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What is “transmedia?”
Transmedia is a dynamic form of branding that is changing the way companies interact with their audiences. It involves audience participation across multiple platforms in order to generate interest in the brand. This interest, in turn, motivates the audience to continue the narrative of the brand and recruit new customers (Applequist, 2016). The transmedia model of marketing depends on the consumer to decide what part of the brand’s story are most important to them and to then build on and share those aspects using social media (Jenkins, 2013).
Increased customers and sales is the goal of any advertising strategy, and transmedia extensions are no exception. This new strategy has and will continue to revolutionize the world of advertising.
Below we will examine three different brands and what they are doing (or not doing) to share their story and motivate their audiences to continue the narrative.
The brand known for superheroes is a superhero itself in the world of transmedia. The company has created multiple platforms for audiences to consume their content, including the classic comic books, blockbuster movies, spinoff television shows, TV ads, and even superhero-related merchandise.
Because the company is already so involved with various forms of media, their marketing strategy may not seem to rely on consumers spreading content. That is untrue. Marvel’s success online depends on their audiences continuing the storylines that the studios have created. However, many Marvel fans do not stop at consuming; they generate their own content that gives Marvel characters a new narrative and continually expands the Marvel universe. Such content is a transmedia extension of the Marvel brand because it is consumer-generated and continues the story of different superheroes without Marvel studio influence or input.
In his book Spreadable Media, Henry Jenkins writes that the various social media platforms available today allow audiences to become “co-creators” of content that is important to them and to easily share such content.
Marvel also encourages audiences to communicate and debate with each other about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU. The MCU is the fantasy world where all the Marvel movies and TV shows take place. There are several articles online that provide different viewing orders for optimal understanding of the events that take place in the MCU. It could be argued that Marvel made the timeline of events occurring in their movies and TV shows unclear on purpose, as if to create conversation among audience members about the “definitive” order in which to watch the content. By doing so, Marvel encourages consumers to watch their movies and TV shows over and over again in different orders and continue the narrative in a variety of ways. Marvel’s MCU is a transmedia strategy because the story is presented across multiple platforms and leaves enough details out to allow audience speculation and expansion. By generating audience conversation, Marvel receives a form of free advertising and increased brand awareness.
Bernie Sanders’ Campaign
Some brands do not make an active attempt to initiate transmedia extensions; rather, their consumers believe in the message that the brand is sharing so strongly that they launch these campaigns themselves. Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign is one such “brand.” Students and young adults have taken it upon themselves to share Sanders’ message of political revolution. According to a New York Times article, there are over 220 student organizations at colleges around the nation who are working to “elect Bernie Sanders.”
These groups, however, were not initiated by campaign strategists. Students came together to support a candidate that shares their values and appears to be more sincere than other Washington hopefuls. While many people still show their support by attending rallies or handing out information flyers, social media is an ever-expanding platform where people share their political beliefs. It is almost impossible to log into sites like Facebook and Twitter and not see a post hashtagged #FeelTheBern. This hashtag is another way that people show their support for Sanders. It is simple and memorable, yet appeals to all of his supporters: from blue-collar workers struggling to make ends meet to college graduates forced to move back in with their parents because of crippling college debt. Sanders’ supporters have such an interest in his becoming the next President that they involve themselves in his political dialogue.
Bernie Sanders’ campaign has benefited greatly from his supporters’ willingness to organize and spread his ideas on multiple platforms, from paper pamphlets to social media statuses.
Bernie Sanders is not only a presidential candidate. He has also become something of a cultural icon. His supporters, mostly young and working-class Americans, have made him wildly popular on the Internet. “On the Issues” memes compare Sanders and his main competition, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on mock issues. These memes are an example of transmedia extensions because people are taking cultural fads that have relevance in their lives and applying them to presidential candidates. They are talking about politics through the filter of popular culture.
Obviously transmedia extensions do nothing but help brands market more effectively and involve their publics on a deeper level. Why, then, are so many brands not involved with transmedia campaigns? Perhaps because it is a relatively new way of spreading a message. But no matter how new this idea is, it is proven to be effective. Skechers is one particular brand that could benefit from adopting a transmedia marketing approach.
A transmedia marketing strategy involves multiple platforms, both in real life and online. Skechers could purchase TV advertising space to increase awareness of new, trendy athletic shoes. Stores that sell Skechers could include a QR code or Web link on the brand display.
This would connect the customer to an app, where they can shop for their new shoes. Perhaps the app would allow the consumer to “try on” shoes with different outfits that they upload. Users of the app could leave reviews on the different shoes that they have purchased so that future customers know what to expect from their purchases. People that use the app could also have the ability to customize their own pair of Skechers to fit their needs and budget.
Perhaps the app would have a game component—this would generate conversation among audience members and encourage competition via leaderboards (especially if each week’s highest scorer received a discount on their next pair of Skechers!). The game could be similar to a “Diner Dash”-style game, where the player has to run a shoe store and keep the customers happy. Users could earn more points for themselves by linking their social media accounts to the app, and still more points could be awarded by sharing media of oneself performing various activities in their Skechers. The app could link to a redesigned Skechers website. The site could include videos about the history of Skechers or how athletic shoes are made.
Traditional advertising methods, such as billboards, could also be utilized in order to enforce the message of Skechers as the ultimate athletic shoe. The website may also have behind-the-scenes testimonials from Skechers employees answering questions about why they chose to work for Skechers and how the company has improved their professional lives. Perhaps a celebrity could endorse the brand and make comedic Internet videos, like the “Old Spice Guy” in that same brand’s advertising campaign. The amount of media channels that this transmedia advertising could take advantage of would result in higher sales and brand awareness for Skechers.
Applequist, J. (2016). Transmedia [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from Canvas
Jenkins, H., Ford, S., & Green, J. (2013). Spreadable media. New York, NY: New York University Press.