The long and short of it

| Updated on January 23, 2018 Published on August 27, 2015

Quick view: Short videos get watched during the coffee breaks at work when people want to snack. SHUTTERSTOCK.COM/MONKEY BUSINESS IMAGES

This week, global convergence culture guru Professor Henry Jenkins says be it billboard or brochure, in minutes or hours, consumers are lapping up content. Brands need to convey their message using the medium best suited to the consumer

The brand can also just be aware of what’s going on. The Android campaign mashed up amateur videos of pet animals and turned it into a likeable campaign that’s widely circulated on YouTube and also shown on television. A lot of people who would not have normally seen it ended up viewing it because it was a wonderful collage of pictures. The branding was also minimal and at the very end.

On one hand, people say that attention spans are dwindling and short-format content will be on the rise.

At the other end, people are binge-watching television shows at a stretch for 12-15 hours. In some ways new media has pushed it to both extremes. I think the short videos get watched during the coffee breaks at work when people want to snack. The short video works not because of dwindling attention spans but because the time to consume long hours of content is limited.

As at a cocktail party

However, on weekends, people might log into Netflix or some other site and watch 10 hours of TV shows. Their attention span is much longer than the longest Bollywood film would have been. I am not saying that one (short or long-format content) is better than the other.

It’s just the ways to engage with media are different at different moments in our lives. We live in an environment with so many media options. This is like a cocktail party where people are often looking over their shoulder to find out if the conversation that someone else is having is more interesting. When we find something we like, we want to have a deeper experience of that. That’s where the binge viewing part comes in and explains our behaviour.

If you had to conduct a campaign across media platforms, it cannot be just a billboard on the web. Or it cannot be a brochure on the web.

A video designed to spread that’s witty, nostalgic or intriguing will travel on the web differently. In the web, you need to have people willing to pass on your message because they think it’s clever.

Coca-Cola has a commercial where they challenge people inside a subway and they have to get to a Coke machine within a few seconds. That’s a very engaging video that people passed on. We have seen more and more brands create such experiences of games, characters and we encounter them in different ways.

People always wanted to show their popularity. It’s just that the raw materials we have in the modern world have grown substantially and brands want to be a part of that. My brother grew up in Atlanta where Coca-Cola has its headquarters. And my brother has decorated his house in Coca-Cola Red and he put Coca-Cola ornaments on his Christmas tree.

He’s never worked for the company. He just loves the brand. There are lots of Coca-Cola collectors. There are brand conventions.

But we as consumers do not want relations with every other brand, like we would with Coca-Cola. Some brands are intimate and people would not want to talk about them. Others are social. In an age of social media brands that create special relationships with consumers become very powerful. For my brother, Coca-Cola and the regional identity that he belongs to are one and the same.

People and brands

There are now people who give personal branding lessons. For people especially in the creative industry, this has become really important.

As a result, almost everything we do is touched by the process of branding. That can cheapen certain things.

If religious institutions take to branding in such a way that the spiritual side goes out of the window, that can be very bad. In that case branding is touching something that should not have been branded in the first place.

(Professor Jenkins was in India to talk about participatory culture, media convergence, trans-media storytelling, share-ability and more at the Godrej India Culture Lab.)

(As told to Prasad Sangameshwaran)

Published on August 27, 2015
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