For decades, communicators who worked to create the best content for their clients were guided by a simple, powerful mantra: Tell a good story.
Today, that mantra is truer than ever. New communications platforms emerge every year; consumers are in control of how, when and where they view content; brands are seeking to do more with less; and people’s attention spans are continually under siege—all reasons your story needs to be strong enough to break through.
Creating successful branded content is now not only about the art of storytelling, but also about the art of integration—finding the sweet spot where brand messages, audience passion, entertainment, an engaging story and the right channels intersect.
At MATTER, one of the things that get us going in the morning is the prospect of hitting that sweet spot by connecting top brands with top creative talent to make content that engages audiences around the world and moves them to act.
Like any communications effort, the work begins with gaining a deep understanding of both ends of the pipeline—the brand and the audiences it wants to reach.
The first task is to zero in on the right kind of content that will serve both and connect them. A piece of sports-based video or a webcast fan experience would probably work well for a motor oil brand trying to reach a young male audience, but not perhaps for a bath oil trying to engage an older female audience.
Once we land on what we want the content to say and who we are talking to, we work to marry it to the best creative partners (director, talent, production company, network) who will embrace the brand and know how to translate its messages, without losing the story. Then we identify the right format and channels for the distribution of the content: TV, online, as a graphic novel, a live event, etc., or all of the above.
Here is where the balancing act begins. Understanding how to best integrate brand messages into a piece of creative content and balance them with its entertainment value is crucial to success. Today’s audiences are savvy about being “messaged,” so the entire experience needs to be fun and interesting to watch. If it is, and the messaging fits organically, the more the audience will embrace your content, remember it, participate in the experience and share it.
We found one of our sweetest spots recently with Cybergeddon, a scripted project we developed for Norton (by Symantec) in partnership with Anthony E. Zuiker, creator and executive producer of CSI, and his production company Dare To Pass.
The 90-minute movie, which was launched in a series of chapters on Yahoo! in the U.S. and in nearly 40 international markets in 10 languages, chronicles two FBI agents and a black-hat hacker as they work to stop a global tech shutdown by an international cybervillain. Norton experts provided real-life cybercrime scenarios to help give the story authenticity, a Norton employee is a key character in the story; and in-show “edutainment” moments help viewers learn how to protect themselves against common cybercrime.
The global activation was truly 360°, including in-pack and on-pack promotions, retail partnerships, print and digital advertising, social media engagement, gaming, traditional media, experiential marketing, and employee engagement. The project has nearly surpassed its goals for viewership and engagement, and has allowed the Norton brand to be part of public conversation in a whole new way.
As I mentioned earlier: a great story is essential, but integration is now the other side of the coin. So ask these questions: Is your content authentic and relevant to both brand and audience? Is it immediately discoverable and sharable via social media and available across multiple screens? Does it tell your client’s story and surprise and delight viewers? You’ve found the sweet spot.
Andy Marks is general manager of Matter, Inc.