Saturday, November 15, 2008

Planning your brand entertainment experiment

Over the last week I've been checking in on the Corolla Ninja Kittens post on Campaign Brief. It's the comments that got my attention with no less than 94 opinions shared - it's essentially a tirade of negative sentiment punctuated by some congratulatory chatter and inside info on a creative honcho's penchant for dwarfs and strange animals. Tough audience.

Expect more of the same from this audience because traditional marketers are becoming more willing to experiment with brand entertainment. They're sticking their heads above the trenches.

This is in part driven by digital media taking some of the guesswork and much of the expense out of this kind of experiment. What's more, digital transparency means even the crudest measurement efforts can generate useful learnings. And quickly.

As we move into an era of experimentation, we can look forward to a few Eureka moments and plenty of false prophets. And no doubt we'll be hearing about it on Campaign Brief.

So here's a few questions to ask yourself when doing your laboratory testing. I'm not sure if this will help you avoid an industry caning but it might improve the results of your experiment.

1. Understand your audience' entertainment needs
It's not enough to produce something entertaining and spruik it in places where they spend time. Think about your audience' needs and behaviours around entertainment. How do these play out in the context of different channels?
2. Know your place
Identify a clear role for the brand in the entertainment, and the place for entertainment in your communications. If you don't have a reason to be there, audiences won't have a reason to stick around.

3. Define your entertainment challenge
We talk about this one a lot. Entertainment can do and be lots of things. What's the central problem your entertainment strategy is going to help you address?

4. Build your strategy
Apply the same rigour here as you would to your communications strategy. What's the solution to your entertainment challenge? What contact points should you be exploring? How might the brand behave in these environments? What kind of social object are you creating? How will you engage the audience? As curators, consumers, creators and conversationalists?

5. Pick your partners
What creative partners will help you realise your ambition? Do you need help to create an idea from scratch? Or the right producer to turn your idea into a viable entertainment concept? Think about specialist skills you require. A television comedy series is a long way from a narrative driven game.

6. Don't build it if they're not going to come
The content cesspool means there's no room for a 'build it and they will come' mentality. What does your distribution matrix look like? What distribution partners do you need? How does your commercial model stack up? How might other brand partners help you deliver against your entertainment challenge, offset financial risk or help extend your distribution?

7. For good measure
How will you know if you're successful? This should clearly link back to your original challenge and strategy. Do you need to undertake an assessment 'pre, during and post'? What tracking tools might be required?


Gavin Heaton said...

Technology-wise it is much cheaper now to experiment with branded entertainment. In fact, we may well see more of this appearing in non-mainstream formats.

And BTW ... I kinda liked the kittens. As always it is important to remember that we (the industry) are not the target audience. And in a tough new car market, the brands that can stand out from the rest of the kitten ranch will do well.

Kate Richardson said...

I agree absolutely. That was kinda my point. Whatever experiment you undertake, and despite its success or otherwise, it's bound to come under intense scrutiny from the industry. We are one tough audience.

I like the fact that Mojo and Toyota have experimented with the graphic novel style narrative. That's the exciting thing about brand entertainment, it can be so many things.