The Episodic Effect: Why Being Always-On Helps Brands Build Affinity, Capture Data, and Increase ROI

By Andrew Beranbom, Founder & CEO, First Tube Media

 

Traditional commercials have been on a long downward spiral propelled by the rise of digital media. The popularity of mostly ad-free streaming platforms created new expectations in brand communications. Consumers no longer want intrusive spots; they seek immersive storytelling. They don’t want to be bombarded with “messaging.” Instead, they want to be entertained.

And the storytellers who win at the entertaining game will likely also win consumer hearts and minds. 

We see two pieces of good news here. First, that storyteller could be an Academy Award-nominated director or an outdoor grill brand with a vision. Consumers don’t seem to mind as long as the content delivers. Second, we see a specific way to increase your storytelling’s effectivenessdesign it in an episodic way.

We’ve built over 5,000 live digital experiences for brands over the last three years. Episodic, brand-owned, live digital programming is our fastest-growing type of client request. From 2020-2021, requests increased 20x.

It’s clear to us why. Being an “always-on” storyteller makes a difference. Brands are more likely to build affinity, capture quality audience data, and see increased ROI. I’ll share how. 

Build Affinity

It’s true: brand awareness is important. It’s also true brand awareness is basic. It represents how many people heard of your brand and have a general understanding of what you are. 

When you move from awareness to affinity, you’ve jumped a final hurdle. It means you’ve created an emotional connection with consumers. It means people carenot just about what you are but also what you stand for. They choose to be affiliated with you. 

Care is a much stronger bond to break. 

Brands build affinity when they show up again and again in ways relevant to target audiences. Episodic storytelling allows you to accomplish that.

The concept should be original, sustainable, and align with your brand values and POV, and the release schedule should be consistent enough to keep audiences anticipating the next drop. 

Capture Quality Audience Data

A traditional commercial might garner a blip of audience interest, but its lifespan is short-lived and there’s no scalable way to track who you may have influenced. One-time events can make a splash, but the splashand data capture opportunitiescan quickly fade without a plan to sustain it. 

A solid episodic structure bakes in data capture opportunities throughout the lifespan of the contentfrom before first airing to after the last. With the release of each new episodeand with the promotional efforts in between airingsbrands have an opportunity to attract new audiences and get them to sign up for loyalty programs, discounts and more.

Here’s how it could work. Before the first episode, you promote that episode to target audiences, just like a network would for its new primetime show. If your targeting is done right, people will show up. If your content is done right, they’ll sign up for your offers and list. They’ll also come back next time and help spread the word. This is how data capture can compound with every episode.

Increased ROI

One of the greatest perks of episodic content is in its ability to be repurposed.

One episode can turn into multiple pieces of content that can be created and distributed across channels including digital ads, social media clips, trailers, gifs, memes, and more. So, you’re investing in an anchor piece of content that can turn into lots of separate pieces at minimal cost versus reinventing the wheel every time.

As you produce more, production costs decrease and the rates of return increase. As a result, you’ll see return viewers, increased engagement, list growth, improved SEO and organic traffic and, ultimately, purchase lift. Check out our case studies for details.

We’ve previously shared tips for attention-getting live digital experiences here. Keep many of these in mind as you think about the right episodic idea for your brand. There’s a lot of crossover, and also a lot of upside.