Character and Branded Entertainment.
Characters are exploited in two broad categories:
- As entertainment.
As entertainment the main objective is to generate revenue by selling entertainment products and subscriptions. Here the story and entertainment are the key ingredients.
- As a marketing tool.
As a marketing tool the main objective is to generate more awareness of a company’s brand message. Here the brand message is the key ingredient. Everything the characters do and say is centred on telling the viewer about the company brand.
The main distinction between the two categories is that the one can be regarded as pure entertainment and the other is termed branded entertainment. It has now become possible to merge the two approaches into one so companies can take advantage of the huge benefits afforded by pure entertainment properties.
Entertainment properties were traditionally outside the reach of most companies because of the huge cost of development and the accompanying risks involved. A property often required complex international agreements with broadcasters and retail outlets to be in place for it to have any chance to see the light of day.
The web has changed all that. An entertainment property can now be developed and grown in small incremental steps. This reduces risk and allows for early test marketing and an adaptive strategy. The incremental steps also mean early revenue can start paying for further development. Apart from that the web has none of the bottlenecks and complexities created by TV and Retail as it offers any character easy access to a huge online audience through video and game portals as well as mobile devices. Social media technologies also offer opportunities to create marketing campaigns that can potentially offer exponential growth at very little cost.
The key to making an entertainment property work as branded entertainment is product placement advertising. Branded products are not just 'placed' but skilfully woven into entertainment content so they do not interfere with the story as the key ingredient, making a stronger emotional connection with the consumer
The study into the effectiveness of product placement in movies found that, in general, brands advertised through product placement are more likely to get noticed by film fans than those in text messaging or radio ads.
Movie product placement comes only marginally below products featured in TV commercials, according to the study. Sixty-one per cent of film fans said that they noticed brands advertised in this way, compared with 62% of those who said TV was a more effective medium; 23% named text messaging and 47% named radio ads.
Almost 30% of people said that they would be persuaded to try a brand after having seen it in a movie with that figure rising to over 40% among 15- to 24-year-olds. (Brand Republic)
Paid product-placement spending grew almost 34% to $2.9 billion in 2007 and is projected to reach $3.7 billion in 2008, a 28% growth. (PQ Media, "Branded Entertainment Marketing Forecast: 2008-2012"Febuary 2008)
31.2% of consumers report "considerable" or "some" interest in advertising appearing in product placement in movies. (MediaMark Research Inc (MRI), "Survey of the American Consumer"September 2007)
So what are the advantages of creating an entertainment property and using it as branded entertainment to promote a company’s brand message?
Entertainment properties pay for themselves. You build a game or animation series and sell it. You create a stunning comic and charge a subscription fee. You sell merchandise. You generate revenue from licensing deals.
- Emotional connection
Entertainment properties create stronger emotional connections because they are bigger and deeper story based experiences.
Characters are able to attract instant attention from across a broad spectrum of potential consumers and they are brilliant at retaining that attention. That we know. As pure entertainment, however, there is much less pre-filtering because the characters are not directly trying to sell anything. This means a higher level of acceptance of placed brand messages and a higher rate of dissemination of the brand message
Entertainment properties offer a much bigger range of truly workable media formats, especially in the social media arena. This means more conversations and therefore more exposure.
(See my blog on Using Characters to Promote Brands)
- Shelf life
Entertainment properties have unlimited life spans. They are independent, self-sustaining projects that can be managed and grown by a third-party.
- Going Viral
Characters start warm and exciting conversations. These conversations are more effective when they are unhindered by glaringly obvious commercial objectives. And the key, as I said before, is in Product Brand Placement.
Research shows that PBP [product brand placement] works on the implicit memory (non-intentional form of memory) that boosts unconscious learning. When placements are enhanced via attractive actors or experts, it aids recall and adds a positive source effect. Consumers are likely to use an "availability” heuristic (the ease of recalling specific events) to form decisions. Exposure to PBP gives rise to perceived popularity as people infer what is popular from what is prominent.
WARC Media Report, "Global Product Placement Now and In the Future"
A company that owns it own entertainment property, as opposed to riding on the back of other properties, has full access to all the advantages such ownership affords. Apart from product placement advertising there are additional means of brand exposure such as:
- Promotional campaigns
- Pre-roll, mid-roll or post-roll video advertising
- Banner advertisement on the micro-site
- Sponsorship ads
A company that owns its own entertainment property also has full control over the direction of the property including the overall message, back-story, storylines and distribution. This ensures that the entertainment property remains a perfect fit for the brand message.
The key is creating content that appeals to an audience, and distributing the content effectively to a target audience. If this is done successfully, it is not just the brand exposure that benefits the brand advertiser but the fact that the property offers a return on investment.
There is too much potential online for advertisers not to take advantage of branded entertainment. Having ownership of a character and entertainment property puts a company in full control of all the benefits on offer. The end result has the potential to truly transform the effectiveness of a company’s online marketing strategy and bottom-line.
To see how GrinLock can help you create stunning micro-sites, characters, games, animation, viral marketing and presentations place visit our Showcase Section
By Philippe Ingels