Sunday, August 14, 2016

Do It Right And Support It Well Or Don't Spend The Time And Money

This is the fourth installment in the 8 part series: 8 Things You Should Know Before Making Entertainment For Your Brand

When it comes to developing or launching entertainment, magical thinking is not a good strategy for how to support that effort.  The decision to develop and launch a narrative/story happens because there is a need to have bankable, repeatable, commercial success and entertainment is a driver of that success. For business that is driven by entertainment, the entertainment itself must be good enough to succeed and, it must be launched and supported in a way that insures it will be found, sampled and explored to develop a relationship with your intended audience.

The age of social media is rich with stories of spontaneous discovery, meteoric growth, garage creators and memes-turned-riches. We have all heard the myth. A lone someone creates a story and in the absence of a significant budget, either they themselves, or some friends who like the story, create some visual and narrative assets, put it online, and it grows. As the myth goes, sometimes success takes years and a lot of relentless pluck and sometimes it’s really fast, virally exploding as the story finds its audience and becomes big.

This can be a hopeful and motivating  story for those whose day jobs aren’t creating or managing stories or brands. It’s a chance to see if your narrative might have merit and resonance for more than just yourself and perhaps immediate family and friends.  

The underlying truth is that for every story that has humble beginnings yet manages to break out of the unimaginably crowded world of social media, there are uncountable magnitudes of stories that remain obscure forever.

For a real commercial enterprise, shoestring development and Hail Mary support campaigns cost and lose more than the meager investments assigned to the efforts. Valuable people will spend valuable time working on these efforts. The commercial product/services will be created, tooled and funded. Critical external partners will become involved and bring their own resources to bear as well. The cost and risk list goes on and on.

Here is a listing of things to consider as you develop your thinking about how to fund and support entertainment for your brand:

Creators and Development talent costs money
Work with a good agency or a partner who can advise you on finding and attaching top talent. Strong results happen a lot more because of “who” versus strategy and plan.

Time is money so be clear about what you want developed
The more time development and production resources spend casting about pursuing a result that gets reset because it doesn’t meet your needs, the more expensive it is. Be clear about your goals and timing (see section on timing).

Funds commitment horizon is longer for entertainment
Product companies (including licensing companies) often fluxuate their budget on a quarter by quarter basis as their results come in. Entertainment needs to function on commitments that lock in funds for 2 or 3 years. Shortening up funds during the process is very destructive to the process and often significantly harms the quality of the results.

Set aside a distinct and sufficient “discovery” budget for advertising
Making the entertainment is one step. Making sure your audience shows up and finds you is equally as important or all that good work never has the effect you’re looking for. Set aside that budget from the beginning and make sure it lands during the critical discovery and spread period and that it lasts long enough (highly variable dependent on what format you’re launching in).

You’re in or You’re not because just a little bit often has no effect
Doing just a tiny bit of entertainment to see if there’s interest in usually not very effective and definitely burns time and resources.  There are some exceptions. I’ve seen multiple short forms launched to test concept ideas with direct audience feedback that has worked. This is best when you own enough of your own development and production pipeline that the cost isn’t prohibitive because short forms (1 to 3 min.) are the most expensive way to produce entertainment per minute.

Greenlight your next round to be ready vs when you have proof.
Due to the lengthy development and production run up for entertainment, if you are a product company, you will miss the opportunity to continue driving your brand with entertainment if you wait until your first round is in market and successful before you greenlight the second round. That gap will be a year or more.

Trust the talent and don’t get research paralysis

I get a lot of questions from non-entertainment companies about when can research be fielded to insure they are doing the right entertainment. The short answer is research can’t tell you much of quality until you have some truly complete entertainment to test. Imagine testing sponge bob with boards and an explanation: “He’s a sponge…square…and he has a silly laugh…”  It's not funny and powerful until it's all there. You need to trust your entertainment talent and your own understanding of your brand to give you most of those directional answers during development.

The 5th installment in this blog series will be:

Know When You Need An Expert

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