen can deliver valued social engagement to bigger screen offerings. But here’s the thing: in order to get the consumer to play along with content, entertainment brands themselves have to embrace a culture of play.

It is not enough to push out content on SnapChat, Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. Today, fans want to lean into these channels and engage with the content. And they want to do it on their terms, which sometimes means they are not playing by the “rules.”

By following some of the principals of play, entertainment brands can encourage meaningful engagement that will support and enhance their existing content. 



Be Inspired Today’s consumer can’t be forced to play along with a brand. It is incumbent on the marketer to deliver the kinds of experiences that capture the cultural moments of the time and take them to a new place. SnapChat is the favorite toy at the moment, but in order to inspire, a property needs to do something that has not been done before. 

Jimmy Fallon just did that with pop star Arianna Grande. Together, they used SnapChat filters over their faces to elevate the sing-along to new levels of creativity and, of course, silliness. Their video has been shared millions of times.

Let Consumers Make the Idea Their Own. Play is very user-centered. The player needs to fashion the outcome of play on his or her own terms. You provide the game board, the pieces and the dice, but they decide how they will move forward. New Virtual Reality platforms literally put the consumer in the driver’s seat, in a gaming environment, riding a roller coaster, even in the middle of a movie. We are only just beginning to tap into how marketers can leverage new technology tools to make the fan experience out of this world. 

Give Up Control Co-creation with your consumer is a growing strategic imperative. It gives the consumer a sense of ownership and pride when they feel they contribute or add to the conversation about a property, product or service. For the marketer, it means they need to let go of the playbook. Give them enough information and the right elements to create, and let them at it.

The Secret Life of Pets movie did just that with the release of a PetMOJI app  that enabled fans of the movie to custom-create avatars based on their own pets. The application allowed for millions of different emoji outcomes that took into account different kinds of fur, different colors, patterns, noses, tails — well, you get the idea. It put the consumer in charge of creation and generated over 1 million original Pet Emojis, which were shared by fans across social networks. 

Encourage Rule Breakers Play, by its nature, is a rule-based structure. When we play a game, there is a rule book. But there is also improvisation and original thinking that lets players find the spaces where if they play just a little differently, they will discover the Easter egg hidden in a video game. Or a backstory that might have otherwise been overlooked. 

The user experience plays the most important role in play. It dictates how the consumer plays with the brand — if the brand itself is open to play. 

Interactivity has come 360. Entertainment brands, like all other brands, seek engagement and the benefits of sharing like the holy grail. Entertainment brands have a unique ability to embrace play as a strategy and by doing so, to create original solutions that will keep the consumer playing again and again.

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