Advertising was once looked at as a distraction from the intended audience. Consuming advertisements was accepted as part of the landscape of media, whether it be television or online.
With the fast rise of digital content and paid subscription services for consumers willing to pay specifically for ad-free experiences, how can marketers and brands deliver their message to audiences?
Take a moment to think about that. With services like Netflix, Hulu, YouTube Red, consumers are quite literally paying to make advertisers and brands disappear from their viewing experience. A decade ago, the only solution was to change the channel or watch the advertisement.
This shift in format and delivery has forced brands and agencies to be more creative in delivering their message to target audiences. The answer?
Creative delivery. Engaging content. An experience that won’t distract the consumer from what they have chosen to watch. When marketers align the brand message with the target audience’s desire for entertainment, the likelihood of the audience to not only accept the message, but to engage with it, is higher.
Marketer, Meet Entertainer.
In the past, marketers focused heavily on brand identity and strategic partnerships in their advertising. Although they are staples of marketing campaigns, the forward-thinking brands continue investing heavily in content creation.
Whether it be an energy drink, a toy brand, or an auto manufacturer, simply creating an advertisement showing people consuming the product and listing benefits or sending clandestine messages about the competitor, is going to lead to a near net-zero effect on the target audience. It’s the most sure-fire way to waste valuable marketing resources.
Consumers want to be involved. They want to feel entertained and be part of something they can relate to. As a marketer, when you define the goal of a marketing campaign, you already have an understanding of the demographics, interests, and relevant data. Now it’s time to connect these insights and build a story to entertain the audience and maximize engagement.
So, how does a brand “entertain” their target audience?
Storytelling is no longer just for authors and script writers. CMOs and agencies realize the power of telling a story that compels the viewer to continue watching rather than “change the channel.”
Tell the Story from the Eyes of the Beholder
The shift of focus from the product to the audience gives brands a new way to connect with target audiences.
Rather than the product being the “star of the show,” the experience is now the center of attention.
It’s not the energy drink, it’s all the amazing things you can do if you drink it.
The Lego set is fun to play with. But what if the Legos came alive?
Driving a car to and from work isn’t exactly exciting. Imagine if you had a reason to actually look forward to the commute?
The pattern here is shifting the focus from product to consumer experience. Brands are using stories to connect insights about consumer behavior to their product.
As an example, The Lego Movie was released on February 7, 2014. After witnessing huge success with their line of video games, Lego franchised the brand and green-lit an action movie using the famous brick people as the stars set in a world where everything was Lego. What was once a toy could now speak and have a personality the audience could attach to.
For any “Legomaniac,” young or old, this was a dream come true. The once idle plastic figures and buildings came to life. No longer did children have to create their own storylines, they could in fact be immersed in the figurines world and see them in an entirely different format. More importantly, who takes children to see a movie? Parents. Usually the purchasers of the product.
What better way to engage with a target audience than captivate them with a compelling and relatable story set in a world where the brand is exposed every second for over an hour. Without ever asking for a purchase.
Ultimately, Lego understands the cycle of watching the movie and understanding that many of the children are going to ask for a Lego set during their next trip down the toy aisle.
Let’s not forget that there was significant investment in the movie and the writers and producers clearly did an excellent job of creating a compelling story given the box office results. If the story hadn’t connected with the target audience, it would’ve been no better than a poorly designed pay-per-click campaign with negative ROI.
How Do I Tell a Story About My Brand?
The most important step in creating a story that engages the consumer is to understand the data and insights about the target audience.
You should also be mining through data to find out:
What kind of media are they already consuming?
How are other brands and competitors connecting with the same audience?
How does your brand fit into the lifestyle and hobbies of the audience?
Next, you’ll want to work with your creative team (or if you don’t have the capacity to handle the campaign in-house, a creative agency) to brainstorm ideas and use data to filter out overly-broad or obscure concepts.
Depending on the path your brand takes (in-house or use of a creative agency), you’ll then want to A/B test variations of the chosen campaign “story” in smaller formats to determine the best angle to test on a broader scale.
Example: Rather than investing heavily in one idea for a 30 second standard TV commercial, test 5-10 second variants on Youtube and use viewership data to see which variant had the highest engagement levels/conversion rates. Then build the more expensive creative using the storyline of the highest-performing angle.
Rely on data as much as possible in the decision making processes, but it’s also important to give the creative team some freedom to work with. The worst thing you can do to a creative team is tell them exactly what to do every step of the way.
Ready, Set, Launch!
When the creative agency or team has finished their job and approval has come down from the top, it’s time to launch! Now the importance shifts to the analytics and optimization team to measure and segment the results of the campaign and calculate ROI.
Now it’s on to building remarketing campaigns and increasing the number of touchpoints for consumers to connect with your brand. These campaigns should build off of the story you’ve told and reinforce the message.
The Story Defines the Brand
Creating an immersive story was once left to Hollywood writers and producers. With the dynamics of marketing changing and the platforms in which advertisements are delivered become more consumer-centric, marketers must now find their inner “Tinseltown” to connect with audiences.
Entertainment is now a subset of marketing. If you can entertain your audience rather that deter them, your message will have greater reach and more influence in the purchasing decisions of them. Captivating your target audience with entertaining content and your brand as the ever-present, but not blatantly apparent, star of the show is the type of campaign you’ll want to bring to the table at your next meeting. Don’t wait, your competitor is gaining ground every second your brand is dormant.