Whether you’re hooked on 'House of Cards' or addicted to 'Orange is the New Black', I'm sure you can relate to that insatiable need to find out what happens next.

As brands cotton on to this common phenomenon, many are using episodic content as a key part of their overall marketing strategy.

Here are just four examples of brands who have used this technique to keep consumers coming back for more.

Kate Spade

Kate Spade is a brand that has truly mastered the world of video advertising.

Originally starring Anna Kendrick as a hapless yet lovable New Yorker (who just so happens to wear head-to-toe Kate Spade), its Miss Adventure miniseries has proved to be wildly popular with online audiences.

On the back of its successful first season, it has recently aired the first episode of the second.

So why has it been so successful?

The appeal of Miss Adventure seems to be that it looks and feels like a legitimate television series – not a brand advertisement. 

By casting a credible actress like Anna Kendrick (someone who is already hugely popular with the brand’s target audience), it also ensured there was a level of interest before the series even aired.

There are no blatant product placements or over-the-top advertising in its episodes. Short, humorous and well-produced, each one beautifully showcases the fashion and accessories, naturally piquing the interest of the viewer and in turn hooking them into the brand.

While it might not use cliff-hangers or promote suspense, this example proves that both credibility and subtlety are important for getting consumers engaged.

Coca-Cola

Targeted at teenagers in Latin America, last year saw Coca-Cola release a video series based around the universal theme of friendship.

From social media shaming to teenage pregnancy, three short films highlight a number of common scenarios (or ‘crossroads’ moments), whereby teens can either sit back or choose to stand up for a friend.

Taking the ‘fist-pump’ symbol from the film and using it across the entirety of the campaign, the soft drink brand executed an integrated multi-channel strategy to promote the series.

With 6.8m views in the first two weeks alone, ‘Crossroads’ is a great example of how episodic content can be used to promote a brand's core values.

By talking about sensitive issues such as bullying in a movie-like format, the campaign succeeded in reaching a specific demographic.

With the understated style of director Dustin Lance Black, the series used heartfelt storytelling to great effect.

 

MSNBC

Video is not the only way to create episodic content. As MSNBC’s ‘Geography of Global Poverty’ series shows, a real-time element can be effective for hooking the consumer’s interest – regardless of the platform.

Described as a ‘digital documentary’, the series saw photographer Matt Black embark on a trip across the USA to explore and document contemporary issues of poverty and income equality.

Combining census data and geotagged photography, the series made for a captivating online experience.

By releasing chapters over time, MSNBC ensured a constant sense of anticipation, also allowing for popularity to grow by word-of-mouth and social media sharing.

As well as being a success for msnbc.com, the feature also served as a platform for photographer Matt Jones who gained huge exposure from the series.

This example shows how audiences can become even more engaged when they’re able to follow a story as it unfolds in real-time.

A similar concept to watching journeys in space or celebrities completing crazy marathons, the human angle means people are much more likely to invest.

Enabling readers to learn about a highly emotive subject matter through the eyes of another human being - it made for a truly compelling feature.

Hitman

As well as brands using episodic content solely for advertising purposes, some are also using the technique to drive sales.

For the latest release of Hitman, the popular action-adventure video game, makers IO Interactive decided to keep fans at the edge of their seats by releasing it in an episodic format.

Instead of allowing gamers access to the entire game at once, IO released an introductory pack, followed by a number of other chapters scheduled throughout the year.

However, users can choose to purchase more content up-front (for a marginally cheaper price), enabling them to gain instant access to each episode as its released.

Despite initial response to the new structure being somewhat critical, IO cites user experience as the main motivation behind it. 

By analysing player behaviour and responding to immediate feedback, the company suggests that the game will continuously evolve, in turn improving the user’s experience.

Whether we see other video games follow suit could depend on the long-term success of Hitman.

However, it certainly shows how brands are beginning to futher experiment with episodic content.

Nikki Gilliland

Published 23 June, 2016 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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