Last month, as you were scrolling through your various news feeds, you probably saw something a bit like this:
(And if you’re anything like me, Vanity‘s “What the Hell Is ‘Taylor Swift NOW’?” really caught your attention.)
It’s not the first time exclusive content made headlines this year—especially where video marketing is concerned. But as a marketing leader, it made you wonder: Should my brand be delving into the realms of livestreaming and exclusivity? Or are these avenues only advantageous for the entertainment industry?
Taylor Swift’s deal with AT&T makes sense: AT&T delivers multimedia content across most of its digital platforms these days, so exclusive content with an in-demand pop star is a great way to incentivize people to use a particular access provider.
Though it may be logical in the light of day, exclusive partnerships like this always carry with them some degree of intrigue, leaving marketers to wonder what they mean for the state of content in their industry at large. Exclusive streaming rights to a major event like Swift’s pre-Super Bowl concert are worth a lot on their own, but this deal is much bigger than that—both literally, because it lasts for several years, and conceptually, because it speaks to some intangible value in the intersection between video, livestreaming, and exclusivity.
Video. Livestreaming. Exclusivity. All three are buzzwords for brands seeking marketing transformation, but do they matter equally for non-entertainment-minded enterprises looking to dabble in video?
Let’s look to another example to learn more.
Amazon has been quite open about its interest in live-streaming sporting events. The change in video content viewing patterns in recent years is no secret—between Apple TV, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, many consumers feel they are able to access all the content they are interested in without a traditional television subscription at all. Amazon likely believes that providing access to live sporting events would further differentiate it from competition and insulate it from many viewers’ sole reason for clinging to traditional cable subscriptions.
Livestreaming currently occupies a weird gray area in internet video consumption: currently, there are rudimentary, amateur streams delivered via Snapchat or Facebook Live, and then there’s a limited set of live events broadcast to the world on set channels. But Netflix and Hulu built an empire on everything but live TV under the assumption that people would rather pay and watch at their convenience than be tethered to live television programming and commercials. So where does that leave the brand that is wondering what portion of its marketing budget should go toward video marketing? And what kind of video is best for them?
In the television commercial era, spokespeople were an effective way to capture audience attention and deliver a credible message. Samuel L. Jackson yelling about credit cards? Must be Capital One. Mila Kunis with a branding iron? She’s either talking about whiskey or Ashton Kutcher.
Today, the concept of an exclusive deal has shifted from traditional advertising partnerships just like Paul, the Verizon guy, has shifted his allegiance to Sprint. Simply showcasing Taylor Swift in an interrupt ad is no longer worth the money it once was. Now, it’s better to own exclusive rights to one of her concerts, or whatever else the still-mysterious AT&T deal entails.
For brands that hope to achieve marketing transformation, they must take a good hard look at the various niches within video marketing. Does exclusive content like AT&T’s or Amazon’s matter in their industry? Are there live events that could generate actionable traffic to your social channels? If you’re a lifestyle brand, live streaming a niche event like a snowboard competition might make a lot of sense. But if you sell GAP coverage for automobile loans, you may want to alter your risk profile. While major corporations continue to struggle to monopolize certain media personalities or distribution rights, social media and digital channels have democratized access to video marketing for the rest of us.
Live video has its place in the video tool chest, but it’s not the most important quality in a balanced digital storytelling strategy. Neither is exclusive content, unless you’re competing with others for the rights to it. And in the case of most brands across most industries, your best, most exclusive asset is your own subject matter expertise and your brand story. While the talk out of Amazon, AT&T, and Twitter might suggest that the next way to boost your brand’s exposure is with a splashy contract, avoiding the temptation to make a big move and focusing instead on the right (read: brand-voice relevant) move is a much better bet.
One could ask if Taylor Swift’s biggest fans are properly positioned to be AT&T customers, and if not, why it made this move. And Amazon may be overstepping its bounds in attempting to distribute live sporting events, which typically have loyal audiences that favor longstanding distribution channels. If your brand finds a natural fit for a live event or exclusive deal, it certainly has the potential to dazzle. But forcing exclusive or live-streaming content just to be different is hardly worth the expense in today’s competitive marketing landscape.