Why Marketers Are Now In The Entertainment Business
In digital entertainment industries like music, film, book publishing and TV, fewer and fewer hits are increasingly responsible for the vast majority of revenue.
And this growing trend of a concentration of hits at the head of the long tail is only increasing year over year. According to Eric Schmidt of Google, “While the tail is very interesting, the vast majority of revenue remains in the head.”
Here’s but one example: “According to Nielsen SoundScan, of the 8MM unique digital tracks sold in 2011, 94% sold fewer than 100 units, and an astonishing 32% sold only one copy. In that same year, 102 tracks sold more than 1MM units each, accounting for 15% all sales.”
As part of this trend over the last 5-10 years, entertainment companies have begun to adopt “blockbuster strategies” that direct a disproportionate amount of investment toward a select few titles in the hopes that those will bring in the majority of sales and profit — as opposed to equally dividing marketing and production resources across all products. Furthermore, audiences are using social norms and popularity as a filter for what they consume, which creates a reinforcing effect for this strategy.
Enter Content Marketing
And into this mix of content vying for users’ attention comes Content Marketing. Content marketing has recently become one of the most important tactics in a marketers’ mix — but research shows that the biggest challenges content marketers consistently face are producing enough content, and producing the kind of content that engages their targets.
Whether publishing blog posts, social media, curated websites, digital magazines, short or long form video, etc. — brands and marketers compete for the attention of their customer with all of the innumerable other outlets that are available. Thus, content marketers increasingly find themselves in the entertainment business.
The entertainment industry has been consistently creating and delivering engaging content for hundreds of years — and they have become astoundingly good at it. As entertainment products have moved into the digital realm, the marginal costs of reproduction and distribution have shrunk to previously unimaginable lows — which has allowed room for increased allocations to upfront activities such as development, marketing and advertising, and superstar talent.
So — how can content marketers apply the lessons of these strategies and macro-trends to their content creation?
- Content Development Model: A “development model” is one in which a number of smaller investments can work to validate a format, discover future hits and franchises, and fill the content pipeline. Many entertainment businesses begin with a measured approach – they “test and learn,” and then build scale into products that are delivering success. This allows for a portfolio approach where many of the individual efforts may not be successful – but overall, there is a higher likelihood of a hit(s) that will subsidize the entire model. Some examples of “development models” include Saturday Night Live, Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club and record label/artist 360 structures.
- Content Influencers & Superstars: It cannot be understated how important influencers and superstars are to the equation of a blockbuster strategy. They can have an outsized effect on the performance and credibility of a title. Advertising and marketing push messages or ideas out to audiences, but a superstar or influencer is capable of creating a gravity that can pull an audience to a title. The key for brands is to be able to convert affinity for a superstar into the product or content.
- Content Virality: On the internet going “viral” is the equivalent of a blockbuster. Businesses like Buzzfeed and Upworthy are attempting to reverse engineer virality through novel technology and content optimization. For content marketers, these are fascinating examples to learn from but on a cautionary note, Facebook recently changed its newsfeed algorithm to “feature more high quality content,” and overnight Upworthy saw a 25% decrease in traffic. As Ben Winkler, OMD chief digital officer, recently put it “You cannot make content go viral. The best you can do is improve the odds. You can get millions to watch a video, but you can’t force them to like it.”
- Content Strategy: As a brand, owning your content category and channel are paramount. Research shows that 55% of US smartphone owners and 61% of tablet owners are using a TV-related app at least once a month. This is further evidence that audiences now control what they consume more than ever, and for marketers to play on app-driven platforms like AppleTV and content-driven channels like YouTube, they need to own their content category and channel. For example, RedBull and GoPro own the action sports category, and both have had recent wins with a new AppleTV application for RedBull, and deals with Virgin InFlight, Xbox One, and Xbox 360 for GoPro. Even Ken Burns released a new application featuring all of his short films in the form of playlists. Other examples of programming branded entertainment for a channel include the recently released Lego film, and the forthcoming film by The North Face.
Marketers have made incredible strides in recent years toward becoming publishers. They are in the enviable position of having the budget to both produce great content and promote it. In an increasingly noisy world, marketers can look to the entertainment industry for strategies that place fewer and larger bets on content that will stand out above the rest, and then promote those titles through outsized paid and earned media efforts.
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