Entertainment brands often go overlooked by the broader business community as innovators. Not because they don’t innovate, but perhaps because it seems innovation is a given when you’re in the business of entertaining people.
Indeed, many innovations in contemporary digital life have roots in the entertainment business. The growth of video games led to an explosion in mobile gaming, and in the gamification of digital marketing. The standardization of high definition video — and increasing access to the software and equipment necessary to produce it — led to a boom in video content production; something many content marketers have prioritized in recent years.
But beyond major tech advancements, entertainment marketing is shaping up to evolve in a few more subtle ways.
Like many marketers in more standard businesses verticals, marketers in the entertainment industry have wrestled with the digital paradigm shift of enhanced consumer empowerment. For many marketers, content and data are two of the most powerful tools on hand to foster engagement with empowered consumers, but for the entertainment industry, the tides seem to be shifting not just toward creating optimized content, but optimized high quality content.
It almost seems silly to say that making good content will be essential to entertainment marketing in the future. But in many ways quality has been subservient to economics in the broad entertainment world. Any brand with a billion bucks could throw money at a critically panned film like any of the Transformers movies and make lots of money. But with word of mouth and sentiment proliferating at the rates they are on social media, mediocre work is being increasingly called out as such.
Beyond quality, though, lies the challenge of cross platform distribution.
“The biggests successes will be people who understand the content they have to utilize, and how they can extend that content into other forms and fashions,” says Andrew Carvella, VP of strategy and brand engagement at Sprout Social. “Whether a film or TV show or video game, what are the things they can use as a brand to… extend the opportunities and create more opportunities for people to engage with their content across channels?”
Entertainers have some of the most virally successful content on the web, but unlike the old days, successful content cannot live on one channel alone. Take some of the highly popular segments from late night TV. Both Jimmy Kimmel and James Corden — two of the most popular names in late night TV — have essentially memed segments of their show for the web to huge success. Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke” videos routinely go viral, as do Kimmel’s various “Mean Tweets” clips.
As big as brands like Coke or P&G are, their audience of engaged fans pales in comparison to that of entertainment juggernauts like Star Wars, any NBA or NFL team, or games like Overwatch or Call of Duty.
While this dynamic is unlikely to change, it’s important to appreciate the challenge many leading names in entertainment have in engaging these legions of fans. Indeed, engagement on such a scale may even be impossible.
This is less of an issue for big brands like Disney or Warner Brothers, who have such strong followings that engagement isn’t a pressing concern. But the scale vs. engagement debate will be very real indeed for new creators going forward.
“Massive communities are important and can be great, but if you have an engaged following, even if it’s a smaller community or viewership, then you’re able to manage that engagement really well,” Carvella says.
Entertainers of tomorrow are going to have to prioritize channels like social media and online forums and communities to bring audiences into the process on as many levels as possible. From behind the scenes live streams on social, to using live streaming itself as part of a growth strategy, entertainment brands, at once, have more options for fan engagement, and more obstacles to managing all of the various mediums.
Another thing to consider in terms of audience is the role that influencer marketing will play in growing and retaining followings for entertainment brands.
In many cases today, brands like Disney will work with influencers like PewdiePie in ways that mutually benefit each party. As familiar as such relationships sound, in entertainment, big brands have largely worked through influencers more so than with them.
“[For] brands trying to evolve their thinking or strategies, it was acceptable to take your TV ad and amplify it on a creator’s or influencer’s channel or get them to make it for you,” says Ben Lister, COO of media at XTreme Video. “Now there is a far more longer term vision…We’re now seeing a lot of influencers and brands creating huge profiles on social media. We’ve reached that tipping point where people are looking at how to engage their target audience better.”
Brands and influencers will increasingly see reciprocal gains by working with one or the other in cases where the audiences have strong overlap. Disney is particularly notable here, given it’s $500 million distribution deal with big YouTube gaming channels like PewDiePie and Total Biscuit.
Video is now a huge component of the entertainment and entertainment marketing. So, while businesses are clamoring to find use cases for emerging imaging technology like augmented and virtual reality, 360 degree video, and to a lesser extent live streaming, many brands in the entertainment sector have products and content ready made for these experimental formats.
In many ways, the most immediately fascinating aspect of speculating on the future of entertainment marketing is how these brands are going to set up use cases that those in the broader business world will look to for inspiration and validation.
The key lies in the unifying theme of all the various experimental video formats: immersion. “We’re quite interested in even the very basic live Q&As with athletes [in 360 live videos],” Lister says. “It’s important for people like us to really try things out and seeing how these [formats] work in the market, and take that feedback back into the world where we’re dealing with broadcasters and brands.”