Let’s face it—2019 is not an easy time to be a marketer. As a result of both cultural and consumer shifts, brands spanning industries and categories are facing the same three business challenges: cultural tension, changing behaviors and insatiable appetites.
Your brand’s values are under a microscope
There’s an overwhelming trend among consumers to interact only with brands that share their values and ideologies. The modern consumer wants to know the authentic story behind a brand before determining if and how the brand fits into their personal lives. It’s increasingly difficult for brands to connect with consumers if they don’t talk to them the right way about the right things.
Digital or bust
With rapidly evolving viewing habits, it’s important that brands grow their voice in nontraditional ways. Traditional television no longer garners the mass viewership it once did, so it’s no surprise that traditional television advertising no longer packs the same punch. Digital media plays a prominent role in the lives of consumers, so without a presence in that landscape, a brand renders itself irrelevant.
More is more
As the industry shifts further from broadcast to digital content consumption, the demand for high-quality content increases exponentially. The world isn’t watching less content; it’s watching its content differently. Modern consumers expect an assortment of new content available at their fingertips on a variety of digital platforms. The digital landscape is an attention battleground on which we’re all competing for the same time and dollars.
In any technology-fueled arena (which is now practically every industry), the pace of disruption continues to accelerate based on these cultural and consumer shifts. That means your business is about to be disrupted. But there is a solution: branded entertainment.
Branded entertainment allows brands to develop meaningful consumer engagement by sharing value-added stories that build trust. It affords room to tell a story before pitching any products or services, which is the opposite of the now-dated traditional approach to advertising. Ads interrupt consumers, but branded entertainment aims to entertain and engage them.
As far back as the 1930s, Procter & Gamble pioneered the idea of branded entertainment. Throughout the decade, the innovative brand produced and sponsored the first radio serial dramas. As the company was best-known for detergents, the serials became known as “soap operas.” With the rise of television in the 1950s and ’60s, most new serials were sponsored and produced by the company. P&G continued to produce these shows well into the 2000s until As the World Turns ended its run in 2010. To this day, P&G continues to partially sponsor CBS’s monster hit The Young and the Restless.
While history proves branded entertainment is nothing new, studies show it has never been a more necessary and effective part of the marketing mix than it is today. It is universally recognized as an effective tool to influence awareness, perception and consideration as part of the customer journey. It outperforms nearly every other medium for brand marketers, supporting multiple metrics including brand lift and purchase intent.
But how do you maximize the effectiveness of this powerful tool? How do you get branded entertainment right?
You call a TV producer.
TV producers know how to make content that entertains the masses—unlike traditional advertisements that interrupt those same masses. By applying a set of four particular steps, brands and TV producers can collaborate on meaningful, bespoke content that penetrates the market and drives brand salience. Here are those four key steps:
1. Pick the right partner
Successful branded entertainment requires a brand that’s willing to disrupt the marketing mix and embrace the future of advertising. The brand must be willing to take risks, trust the process and disrupt the system with a more forward-thinking approach. The brand must also have stories to tell and values to share. With brand dollars going directly into development and production, the bespoke content embodies those very stories and values. The content becomes an enjoyable experience that could only be brought to you by the specific brand partner.
2. Attach a host (talent)
Branded entertainment—particularly within the lifestyle genre—requires a brand-safe host or expert. The talent must embody both the brand and the viewer in a likable and relatable manner. They are responsible for leading the viewer through a particular journey or experience and must serve as a trustworthy and welcoming guide.
3. Tell a story
No matter the genre, the world or the character, great TV content uses entertaining storytelling and visual creativity to engage audiences. The same principle reigns supreme in the branded entertainment space. Audiences expect to be entertained—and no one knows how to entertain better than a TV producer.
There is an influx of influencers creating “how-to” series for brands, highlighting a variety of products, services and experiences. That content—no matter how impactful or not—is “infotainment,” not entertainment. Branded entertainment extends beyond an influencer and self-shot footage; it’s an opportunity to produce TV-quality entertainment with a story that resonates long after it’s been viewed.
4. Develop a distribution plan
Even the world’s best stories need distribution. A strategic distribution plan is key in maximizing the effectiveness of branded entertainment. A brand’s content should be hosted in multiple spaces to connect with as many consumers as possible: YouTube, linear television, social media, purpose-built micro-sites, etc. In addition to hosting the content on a brand’s website and/or social media channels, it is important to seek out additional distribution opportunities via existing high-profile outlets that can guarantee viewership.
Brands are the new TV networks. They have the power to create engaging content that keeps them in the conversation and travels wider than just category content. But to really maximize the success of branded entertainment, brands must put experienced TV producers at the helm of these projects. Remember: Audiences expect to be entertained—and no one knows how to entertain better than a TV producer.