In the age of digital transformation, brands are fighting hard to remain relevant. Key modelers, like Netflix, Hulu and HBO, continue to challenge the way their customers consume media, while some other companies fall short of retaining interest.
What key imperatives, then, will drive the media brands of the future? Let’s breakdown the five best directives to do so.
1. Infiltrate Viewers’ Quality Time
Let’s face it: the days of competing for pure, passive eyeballs are over. Accept it. Move on. Now, let’s focus on what brands can do.
Focus On Integrating Brand Into A 31-Hour Day
Attaching your brand to the moments in a consumer’s day – podcasts on the commute, Snapchat Discover channels instead of the morning paper, viral contests in the same amount of the time it takes to get your coffee – will become the center of content scaling based on this fissured sense of time. If today is the age of the “image” (yesterday was text), the future is video.
Be Where Users Are
Users are now spending the same time on the TV as they are on their disparate devices – mobile, tablet and beyond – as should your brand. Brands need to be where the audience conversation is happening, or risk not being part of the conversation at all.
Follow The Gamers
Trends in the gaming world often pop-up soon after across other industries. With eSports finally coming into maturity as a category of live broadcast events, it will be a continuous catalyst for branding opportunities. Many users will now simply watch Snapchat stories instead of the actual event to stay up-to-date on the most recent happenings of the world. Similarly, a large audience of the Oscars followed the show on Twitter rather than relying on television alone.
Understand How Millennials And Teens Are Influencing Audiences
Even if your target audience is a stay-at-home mom, early adopters, influencers in the digital transformation of media are the young. Brands emerging and established cannot afford not to understand how they interact with and create content.
2. Storytelling (And Brands) Should Envelop Consumers In An Immersive, Ever Evolving Experience-Driven World
A brand isn’t just a logo – it is an experience. And as consumers become savvier, they will seek out experiences that stand apart from the rest. Brands must follow the lead of their audiences in order to create standout experiences.
Create A Shared Universe
In a complex media ecosystem, design and voice help people connect with a brand. Brands need to create content, characters, and stories that all jump out of the screen into real life. Brands can emulate the Marvel model, but they also need to stand for something if they don’t have seven decades of superheroes to create content from. For example, the Walking Dead has created interactive video games and action figures, so the brand is no longer simply a television show – it is a multi-dimensional experience for the viewer.
Additionally, the Serial podcast was a creative way to engage a large audience with a personal story about the justice system to get a sense of the intimate details and ways in which it works. The brand identity is woven through all these experiences for the viewer.
Join The Live Broadcasting Revolution
Facebook has already begun to bring virtual reality (VR) to our desktops and phones with its 360° View capability. What’s more, temporary storytelling apps like Snapchat and Yik Yak will continue to prove that users don’t mind live being ephemeral—more people watched college football and the MTV Movie Awards on Snapchat last year than they did on TV.
Share Unique, Timely Content
The cleverest brands will know that keeping up with their users during the moments that bring audiences together will win their timeshare all the more. This kind of brand engagement will continue to be more and more commonplace as shows become more about an integrated, multi-screen experience. There has been a 75% increase in scripted shows from 2009, including hit shows such as This is Us, Modern Family, Law and Order, or Supernatural.
3. Recognize That Authentic Audience Interactions – Not Just Content – Drives The New Media Model
Before, brands had most of the control of content, but it is now clear that the power is in the hands of the audience. It’s time for media brands to leave their ivory tower and align themselves with an audience that is just as active in content creation as they are.
Because of this competitors are no longer the same; some companies are adjusting better than others. Some notable industry changes are: Disney buying Maker studios, Vice breaking into TV, and the New York Times getting into long-form, interactive storytelling with Snowfall. The lines are blurring more every day.
Make Your Audience A Part Of Your Brand.
Brands must strive harder than ever to make users feel as much a part of the brand as they are to their own families. Emulate the Teen Vogue model where fans and users are seen and heard from. By basing engagement on experience, it will create a way for the audience to connect the dots and find more ways to participate than ever before.
Anticipate that Game of Thrones “fan hosted” discussion forums are just the beginning of how to bring users and viewers more intertwined with your brand. Using consumer data, media brands are developing newer, more integrated ways to keep consumers time occupied and on-brand, whether it be through “2nd screen experiences” or post-show engagement (think “Talking Dead” after “The Walking Dead”).
Accept That Consumers Now Share In The Ownership And Authorship Of Media Brands.
Consumers will expect to influence and be involved by their favorite brands. Passive viewing is a thing of the past. Glossier—a beauty and lifestyle brand with a strong media component—reflects this, having invited their fans into the development of products/content because you must give people what they want.
4. Focus On Niche Audience Behaviors And Technology Early Adopters: They Are Going Mass
Brands need to look at markets outside the U.S.-centric audiences for inspiration and innovation. In order to stay ahead, media brands will need to invest significant efforts in understanding their more niche audiences, especially those that are engaging on platforms that brands have yet to crack.
New Creators Are Tearing Down Creative Walls
Even pre-established celebrities are creating waves in markets not usually associated with celebrity – just look at how much money the Kardashians have made on a cellphone game. As seen, channels such as YouTube and Vine have the power to break down international barriers in the entertainment industry, establishing new artists’ brands – imagine how powerful this could be for your brand. Artists, celebrities, and influencers are still important, but they are not your brand. Yet, it is their understanding of their audience – and yours – that will set your brand apart.
Be Ready To Experiment In Real Time
While Facebook has only seen continuous growth in its user base, certain platforms, like Twitter, continue to wax and wane. When new platforms such as Peach or Canvas appear, they are gone just as fast despite offering newer and better social media experiences. Many more apps will appear, but so far, the big fish are dominating the pond because they are invested in discovering what users want next.
5. Harnessing The New Brand Toolkit Will Require A Strong POV On What Your Brand Stands For
All brands are aggressively expanding their media chops. All great brands are driven by a distinct purpose. In the new media landscape, brand matters more than ever. However, the traditional tenets of a strong brand will no longer apply – it’s not about iconography, it’s not about a tagline, or an ad campaign. The new brand is about every single person that interacts with your brand – from employees to consumers – understand what you stand for. This is because the media brands of the future are not only about content, but experience. So what will media brands need in order to succeed in the future?
Stand For Something
Today’s competitive media landscape requires you to hook your brand into a universal story that fans and employees find compelling and can understand – Discovery, HGTV, and Netflix all do a great job of this, truly creating loyal audiences that tend to stay on the brand’s side. Brands like Google, Warby Parker and even Taylor Swift have all come out with a clear and concise statement of who they are and what they stand for. Ask yourself, what do I stand for? Wear your POV as a badge of honor.
Traditional media brands can learn from this more organic and fluid way of interacting with fans. Just look at National Geographic’s Instagram and you’ll feel like you are in the Sahara with a rare cheetah. Brands like Karlie Kloss and Beyonce project a strong understanding of who they are. They reveal themselves through their stories, snapshots of their beliefs, rituals, and the things they love.
Be Part Of The Conversation
Brands find ways outside the walls of a screen, to interact, engage and tease their fans. The best shows and media brands are actively creating experiences to match this desire. Trending events and social media are like peanut butter and jelly—they just go together. The best brands harness trending issues to not only be part of the conversation, but to drive it forward. Fans of Scandal can briefly discuss content with Kerry Washington on Twitter.
Having a distinctive and engaging brand that incorporates all media will be more important than ever in the future. Another example that comes to mind is NatGeo’s Kinect on Xbox; it lets children get up and actually feel like they are catching the bugs that they are seeing and learning about on-screen.
It will be important to intertwine your user and viewer within what you stand for: media brands of the future won’t exist without a powerful emotional connect with their audiences. Understanding your audience—who they are, what matters to them and where they’re going is not enough. Invite them in, celebrate who they are and help them take ownership.
So… What’s Next?
The crack in the center of the media landscape may only get bigger as technology continues to change. However, when your brand has an adaptable plan for uncertain times, it can create a bridge to tackle the chasm of unknowns, and keep apace and connected to audiences both new and old.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that all great brands are buoyed by an essential brand purpose. A foundational common ground that employees rally behind and consumers understand. It is key to defining intention, in the marketplace and the lives of consumers.
Start by figuring out who your audience of the future is. Understand what motivates them, who they are and how they would like to interact. In order to truly discover and portray what your company stands for, you need to break down the many siloes (brand communications, visual identity, brand strategy, name, look and feel) of your current brand in a strategic way.
The power lies within aligning everyone, including internal creators, leaders, and new employees, around a brand that is meaningful, interactive, and one that fits within a modern marketplace and competitive landscape.