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What can businesses learn from the entertainment industry when it comes to branding?

(Image credit: Image Credit: Nampix / Shutterstock)

The entertainment industry is full of iconic images that are easily recognised across the globe. From MGM’s roaring lion to Pixar’s bouncing lamp, the world of TV and film is full of examples of high quality branding.   

As a result, when it comes to increasing customer engagement through branding, there are many lessons that businesses from all industries can learn from the world of entertainment. Companies working within the TV and film industries often have very large budgets to play with, of course, but the fundamental approach that these businesses take can be adapted to work for any company.   

Social media, for example, is not an expensive outlet for businesses. However, knowing how to use it effectively will have huge benefits for any business.  Many brands are quick to jump on the latest bandwagon without first considering whether this is the most effective way for them to be engaging their audience. 

No one is denying that it can be difficult to make a brand stand out in a world of new technology, pictures and video content. In order to thrive in this environment, today’s brands therefore need to focus on their messaging and storytelling, ensuring that it remains honest, consistent and true to their values, across multiple channels and platforms.    

A whole new world   

The evolution in technology and the vast number of digital tools now available to marketers and advertisers mean that, to a certain extent, all companies are part of the entertainment industry. Whilst this may not always involve a trip to Cannes or a red carpet, todays’ businesses have to create content that excites their audience in the same way that film-makers do.   

TV adverts have become increasingly movie-like (just look at any Chanel perfume ad), and some companies have actually managed to make their adverts a highly anticipated event. John Lewis, for example, attracts millions of viewers when it unveils its Christmas advert each year, which is not an easy task in a world where many viewers can fast-forward through commercials.   

The film-like quality to adverts comes down to that fact that nearly all brands are now in the business of creating original content to engage their key audiences. This shift puts marketers in the same boat as creatives from the entertainment industry, whose marketing teams have been fighting for their audiences’ attention for centuries.   

Social media strategy   

Creating original content that engages with an audience is just one challenge that today’s marketers face. Digital innovation means that there are now numerous platforms in which to engage with an audience, and knowing which one suits a particular piece of content can often be difficult.   

The continuing evolution of social media, with its tendency to create new ways to consume content, and to value the organic and spontaneous over more traditional forms of advertising, has radically changed consumers’ expectations about how they interact with brands. The full impact of this transformation is yet to be seen, but two trends are becomingly increasingly clear.   

First, when it comes to social media, users are much more likely to engage with organic content that has been shared by their friends and followers, rather than sponsored content. As such, marketers need to ensure that their content is true to the brand’s core values in order to prevent alienating potential and existing customers.   

The second trend is that companies gaining the most shares, likes and views for their social media content are creating emotionally engaging content, whether it is funny, sad, surprising or simply informative. Film makers have learned this trick and no longer rely on just a film alone to engage with their audience – they now use multiple channels and platforms to create a story that hooks people in, and so marketers need to take this same approach.

Behind the scenes  

Whilst the glamorous world of film and TV makes creating content look easy, there is definitely a method to the madness. The formula behind the success of big film campaigns comes down to drawing audiences in with big budget ‘hero’ pieces, and then using lots of subsidiary content to keep them engaged.   

A good example of this formula in action is Pixar’s Toy Story 3. To promote this film, Pixar created hub content in the form of mini films to engage its audience with the hero content, the film itself. It then shared those mini films on YouTube and Facebook to reach original Toy Story fans in their 20’s who would have first enjoyed the franchise in 1994. The mini films included dating advice and life tips from Ken, one of the movie’s new characters. This humour-led content hooked its audience and left it wanting more. This example shows a solid understanding of how to use different platforms in order to engage an audience and promote the brand through new and exciting content. 

Businesses looking to replicate this winning formula need to identify their target audience and decipher what they are interested in and what platforms they are active on. Understanding where the target audience is active is crucial for brands in order to ensure the content being created is specifically optimised for that channel.   

At that point, investing in ‘hero content’ that has been specially designed to target these interests will help a business to boost its brand significantly. The content can then be surrounded by ‘hub content’ which acts as a connector between the hero content and the brand’s core values.   

The entertainment industry is leading the way when it comes to branding and engagement, but businesses from other sectors can also use the winning hero formula to create engaging, high-impact content. The marketers behind some of the world’s most successful brands are proof that sometimes simple is often best. Using too many channels, or sharing content that does not stay true to a company’s core values, could leave brands failing to reach their intended audience, and therefore falling short of an Oscar worthy performance.   

Image Credit: Nampix / Shutterstock

Jim Bowes
Jim Bowes is the CEO and co-founder of Manifesto - the award winning digital agency specialising in digital transformation, technology, content and strategic experience design. Jim set up the London based business in 2011, designing digital services and products around the needs of users, working with health, housing, travel, charities and third sector organisations. Jim has worked in digital or digital content for the last 19 years, and co-hosts a monthly technology podcast, AlexaSTOP! about how technology is changing people’s lives, and presents a weekly tech show, de:code, on Hoxton Radio.