Welcome to 2021, where the sheer volume of digital content is staggering (and maybe even sobering?). People are spoiled with choice in what they consume, where they find it, and how they engage with it. For brands, realizing this and continuing to look for new and cutting-edge ways to interact and add value is table stakes.
No doubt, 2021 brings a struggle to keep content equal parts fresh, creative, and engaging to lead your target audience through the noise.
Zane Comer, WITHIN’s executive creative director, agrees, outlining the challenge simply: “It’s never been easier to create content — but gaining attention for that content is more competitive now than ever before.”
If you’re looking to improve your marketing strategy with creative, cutting-edge content that will grab your audience’s attention, and keep them engaged, here are three trends to help you jumpstart the new year.
Gamers rejoice. Gamification, the process of rewarding consumers for their actions through gameplay and prizes, is gaining traction in a big way. Statista projects the value of the gamification market to hit almost 12 billion dollars this year. By creating interactive experiences, brands encourage consumers to engage with a product or service which goes beyond traditional online shopping.
By using gaming techniques to tap into consumers’ natural wants and needs for stimulation and achievement, some businesses have recorded conversion rates up to 7X higher. Who wouldn’t want that?
Luxury brand Balenciaga recently released an in-depth video game called “Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow” as a way of presenting their Fall 2021 Collection. It imagines a near-future world of 2031, where players travel through five wildly different zones. In the game, the garments are an instrumental part of the experience and are designed to be a kind of modern-day armor for the player.
Even the most traditionally dry industries can play. Investment app Acorns built a gamification experience that was inspired by Nintendo’s classic, Super Mario Bros. It leads users through a fun, interactive journey of collecting green and golden acorns, just like Mario collects gold coins. Along the way, Acorn is able to educate players — aka potential consumers — on investing, tapping into the entertainment value of nostalgia.
Branded entertainment is when a brand is inserted into an entertainment property in a way that blurs the line between advertising and entertainment. Infusing entertainment elements into activations allows brands to craft stories and create experiences that engage and entertain audiences, all with a far greater reach.
An early example of this kind of collaboration dates all the way back to the 1930s, when Proctor and Gamble produced and sponsored the first radio dramas (which is how we got the name “soap operas”).
Spirit brand 1800 Tequila does a stellar job of this type of collaboration. They created a breakthrough artist discovery and recording platform, 1800 Seconds, to support artists who are shaping culture. The initiative gives up-and-coming talent a chance to write and release one new track with major label resources and one major co-sign. The first-of-its-kind compilation album was curated by hip-hop legend Pusha-T, and the brand launched Volume 2 in early 2020 with Future.
Instagram Live Shopping is not your mother’s Home Shopping Network. Launched at the end of 2020, it’s a fresh way for creators and brands to sell products during an Instagram Live broadcast. The offering seems like a natural progression for the social media power platform, as over 100 million Instagrammers watch or share on Live every day.
Sellers can use their catalog or Facebook Shop to tag products. Once live, those products are featured at the bottom of the screen, where viewers can make a purchase with a quick tap of a finger.
Live shoppable content is also taking hold in the fashion world. Balmain and Victoria’s Secret both made their 2020 fashion show livestreams shoppable. Viewers were given the option of purchasing the objects of their desire by directly clicking the items during the livestream, or saving them to buy later.
There’s no hack for creating quality content that generates attention. “We now live in a content economy,” Comer notes. “You’re either relevant and engaging or you’re not. You’re either adding value or you’re not.” Even more importantly, he says, “Without being entertaining or providing utility to an audience, you’re just wasting their time.”
Exciting new ad technology is everywhere, and there are more avenues than ever to flex your creative muscles. Let us help you be a part of the conversation. Whether you want to take advantage of these trends or explore more, let’s get started.
Charlotte Norman is a content writer passionate about all things marketing. She received an MFA from NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute’s Literary Reportage program and is currently based in New York City.