Marketing transmedia

I read a good post by Marc Binkley the other day, entitled Transmedia Storytelling and Content Marketing”. The post brought up what I believe will be a very hot trend in marketing; realizing that (as Marc lines up in his post) 1. Consumers are media, 2. People yearn to belong and 3. Communities identify themselves in each other’s presence.

It is all about conversation, about not only being in front of your potential customers but also about having a reason for being on front of them other than the obvious ”we want to sell you stuff”. This reason should surpass the banalities of trying to sell things to people; they should be about telling stories and/or enabling the audience to tell stories and give them sufficient reason to want to do so.

Now, this is all laid out quite succintly in Marc’s post, so I’ll let you read his take on it. What occured to me is the fact that everyone involved in transmedia storytelling need to take proper note of this development as well. We need to sell as well, the only difference being that we (often) do not have a physical product in the end (unless you count possible DVD:s or merchandize connected to a main property). What we need to sell is what we create – content. We need people to invest time and engagement in it in order to make the returns that will make our project count as a success, in order for us to be able to obtain funds or commissions to make the next project. In this, we can learn a lot from marketing.

One thing I see quite often is a strong belief in a sort of ”if we build it they will come” mentality. This might’ve worked for Kevin Costner, but it’s most assuredly not the right fit for everyone. What is needed is marketing; what is needed is knowledge of how to get through to the ones that might actually want to partake of what you have to offer. Rob Pratten has a good post up at Transmedia Storyteller, where I would urge everyone producing transmedia (and not building on something that has a clear and eager fanbase already in place) to read the paragraphs on the stages of audience engagement closely. They feel very true to me – that there is a discovery stage (where the content needs to deliver the goods to the extent that people care to engage further), the experience stage and the exploration stage. Well, the stages could perhaps be named differently, but the fact that most people won’t want to explore further if the first stages are too demanding or not rewarding enough, that’s just common sense.

To continue on what I wrote above, that transmedia can learn a lot from marketing, let’s – as conclusion – take a look at some general marketing advice and translate it into a transmedia reality:

 1.     Look at marketing in the right light. Marketing should be seen as an investment, not an expense; a way to get the attention of possible clients and audiences. Attention is the second most important aspect of any transmedia project (the first being the quality of the content, naturally). Have great content and grab the attention of enough people, and you’re sorted. 

2.     Do not frown at market research. In the vein of ”build it and they will come”, many people creating transmedia do not really know who they are creating their content for. Market research can, as with any other product, help you find out whom you should target; what demographic, what age, what media habits and so on. This will make the first point above click a whole lot better. 

3.     Following up on that, do not frown at marketing research. Where market research focused on the market, marketing research delves into the spending habits and behaviours of the target group you’ve decided to target with your content. Use it to help you avoid mistakes, basically; the more you know about the people you ideally would want to be interested in what you have to offer, the better odds you have of achieving that goal. 

4.     Spend time on your marketing plan. Your content is worth spending time on, right? If you’re at all like me, you’ve spent more hours than you ideally want to realize (waking and sleeping and in-between) on your content. Now, you want people to take part of it, so that it won’t all have been in vain. Use a marketing plan to find holes in your strategy for reaching your customers, and in the long run as a road map to give you stability and security (and success, no doubt). 

5.     Be realistic with your marketing budget. Talk to someone, look it up on the web… there is advice to be had on the subject of budgeting for marketing. Don’t be too cautious. But neither should you overstretch. 

6.     Stand on the shoulders of others. Just as with developing transmedia in the first place, there is no shame in using a tried and tested successful method of marketing. So look around, look into similar projects; what did they do right? What did they do wrong? What can you learn and how can you implement it?

I hope this has been of use to someone; would be happy to discuss. Hit me on Twitter or comment here! 

The points above are based on Laura Lake’s basic marketing advice over at

3 thoughts on “Marketing transmedia

  1. It's a fascinating issue that extends well beyond "transmedia," to the very heart of the entertainment and media industries, and beyond. How do you market something that many people consider to be marketing in and of itself? This question, and the definition of what constitutes "marketing" today, speaks to the fundamental question of what constitutes a business model in the digital age.There's no doubt that, from a traditional perspective, virtually all transmedia content built around a traditional media release must be considered marketing. The majority of online transmedia – social media, ARGs, even games – does not generate substantial revenue in and of itself. Even extensions that ostensibly seem intended to generate revenue – books, console games, graphic novels – are often more about raising awareness of a brand by getting the logo into stores and in front of consumers. For a traditionally-structured media company, the easiest place to put transmedia endeavors is with a nascent "digital marketing" department.The difficulty here – and this speaks to your post, I think – is that a savvy creator could find his or her efforts to expose the entirety of a story to a mass audience frustrated. When somebody is accustomed to traditional models, the transmedia extensions are considered marketing materials for the driving platform. Thus, it would seem counterintuitive to expend time or capital on trying to get people to try out the web experience or the comic book. Simply put, it doesn't make business sense to attempt to drive eyeballs to something that doesn't generate revenue when you can use that time, money, and attention to target more people to watch your show or buy your movie ticket. Of course, the problem is compounded when you have multiple divisions and/or licensees all working in their own best interest. For a creator who wishes each piece of the story to be additive to the experience, it's tricky.The same issue rears its head with properties that are closer to "native" transmedia. With Perplex City, for instance, if you're employing a traditional mindset there is only one way you can view it: a massive marketing campaign (and arguably an inefficient one) to sell collectible cards. The same applies to an independent creator. I'm really intrigued by what Jan Libby is doing with Snow Town, but if her "enclosed" iPad app is a success, wouldn't she just focus 90% of her efforts on the app next time (perhaps with some revenue generating features built in) and skip the ARG?

  2. But here's the crux: you could make an argument that the old model above simply doesn't exist in the media business any more. The Facebook IPO is a decent example. What's Facebook's core business? Selling targeted advertising. However, they do a lot of things as a company that doesn't necessarily contribute to selling ads by adding experimental new features, and extending the Facebook experience off site. Many digital companies are the same way, because their primary focus is ingraining themselves into users' daily lives. For an MBA trained in identifying inefficiencies and tracking correlation between activity and revenue, it can be a difficult philosophy to understand. While "Free: The Future of a Radical Price" by Chris Anderson has its skeptics, it constitutes great insight on these ideas.So that's where we may eventually get to with entertainment brands – an understanding that the line between "marketing" and "content" has become blurred, and an acceptance that certain activities are more about building engagement and brand equity than instant payoff. It's a longer term game, not keyed necessarily to a culture of quarterly profits, but it seems to be where we're headed.I fully endorse what you're saying about market research. The majority of the (vocal) transmedia community consider themselves artists, so there is a desire to create from the heart. However, the most effective things tend to come from insight, research, and analysis. The question I would be asking as a transmedia creator right now is "how can I combine these techniques with the evolving behaviors of a mass audience?"Naturally, we also have to consider the other side of the coin – data and analytics will potentially become extremely useful in guiding future endeavors, as well as functioning as a way for transmedia producers to demonstrate value beyond dollars, through user activity and engagement data.So there you go Simon – you asked for thoughts, and you got them 🙂

  3. Simon, thanks for your thoughts. I agree with a lot of what you say above. I will definitely sign off on the blurring between "marketing" and "content" – what it's all about is getting in front of people (for a reason), giving them the opportunity and tools to tell spread your content (and a reason to do so) and following up on this action and interaction (always for a reason).I also believe strongly in what you say in your next to last paragraph – user data and behavior analysis will be a hard currency, even more so than today. Here is another area where transmedia can enter the fray and contribute – building a world, a story, a narrative superstructure where it is natural and logical for people to allow their data to be collected, since the reward is worth it. Ah, interesting times ahead 🙂

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