Over the past two years, we have had the fortunate opportunity to work with top marketing executives, creative directors and agency account teams on the development and production of branded entertainment franchises for the Chrysler brand (Million Dollar Film Festival) and Reebok (Terry Tate: Office Linebacker). Although the properties are different, they are both fully integrated marketing programs that use branded content to establish an emotional connection with the consumer. A similar approach can be pursued on behalf of package-goods companies.
In the 1920s, package-goods companies began sponsoring serial dramas on radio to establish a dialogue with the consumer. By 1937, corporations like Proctor & Gamble, Pillsbury and General Foods began to sponsor the "soap operas" based on their popularity. These shows were produced to attract female viewers with the intention of selling soap powder to the traditional housewife. Irna Phillips, the originator of the soap opera, which is one of TV's most enduring and profitable genres, had a deal for all of her shows with Procter & Gamble Productions.
Like their forebears, the modern package-goods company has a tremendous opportunity to use entertainment in the same way—as a "Trojan Horse." Entertainment is the most efficient and effective medium for delivering key brand messages. Quality programming causes the consumer to embrace the brand on an emotional level, thus, establishing credibility and providing a platform from which to deploy traditional marketing tools. These promotional initiatives reinforce the consumer's association with the brand and provide a feedback loop via the Web and other direct response channels.The collected consumer data is then used for targeting, and drives couponing, home sampling, and other sales promotions. This ongoing communication between consumer and brand leads to trust, loyalty, and hopefully, a customer for life.
Marketers of package goods are already equipped to ask the right questions when evaluating the development and production of a branded entertainment program. The process is, in fact, not dissimilar to the one that Hollywood pursues when determining how to market its entertainment projects, beginning with these basic questions:
- Who is your target audience?
- What key brand message(s) do you want to communicate?
- Where can you cost-effectively reach your target audience?
- When should you launch your branded-entertainment program?
- Why will the audience attend (why buy)?
- How will you determine if the program is successful (ROI)?
%%PULLQUOTE_LEFT%% Based on this insight, relevant branded-content could take several forms; perhaps it could be a comedy-based Christmas special. Or we could produce a series of one-minute romantic films that could air on NBC during the week of Valentine's Day.
To better inform these questions, we would need to analyze the current media landscape and determine what programming has been successful in that genre, as well as how the current media plan can be leveraged to facilitate the distribution of our branded content. Once this is determined, we tap into the Hollywood creative talent pool and assemble an experienced team to begin the development process.
Upon the delivery of engaging creative, an integrated marketing strategy and distribution plan is developed, as well as direct response mechanisms for program measurement. If the creative is really strong, the value proposition presented to media partners by marketers becomes more compelling and may extend the relationship beyond a media-buy into a true partnership. Thus, branded content is the core asset of a branded entertainment franchise and can become a financial asset to the brand as well. If fully realized, branded content can transcend marketing expense and establish a relevant place in pop-culture.
Douglas Scott and Andy Marks oversee all integrated branded entertainment initiatives at Hypnotic, a TV/film production and distribution company. Scott is exec VP-marketing and branded entertainment creative director while Marks is the exec VP-brand partnerships.