Is the Age of Entertainment Upon Us?

Are we no longer in the Information Age?Are we destined to be “gamers”?Whether you’re in marketing — particularly the digital side — or just looking for a job in marketing and related fields, you may have noticed the growing emphasis on entertainment. Entertainment activities becoming more the focus of our digital and offline lives.

And, as you’d expect, entertainment marketing seems to be following that growth. I don’t mean entertainment marketing as in promoting movies, actors and actresses. I’m talking about entertainment marketing for the sake of having fun with a brand wrapped around that fun.

The traditional, age-old tactics of marketing to customers and prospects via one-way communications is falling by the wayside. Ads of all type. Direct mail. Mass-distributed news releases. Yes, they will always have a place – some place – but those tactics of marketing communications are becoming a smaller part of the total marketing effort. Today’s successful marketing is individually-focused and better targeted to people’s own interests. Mass marketing is slowing going the way of the dinosaur.

The strong potential of wrapping marketing around entertainment first hit me a couple years ago after reading an article in BusinessWeek. Here is an excerpt: 

We’ve all read a lot about viral videos and how to create them. Of course, the main aspect of viral videos is their entertainment value. No one will share a commercial with friends and family – unless they see it as entertaining first and foremost. Any marketing push in the video must be secondary and indirect.

But, a successful viral video is not easy to develop and is not right for marketing every company, product or service.

The trick in the entertainment and marketing combination is to develop some level of connection with your audience. Create tools, services and experiences that complement your company, products or services while being part of your customers and prospects’ entertainment habits and interests.

One good example of this approach is Southwest Airlines. According to a June 26, 2008, MediaPost Marketing Daily story, Southwest Airlines “has signed on to sponsor the Midnight Gaming Championship (MGC) 2008 video gaming season to capture mindshare from tomorrow’s professionals, now ages 16 through 25….The marketing message tied to the sponsorship focuses on educating consumers about several Southwest services such as the downloadable computer desktop widget ‘Ding’ that offers exclusive fares on flights; along with the company’s weekly email, Click ‘n’ Save, that reaches 6.9 million subscribers; and Rapid Rewards.”

Southwest Airlines is marketing its services that are tied to the interests and habits of its targeted 16-25 years of age demographics. There’s a connection between what Southwest is pushing and its audiences’ habits.

There are other ways to connect marketing messages with customers and prospects’ lifestyle. One is video – and not on TV. The use of online video is becoming more and more popular. And, video is being used for entertainment purposes more and more, according to a June 25, 2008, eMarketer article. Based on a study it conducted, Solutions Research Group “predicted that total hours with video-based entertainment would grow by nearly one-third to an average of about eight hours per day by early 2013.”

Another key stat from the eMarketer article is the trend to online rather than offline video:

Marketing is evolving to have companies become connected with their audience much more so than just communicating to them. And, as more of the audience members are focusing on entertainment, it’s up to the marketers and communicators for companies to develop ways to connect brands with their audience around their entertainment preferences.