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Branded Entertainment: Brand Repair or Preventative Maintenance?

August 30, 2011

By: Erik D. Di Somma, O2 Media, Inc.

Your current competition is never your future competition. I learned this lesson quickly, working in the telecommunications industry, while witnessing Motorola lose nearly half of the market share of its mobile phone division to a former toilet paper manufacturer. Unbeknownst to Motorola, the small Finnish company had been discretely preparing a marketing strategy to drop their GSM-enabled mobile devices all over U.S. soil. These efforts also coincided with AT&T’s launch of its new digital cellular network, which I assure to you, was no accident. By 1996, Motorola was back to manufacturing police radios and everyone I knew had the Nokia 2160 in hand, using up their “free nights and weekends.”

This experience taught me that the success of any brand does not always represent its quality, nor does it mean that rivals are always inferior to their successors. It appears, now more than ever, that proper promotion coupled with a good strategy-one that aligns with the emotions of a modern audience-is the key to success. Motorola was perfectly capable of maintaining their stake in the marketplace, given the resources they had; they just took their eyes off the ball at the wrong time.

Not unlike Motorola, and their debacle with Nokia in the 1990s, modern day companies are facing similar challenges with maintaining their brand image. Due to a highly-fragmented media environment, the value of today’s advertising dollar is diminishing, and as a result, even the most skilled executives are questioning the value of media choices they have made and trusted for the past 30, 40 or even 50 years. It is becoming understood that ensuring the reliable delivery of any message in such a crowded environment cannot be guaranteed with traditional media. But, that does not mean that this delivery is an unattainable goal. Proper choices must be made that affect the value of the message, not just the frequency. Rather than simply interrupting the activities of today’s consumer with advertising, the integration of the same message within those activities could have a completely different, and more profound, effect on how the message is perceived. Attempts at brand integration are becoming a popular choice for this reason. This may explain why PQ Media, a Custom Media Research company, claims that Branded Entertainment Marketing is “growing at a high-speed,” and according to Advertising Age, “The trend in branded content and sponsored entertainment is hardly losing momentum in 2011.”

It is not only the immediate brand value that Branded Entertainment affects. Technology has influenced the popularity of the medium over the years, taking it far from its roots of product placement. With the advent of social media and online videos, the residual effects of the content can resonate for weeks, if not years. For this reason, many platforms believed to compete with television, and divert viewers, are now being viewed as tools to enrich the viewer experience. The right level of enrichment can keep the viewer engaged both during and in between episodes of strong advertising and marketing.

Could this have been the problem with Motorola’s brand management in the 90s? It’s hard to tell; however, their loss was an obvious result of competition moving in at the right time-during a temporary disconnect the company had with its consumer. Could the right Branded Entertainment strategy have saved Motorola’s position in the marketplace? I’ll let you decide when you consider this statistic: Apple products appeared in 112 of the 334 films that hit No. 1 at the box office since 2001. How do I know this? I looked it up on my iPhone.

This and other White Papers on Branded Entertainment by O2 Media Inc. can be found at BrandChannel.com

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