Brand Innovators 2021 Outlook: Entertainment

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In the eleventh installment of our 2021 Outlook Series, Brand Innovators talks to brands across the entertainment industry from music to movies to find out what is in store for 2020.

2020 rocked the entertainment business as live events were cancelled, theaters and venues were closed and people looked for new ways to enjoy their favorite content at home. Brands have looked for ways to connect with people in these new situations in ways that matter, whether that means hosting and sponsoring a virtual concert or releasing content to be enjoyed at home.

In 2021, brands will continue to work to connect with consumers where they are, whether that is in their home environments or out in the world as the vaccine becomes more widely available.

“2020 was an incredibly fascinating and dynamic year to be a marketer, and 2021 will only accelerate that notion as the music and entertainment industries bend and shift daily,” said Shana Barry, Head of Music + Entertainment at Anheuser-Busch. “At Anheuser-Busch, as the global leader in the beer category, we’re constantly seeking ways to connect with our consumers in ways that don’t disrupt, but rather add to their daily lives. We’re excited to continue to take risks and make big bets as it relates to how consumers want to engage with us; specifically in 2 areas: we won’t let our foot off the pedal when it comes to authentically resonating with our core audiences by brand, and we’ll continue to strengthen our objectives for the at-home occasion while we patiently wait for the return of live events.”

The music business has had to be very creative around reinventing itself with concerts and live shows moving online. The industry has developed and learned about new ways to connect to consumers in this at-home world. These lessons may continue even as live events return.  Patrick Buchanan, Senior Director, Brand Marketing. Bravado at Universal Music Group expects that 2021 will be very exciting.

“While I know that we all are looking forward to everything going back to ‘normal’" there is power in redefining what normal looks like,” says Buchanan.

“It's been a very stressful year: Politics, police brutality and the pandemic have separated many of us. We've seen many celebrities and brands step up to use their platforms to start a conversation and help bridge the gap.”

“It will be important to build upon those conversations in 2021, utilizing unique virtual experiences (pop-up shops, concerts and meet & greets),” he continues. “The invite-only app, Clubhouse, has been blowing up in popularity and providing a digital platform for artists to have meaningful discussions and tell their stories. It will likely be some time before we'll be able to attend concerts or experiential events (like we did pre-COVID). And while I, like so many others, can't wait to get back to the new normal. I'm grateful for this time of reflection, innovation and growth.”

Steve Munachen, Global Head of Marketing at PUSH agrees that digital innovations will continue even as the world reopens.

“In-person live events will likely come back in 2021, but it will also be heavily complemented by a multi-platform streaming approach,” says Munachen. “Throughout 2020, artists have realized that to truly build their fanbases and increase engagement they must interact with where their fans reside, whether it be YouTube, Twitter, Twitch or Instagram. By taking advantage of the attributes of each platform, artists can build better, stronger connections through curated content and engage with more people than just those that can attend an in-person event. The artists, brands and rights holders who quickly adapt to the new paradigm, will be the ones that succeed in the long run.”

The film industry was transformed focusing on at-home digital releases in 2020. Expect these trends to accelerate in 2021 with studios like Warner Bros. already planning to release every film in 2021 on HBO Max at the same time they hit theaters. Studios are also looking to develop more content to meet the growing appetite of binge watching at home.

“The 2021 video and film landscape will be driven by consumer demand for increased optionality and the ways the industry flexes to meet that demand,” said Jim Marsh, SVP Program Marketing at HBO. “For a brand like HBO, that means people want more ways to consume the content they are passionate about. They will continue to seek out opportunities to participate in culture viewing experiences like The Undoing and Lovecraft Country, as well as the deep and varied catalog content a platform like HBO Max offers. Additionally, consumers will continue to connect with one another in digital spaces, be that through social media, virtual events, or increasingly, virtual worlds. Given how comfortable consumers have become with staying connected via technology, many of these trends will accelerate even when mass physical gatherings become a possibility once again.”

Digital will continue to play a key role for entertainment brands to connect with consumers in 2021, but there will also be opportunities to reach them in the physical world.

“I think as much as the digital space has become incredibly important and will remain important, there is this pent-up desire to get back to the physical world when it is safe to do so,” says Danielle Mullin, SVP Marketing at Crown Media Family Networks. “And all of the types of experiential events and local marketing we used to do where you can get that surprise and delight from a physical experience, I think we’ll see that coming back in a big way. That will probably be through a world of hybrid events, where you’ll have opportunities to engage in the real world but also leverage these new digital skill sets we’ve all developed.”

“It’s interesting because the ROI of experiential marketing has always been around, ‘If we can get 5,000 people to our event, it’ll be a success,” adds Mullin. “But does that make sense anymore when you can live-stream? I think digital will give us ways to reach a broader footprint of people, and a way to create more flexibility. I don’t think any of these things are passing fads, they’re here to stay. It’s exciting for marketers to think in new ways and come up with ideas that can surprise consumers.

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