Carat @ Sundance 2020 key takeaways

Movies and premium shows have become interchangeable as a-listers now appear in both. However, Sundance is where film and documentaries rule over all.

What drives attendance to this unique cinematic festival in the snow is a shared love of storytelling and human experience, and as a result, it is a place that helps connect like-minded creators and brands.

Understanding the issues and opinions where your brand could and should participate can be daunting. And the fear of dividing your audiences with politically fueled messaging can be a dangerous if mishandled.

However, partnering with studios and publishers who can bring human experience and stories to life can provide brands a space for emotional connections with consumers without going it alone.

Sundance reminds us of the difference in creating branded content for a product verses the sheer scale and power of paid media to facilitate and elevate stories.

Check out our three key takeaways and tips from Sundance:

Authenticity and collaboration
There’s a responsibility to use branded content beyond the immediate short-term goals of a brand.

Roughly 20% of a brands’ budget should focus on communicating the values of a brand and long-term brand building, with 80% focused on shorter or intermediate term business goals. For those brands unsure of what values they wish to prioritize, think about facilitating and supporting inspirational stories of your consumers. Some great examples include:

- Wattpad, one of the worlds largest fan fiction platforms.

- Jukin Media, a platform that finds and licenses UGC that shows genuine moments of joy and amazement from real people.

- Soul Pancake, the studio that brings heartwarming and meaningful content to many.

- Tongal who tap into their thousands of creators across the world to create grassroots content for brands

If content is king, distribution is queen
Creating an amazing piece of content in partnership with a new or established director still requires distribution to find and access it. Don’t expect to build a piece of branded content and everyone will come. Brands should expect to pay 1/4 of their budget on the production itself, with 3/4 of the budget on distribution. Partnering with in-house studios, owned or partnered by big media organizations is an efficient and authentic way to build distribution into your plan.

A great example: Lays partnered with Group Nine and Facebook to distribute their content through their own chip packets. Their ‘Behind the Smile’ campaign used key people bringing about positive change in their communities and used their smiles as part of the new packaging design. Customers can scan the bags to get to know the person behind the smile raising awareness of their cause, offering more than just a model on a fun packaging design.

Different audiences, different connections
It’s not just Marvel who is thinking about the importance of trans-media storytelling in the streaming wars ecosystems. In our increasingly fragmented marketplace, building out stories that work across a range of different mediums and audiences is a necessity. Realistically, each streaming platform will have until 2023–2024 to get their house in order, as prior licensing agreements run their course, and the larger players can finally house all their content on their owned platforms. As customers start to evaluate the value of each streaming service, we will begin to see each platform formulate their unique identity to justify the subscription.

So what can brands learn from these platforms and their struggles in a crowded marketplace? Maximize the potential of the stories you’re building by creating a version of that story that will work across your ecosystem. If Marvel can build a character ecosystem in comics, streaming, movies, consoles and mobile gaming, think about how your content investments can live in TV, social, addressable media and audio. Audiences should be able to interact with your brand however they prefer and understand the nuances of the medium into which brand build their stories. A podcast can dive deep into a narrative, providing background and character traits, whereas a mobile game should be lighthearted and interactive. Focus on the platforms that are most likely to resonate with your audience and identify how that story can come to life in each, allowing the audience to unlock deeper meaning around your brand by tapping into the wide variety of channels.

As the media ecosystem continues to expand, brands will need to show up in new ways to garner more attention. Meaningful content is a great opportunity for doing just that. Spend 2020 trying out some social or native experiments, with an eye to jumping in for longer term, brand building.

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