Right now, people are exposed to more promotional messages on a daily basis than ever before. In fact, The New York Times reports that the average city-dwelling consumer is exposed to nearly 5,000 advertisements every single day. (That’s more than twice the amount people were exposed to 30 years ago.) Brands face a new, unprecedented challenge in today’s marketplace: to simply be heard.
That’s why brands have begun to create commercials that are steeped with emotion, frantically busy, or simply strange — just to grab a consumer’s attention for a few seconds. After all, in a media-saturated world, it isn’t enough to grab a stray glance or a few uncomprehending moments; a brand needs to get a consumer emotionally invested in order to make an impression. What’s the best way to do that? It’s simple: entertain.
Finding New Ways to Connect
Listening to a story is more interesting than listening to a product benefit list. This is why more brands are creating branded content to support their marketing efforts. Authentically connect with your consumers, and they’ll remember you when they’re shopping later. If it sounds like the challenge that major television networks face every year, it’s because it is. Staying relevant, and on your customers’ radars, is a constant struggle. And it’s one based on a simple concept: keeping your customers engaged — mentally and emotionally.
Right now, brands are thinking more like network executives than advertisers. Why? If consumers are watching, sharing, and talking about a campaign, it’s a success. After all, it’s already proven that nothing is more important to sales than strong brand advocates. So, how are advertising agencies creating relevant, shareable branded content?
First, they host them in places that their consumers can reach, next to other kinds of entertainment. Hulu, YouTube, and College Humor are all popular homes for branded Web series, like Denny’s “Always Open,” Target’s “Falling for You,” and Ford and Schick Quattro’s co-branded “Dating Rules from My Future Self.” For example, Subway’s “4 to 9ers” — hosted on Hulu — is a short-form sitcom set in one of the chain’s restaurants in a suburban mall, with a snarky tone and a young, Millennial cast of characters. This format was quickly hailed as a prime example of the next generation of branded content.
So, why do these series work? People pay attention to content, not commercials. They also set your brand apart from the competition. When you’re reaching consumers in a different space, they’re not distracted by commercial clutter. That way, you’re avoiding the “white noise” effect and making your brand the featured event in your customers’ minds — not part of a background they’d prefer to ignore.
Four Ways to Entertain
Consumers want a visually enticing story that’s tuned into their interests. And smart, well-executed content will drive viewership — and brand advocacy. So, how do you create the right series for your brand? Here are a few ways to begin:
• Start with a great idea. Get the right people to help you create concepts that are compelling, on-strategy, and smart. Then, produce them well.
• Have a strategy. Put your content in the right place at the right time so you’re sure you’re reaching your audience in the best way possible.
• Think like a big network. A brand can’t simply post a Web series on YouTube and hope it does well. It won’t. You need a plan in place to drive traffic and create a viewership.
• Be willing to try new things. Make sure that you’re comfortable with your storylines and that you’re confident they’ll fit your brand in the long term. Be warned: You’ll have to stretch your comfort zone. Interesting content always requires a few leaps of faith.
In the advertising world, branded content is still a new, unexplored frontier. (In fact, the time is rapidly approaching where brands may begin to own their own networks entirely: think Bud Light TV or Red Bull Radio.) Of course, any new strategy comes with a little risk and its own unique set of rewards.
One thing’s for sure: Focus on entertaining your customers, and they won’t simply remember you. They’ll realize that you’re invested in the things they care about — and you’re connected to the way they live their lives, too.