Commentary

Making Friends And Influencing Influencers

Over the last year, talks about branded entertainment have picked up serious momentum, and the deal cycle -- from concept to execution -- has become hyper-accelerated. This embracing of entertainment as a marketing platform as opposed to a marketing tool shows a phenomenal trend in rethinking about reaching consumers online.

At the intersection of Advertising and Content, though, there is an interesting question that must be asked: "What if people like the content my brand helps produce?"

It seems like a silly question, but for many brands, advertising online consists of a series of flight dates that have been meticulously planned based on research of their respective markets. If you produce a great show though, and users clamor for more content, an opportunity is created to keep customers and potential customers engaged.

Suddenly, thinking of messaging in terms of a campaign gets turned on its head, as a relationship buds between the brand and consumer where the consumer is actively looking and expecting for regularly updated content.

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The strategy for engaging users would change from a series of punctuated hard sells to an ongoing friendship where the brand and user frequently interact.

As an example, Burton, the snowboard brand, constantly sponsors and backs artists, movies and Web series that are on-target with its brand. In the spirit of Web 2.0, the company doesn't make users come to its site to experience this content, but certainly tells people about the things Burton strategists are watching, listening to and reading.

For consumers who identify themselves as "Burton-people," (consciously or unconsciously) the brand has effectively become a curator of content for its target market. Its customers are like its friends -- and so, even in off months for boarding, the brand does a great job of keeping its friends entertained and in-the-know. Now back to the question at hand about scoring a success with branded entertainment.

If you find yourself as the center of attention, with hundreds of thousands of people looking for more installments of the shows you help create, as well as curious to hear what else you deem as helpful, entertaining and cool, do "campaigns" continue to serve as the right framework for your messaging?

Certainly, messaging effectiveness will always be judged by how many impressions are served, to how many people, and how much exposure time leads to increased purchase intent, but at the point where your brand becomes a helpful programming guide for your users, and you find you have to constantly bridge punctuated campaigning with ongoing communication with an interested audience, a fundamental shift occurs in how you interact with people.

The lesson being that, in today's on-demand economy, even in the off-season, when people want to spend time with your brand, you have to be prepared to spend time with them.

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