Why Brands Win When They Seek Audiences Not Customers

1440628624781Today, the most successful brand strategies are those that take an audience development approach. And by “audience” I mean your customers, users or members of your brand tribe. Why use the word “audience” rather than customers?

First of all, as opposed to customers, an audience is looking to make an emotional connection and will give their attention when they get what they desire. Plus, to a brand, customers are merely numbers reflecting a transaction. When we shift the language to audience, we evoke a connection with an individual that is more than transactional it’s emotional. And when brands build experiences for audiences, rather than their customers, a relationship is built that, if done right, can sustain for a long time.

“Humans are emotional creatures and they want experiences that engage them as humans. They’re not eyeballs, impressions, views, likes, shares, clickthroughs, or conversions.” – Brian Solis, August 2015

Further, if we look at the current role of content in successful brand strategies, the ultimate goal is that brands are creating added value content that resonates with your particular brand audience. (Btw, you have to get to know your audience and understand what they want before you can even create strategies that provides them with particular unique value). And no matter what kind of content you are creating, the goal is to get the attention of the right people via providing them with either entertainment or information that engages people emotionally.

Whether brands know it yet or not, with each foray into creating original brand content, they are, little by slowly, becoming media companies.

Indeed, customers are now audiences. And those brands that consider this perspective in their strategies will succeed quicker than the rest. Check out Red Bull, they’re a great example of this.

So …

Brands, meet your audience.

Audiences, meet your brands.

21st Century Story Development: Know Your Audience

Hollywood no longer needs to work so hard to lead audiences to story …

…. Because today audiences can lead Hollywood to future success stories!

k48byeHere in the 21st century, storytellers don’t need to wait for audience testing to see how audiences respond and react to their story. Audiences are connected, vocal and living in digital spaces allowing for storytellers to get to know their audience early and to use this information to help guide the development of story and cross-platform story experiences that resonate and move audiences.

UnknownIn the past, a story was written and produced then handed over to marketing executives to sell the story to audiences. Then they would test the story to find out what audiences are and are not liking, tailor the marketing campaign to highlight what a particular audience will like in hopes of gaining their attention when the story premieres on TV, in theaters, etc.

Today, stories can emerge in development based on knowing the types of stories audiences are already attracted to. Audiences are living digital lives that make their story choices, behaviors and opinions accessible to help guide producers in developing successful stories. There is no reason to wait until after production dollars have been spent because you can check in with audiences early, in development.

What does this mean?

It means that in development, identify the audience you want to reach, get to know them via an audience discovery process that analyzes hard data, psychometrics and social metrics. The insights gleaned from this stage then becomes the compass that guides story development and audience engagement that results in the creation of successful story properties.

It’s working for Netflix. Their original show House of Cards emerged from data that showed Netflix’ customers liked the UK’s House of Cards, Kevin Spacey and binge viewing. Poof! Instant success, achieved in development by using data that showed them who their audience was, how they consume story and what stories they liked.

Another indication that in 21st century storytelling the audience matters and listening to them is critical for success!

 

21st Century Entertainment Strategies: Re-thinking The Biz

Unknown-3The entertainment industry was built on a media system that no longer exists. The media system that has emerged is embodied with new innovations, multiple platforms for exploring the art of storytelling and opportunities for audiences to participate and engage with story like never before.

Every time a new innovation hits the marketplace, it upsets the existing system meaning that the media system will be ever-evolving (see Disruptive Storytelling). The days of a media system that remains the same for 100 years have come to an end. This means that in the entertainment industry, change is the new normal and constant evolution a necessity.

Despite this evolutionary shift, the struggling industry continues to rely on entertainment strategies built on a system of the past that has changed and will continue to change. It’s time for new, evolved strategies to lead the way toward transforming the art and business of storytelling back into a robust industry.

What are the key principles of 21st century entertainment strategies?

  • Creating meaningful, engaging story experiences.
  • Using new technology to innovate the art of storytelling.
  • Collaboration between storytellers and marketers.
  • Innovative budgeting and distribution models.
  • Inviting audiences to actively participant in story.

It’s a tall order, indeed. Though those story visionaries (see Story Entrepreneurs) who are willing to take risks, evolve and embrace new strategies, will be the ones that lead this industry into a new age of brilliance.

Story + Identity = Meaning = SUPER Success

UnknownStories help make meaning of life. It’s through stories that we come to understand social and cultural life, and who we are.  We are attracted to stories of celebrities and public figures, stories about our favorite TV characters or stories of our friends, because every narrative moment is a reflection of people and life that helps us further understand, craft and tell our own stories. This process of self and meaning making drives our passions and brings purpose to our lives.

superman-record2

Large group of people dressed as Superman.

Understanding the powerful role of identity and culture formation in the consumption of story is crucial to creating successful story and story experiences in the 21st century. “Selling” story is no longer about making first weekends, it’s about telling meaningful stories and creating engaging story experiences that resonate (click here to see what happened to the film Bruno.)

Stories will thrive if the narrative experience is rich with meaning that moves audiences. When we move audiences we create further engagement and growth of an IP (intellectual property). To grow, story properties must be relatable and provide audiences with a reflection of their own selves, or at least a reflection to stoke their current understanding of self. It is here that story engagement, evangelism and commitment thrives, and thus your story IP.

The most successful stories today and in the future will be those that engage audiences at the level of human, inspiring them to embrace, resonate and celebrate their humanity, thus allowing them to find deeper meaning as they craft their own stories.

The Evolution of TV: Is “House of Cards” a TV Show or a Book (What!?!)?

House-of-Cards-PosterAs “TV shows” begin to release via digital distribution models (such as House of Cards), it begs the question, “Are these shows still TV shows?” The phrase “TV show” refers to the medium that the story is being released on  (TV), so can House of Cards be considered a TV show when it’s released digitally? As more and more stories are crafted for digital distribution, can we continue to call them TV shows?

For the purpose of fitting into an existing industry model Netflix would want House of Cards to be called a TV show. In order to be considered for awards such as the Emmy’s, they need to adhere to the old model and call themselves a TV show. But if we are to evolve towards embracing new modes of story telling, can we really continue to call House of Cards a TV show?

“Episodics” and Binge Viewing

It would be more apropos to consider House of Cards an “episodic” than a TV show. Digital episodic storytelling is more like storytelling via books as the story is told in chapters (or episodes), and the viewer can consume one episode at a time or one after another. Continue reading

Monetizing New Hollywood = Audience Satisfaction

imagesHow do you monetize the new Hollywood? I believe there are several answers to this daunting question (depending on IP, existing business models, etc.), but the foundation of where sustainable answers will evolve can be found in building models that are in favor of the audience.

What?! Give the audience power?!

For many who have worked a long time in the entertainment industry, this is an insane idea to wrap their heads around. This industry has spent the last 100 years telling the world what stories to consume and how to consume them. Audiences had no other choice but to accept our models if they wanted to be entertained.

Well, that is not the case anymore. Hollywood no longer owns the marketplace on storytelling Continue reading

Death of Hollywood? Or Dawn of a New Hollywood?

“There’s eventually going to be an implosion — or a big meltdown.”
– Steven Spielberg on the film industry, June 2013
Photo by Hameed.Deviantart.com

Photo by Hameed.Deviantart.com

Hollywood filmmakers are waking up and speaking up. Recently we’ve heard passionate speeches from Steven SoderberghSteven SpielbergGeorge Lucas proclaiming the tides of change in Hollywood, their frustration as storytellers and their fear for the future. Gentleman, do not despair. The battles you face seem hopeless, and yet I’m here to tell you that what is transpiring is actually good news for storytellers like yourselves.

Here’s the deal, the media landscape has changed. Audiences have changed. Studios are afraid.

They are digging in their heels to keep status quo on an old system that does not exist anymore and studio execs are reacting by making decisions that affect you and the stories you want to tell. Again, do not despair because what the studios are slow to accept is that the new media system  Continue reading