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Entertainment Entertainment Marketing: Movies, TV, Music and Gaming Brand Strategy

Why streamers and studios are leaning on talent to grow their brands

By Tom Jarvis, Founder and managing director

Wilderness

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March 28, 2024 | 6 min read

For The Drum’s entertainment focus, Tom Jarvis of Wilderness looks at the streaming platforms and movie studios looking to develop brand. Making the most of talent, he says, will be key.

A figure in silhouette in front of a massive Universal Studios sign

/ Christian Chen via Unsplash / Universal

Back in 2015, when I started Wilderness, social was seen as a luxury on media and comms plans for TV and films. Studios and distributors were just starting to think about trying to build fandoms around specific shows or films. The shift, led by the streamers, over the last 9 years has been dramatic. What we’ve learned is that the need to build a connection among consumers with the brand is just as important as building a connection with the content at hand.

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The big shift we are seeing now is that streamers and brands in this space are starting to use talent in more interesting and engaging ways. Increasingly, we’re seeing briefs around how you amplify a premiere or talent junket across social in a way that is meaningful not just for the brand, the film or the show, but also for the talent themselves.

The studios are starting to realize that on social media the hero content isn’t always the movie or the show they are promoting but the talent that’s in it. The challenge for many is to do this in a relevant and engaging way that is unique for the publisher and brand.

When fans (not to mention media sites, publishers, reviewers, journalists, and podcasters) follow the talent directly, the studios and streamers have to come up with a unique take and provide audiences with something unexpected. The other challenge many of them face is the broad range of content now available on their platforms; the challenge is to engage different audiences (and people with very different viewing tastes) all within the same social media channel.

Some solve this problem by bracketing out different content and audiences with different social channels – we’ve seen Netflix promote its comedy content through the separate @netflixisajoke account. Expect to see more of this as streamers and studios find ways to connect with specific audiences across a broad range of interests.

Building a brand across entertainment properties

This connects to another challenge for movie studios in particular: how do you create a community or build engagement on social around your brand when you might only release 6-12 movies a year, all of which may well appeal to very different audiences.

Companies like A24 have built a cult audience online, leveraging the advantage that their films attract a similar audience looking for quality storytelling often from edgy or auteur directors. For major studios, with a broader offering, the challenge is that despite the fact their content often shapes culture, the studios themselves don’t. They have little in the way of brand recognition or engagement. For studios, trying to find ways to cut through and become a required part of their audience's digital diet is a huge challenge.

TV streamers don’t face quite the same challenge – they have from the outset lent more heavily on their brands and tried (to differing degrees of success) to differentiate themselves from competitors. But the challenge has become more prevalent as TV viewing becomes more fragmented and shows increasingly find themselves moving between different platforms.

How do the streamers collate an audience around a particular show or moment? What is the modern-day water cooler moment? Well, Netflix has claimed to capture the cultural zeitgeist with shows such as Stranger Things and Wednesday but I’d argue this was less brand-driven and more cultivated by fans themselves.

Here lies one of the biggest challenges for film and TV companies on social: culture is cultivated not created. Allowing audiences to find content and cultivate culture around a specific show or film is very rare, but it really is a goldmine. You need only sing the lyrics Murder on the Dancefloor and Jacob Elordi’s bathwater comes to people’s minds. I think you already know the important role that social media played in this case.

Love games, movies, TV, music and podcasts? Us too. Head over to The Drum’s dedicated Entertainment Focus hub.

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Entertainment Entertainment Marketing: Movies, TV, Music and Gaming Brand Strategy

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Wilderness

The World's First Social Media Transformation Agency. We transform the strategy, management, and operations of the world’s most beloved brands. Part of...

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