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Blurring the Lines Between Advertising and Entertainment

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Traditional advertising is a one-way street. And so, in today's interactive world, it might be time to pull back on some traditional advertising. Nowadays, allocating financial resources into channels that might be used to interact with consumers, so that they can be engaged more meaningfully, is a top priority.

The beauty of Web 2.0 is that companies of all sizes can take advantage of adding some new Internet-based social media to their marketing mix.

Using entertainment via interactive marketing is one way to get attention, create excitement and buzz, and connect with consumers. Smart marketers are using interactive media to blur the lines between traditional advertising and entertainment, engaging consumers with brands at a deeper level.

Consumers understand they are being marketed to on Internet sites, but if their online brand experiences are memorable ones, they are likely to have a positive response.

Besides, there is a perceptive difference between being bombarded by advertising vs. being invited to interact and to have a potentially enjoyable experience all at the same time, isn't there? What delivers enjoyable experiences better than entertainment?


As long as the marketing message is cohesive, companies can commit to experimenting with new media, and then work with it consistently after honing in on what works for them.

Companies of all sizes can consider at least a couple of these interactive vehicles:

  • Blogs
  • Podcasts
  • Online videos
  • Advergames

 

Interactive marketing vehicles should always be aligned with the traditional advertising mix companies are already using:

  • Print advertising
  • TV spots and/or radio spots
  • POS displays
  • Wireless promotions
  • CD-ROMs
  • Kiosks
  • Consumer-facing literature

 

No matter what the traditional marketing mix looks like from company to company, a cohesive brand message is a must.

Though it's scary for some marketers to cede some of the control they have over their brands, it's time to step back, take a deep breath, and view doing so as a real opportunity. Fact is, consumers have been steadfastly taking control of brands, opining on blogs, and engaging in word of mouth (WOM) for some time now anyway.

Marketers have to understand that they are increasingly sharing ownership of their brands, so it's time to get closer to the customer.

One way to do that is via interactive vehicles that can be used to tell the brand story. Everybody likes a good story. Storytelling engages listeners (podcasts and online videos) or readers (blog posts), presents facts within the framework of a great story, and offers a real conclusion.

Better yet, storytelling creates an opportunity to share human experiences and affords companies an opportunity to be creative and entertaining. Result: more memorable experiences and enduring connections between brands and consumers.

Blogs

There are many company blogs, and then there are blogs like Dell's. Companies that really want to take the plunge, and seek direct feedback from consumers to improve their products or services, might want to use Dell as a blueprint.

The site not only tells a good story (www.dell.com/community) but also features a highly interactive blog that openly invites consumers to "Ideastorm" directly with the company and other bloggers.

Getting feedback from customers about current products or services is one thing. Soliciting customers' input for the development of future product or service offerings is a much more forward-thinking idea. It excites consumers, since they have direct input. And the concept is pure entertainment to tech-minded consumers.

Check out Dell's site for ideas that might be implemented into your marketing.

Videos

Online videos needn't be expensive or long to grab consumers' attention. They can be highly entertaining, whether they are used to demo products or tell a story that resonates with consumers.

Well-planned, well-thought-out videos should capture the essence of the company brand in a unique way.

Posted on company Web sites and sites like You Tube or Google Video, online videos can really help to attract attention, and all-important buzz. Ultimately, they are another potential tool for driving traffic to the company's product or service offerings in a creative way.

Some of the largest brands are using online videos; smaller companies can emulate them, albeit in a more modest way. Take a look at what Nike has done in its NFL video "Leave Nothing," which also runs in 60-second TV spots. Nike does not advertise products in the video, preferring instead to "capture the essence of football—pouring heart and soul into every day and every play, leaving nothing on the field by game's end," according to the company.

The Nike football Web site ties into the "Leave Nothing" theme in every way, and then invites fans to view videos with player interviews and to join its blog. This is smart marketing, and it comprehensively leverages Nike's, and football's, considerable assets.

Advergames

Well-designed advergames can be very entertaining while selling brands and products. They aren't for most companies, and can be very expensive to design. However, they are a viable option for product and service brands that are trying to reach not only kids, teens and young adults but also various other demographic groups that enjoy online and video games.

Advergames can create a lot of buzz, as fans promote them heavily to their friends. And they can build loyalty and stickiness for brands.

Some well-designed advergames:

 

The Bottom Line

Marketers now have more platforms to reach consumers. Since many traditional advertising platforms are static in nature, and consumers are becoming increasingly interactive in their preferences, companies in the business of selling products and services must become increasingly adept at using a mix of new interactive tools to reach their audiences.

We are living in an interactive, entertainment-oriented society; let that fact guide you as you develop new marketing programs.


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Ted Mininni is president of Design Force, Inc. (www.designforceinc.com), a leading brand-design consultancy to consumer product companies (phone: 856-810-2277). Ted is also a regular contributor to the MarketingProfs blog, the Daily Fix.

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