We love to be entertained. In fact, we demand it. As we crave distractions from everyday life, entertainment has become an essential part of our lives, not a luxury. We sit up and take notice of entertainment, whether it’s a band on a stage, a pop-up cinema in a backstreet, or an attention-grabbing installation at an airport. Why? Because it is happening live, and live experiences are intrinsically entertaining.
So how do we define entertainment in a brand context? At the fully involved level, brands create, programme and build wholly owned experiences at a range of locations and events. But you don’t need your own structure to be entertaining.
At a lower investment level, brands can become entertainers by putting an entertainment-led premise at the heart of their campaigns. It’s a simple and obvious point to make, but brands that make their communications entertaining stand out from the crowd because people actively and emotionally engage with the experience.
The evolving nature of entertainment is an opportunity for brands. The relentless assault of messaging, advertising and content, combined with our shrinking attention spans and thirst for instant fixes, means that brands need to work harder to get noticed and build themselves a compelling personality. The question is, why aren’t brands better at it?
In general, being emotional and human is not something brands do well, but it is where the rewards of long-lasting relationships lie. Brands must work to understand motivations of their audience to know what kind of experiences will be well received. The opportunity to engage with people through entertaining experiential is alive and kicking, but doesn’t always deliver against the potential. This is often because it lacks emotional punch and resonance due to lack of research and audience insight, or just poor creativity, production and staffing.
People love being entertained because it makes them feel alive. Brands should connect with the audience with energy, positivity, wit, creativity and empathy, exciting people to feel genuine emotion. To be entertaining, brands must be confident about putting themselves in the spotlight and creating a living representation of what they stand for, which is more real and genuine than any ad. In an age where we are increasingly reliant on technology to deliver relationships, it is this real human contact that we all look for and cherish. This is shown by the ever-growing demand for live experiences, demonstrated by the explosion of the UK festival scene.
What started with music festivals has now expanded to events celebrating broader tastes, from vintage fashion to extreme sports. People are hungry for entertaining experiences.
Consumers expect brands to be an integral part of this scene, with an established role to play. In fact, they appreciate that brands provide experiences that would not have been there without their investment. As the world of entertainment has evolved, brands now have every right to be involved, even when the brand or its products have no obvious connection with entertainment.
For brands to really make the most of this opportunity, it’s important to realise that entertainment is not just about the big event over a day, night or weekend. Brands should look to entertain us over an extended period of time with marketing activity before, during and after the live experience.
Effectively integrating digital and social media delivers anticipation beforehand and sharing afterward, creating longevity and, importantly, ROI. It deepens the relationship, the entertainment and the emotion. Experiential’s best practitioners are integrated marketers with a ‘big idea, media-neutral’ approach.
Entertainment gives brands the opportunity to build genuine emotional connections with their audience, as new experiences are created, shared and developed together. Experiential is created by the brand, the emotion is felt by the consumer. When this happens, brands are certain to have a growing number of inspired and loyal advocates among their fans.
Sam Richardson, managing director, neon.