Blurring: 3 lessons from PwC’s Megan Brownlow

Regardless of where your business sits in the TMT (technology, media, and telecommunications) ecosystem, you will be involved somehow in a strategic shift that can be described as blurring. Sometimes called convergence, blurring occurs when businesses diversify their ways of making money, when they pivot into new or adjacent areas or when they take new approaches to engaging (and keeping) customers.

The Federation Star is Australia’s symbol of collaboration. It was designed to mark the occasion when several disparate states and territories formed one federated country on 1 January, 1901.

This important union is something Megan Brownlow recently reminded us of as she shared her insights from the Australian Entertainment & Media Outlook 2017-2021 at an intimate event at Jack Morton’s Sydney office last week. The message of Megan’s talk was rooted in the observation that areas in the entertainment and media world are blurring, just as they did amongst our Australian territories.

Now, as marketers we don’t need to be reminded that things are changing. We talk about it all the time. And while Megan validated some of our assumptions about the future, she also dispelled others, including our relentless focus on millennials and the need for everything to be on a screen.

The convergence of technology and reality is undeniable, and the introduction of a new audience in Gen Z bears all sorts of new challenges. Our new centennial friends are more safety-conscious, they know we want their data and they aren’t giving it to us for nothing. They are multi-taskers with multiple jobs, and as digital natives they’re often the help-desk at home. But, even though they seem to live their life behind a screen, that’s not the only way to engage them.

So, here are 3 strategies for survival I picked up from listening to Megan talk about the next 5 years in Entertainment & Media.

  1. Diversify

Expand. Differentiate. Branch out. Broaden your horizons. And do it everywhere. This message came through loud and clear.

For many businesses diversification of revenue streams will be the biggest focus. And keeping in line with the music theme, Megan highlighted Spotify as an example of a business successfully diversifying in this way. Despite having lower users than other sharing and streaming platforms they benefit from higher revenue due to their combined income from subscriptions and advertising and they have also been daring in their approach. In fact, by way of an unlikely partnership with rival Pandora, our team at Jacks were tasked to bring to life the audio streaming value proposition and take it to market, helping to grow the category on the whole.

With the emergence of eSports, we have witnessed a new form of entertainment in not only playing and competing in the virtual world, but even watching others take part. Over 25% of Australians now watch eSports and with competition, agility (of the mental kind), spectators and players assuming a ‘celebrity’ status, Megan rightly observed that this phenomenon is broadening our definition and application of what it means to be a ‘sportsman’. Young professional gamers such as 23 year old Brandon Defina are commanding audiences of millions just to watch them practice. And moreover, viewers are willing to pay for the privilege.

  1. Humanise the digital experience

Yes, we are going digital everything, but that doesn’t mean a future of people sitting on their own staring at a device or screen. According to Megan, the blurring of digital and live experience will be prevalent over the coming years and $2bn League of Legends owners Riot Games have already seen this opportunity with the 2016 Grand Final in LA attracting a live audience of over 20,000 and a further 43 million unique viewers watching the event’s live stream.

With 100 million players globally already, the obvious question for marketers is So how do we reach them?’. Well, it’s not going to be easy. With safety-conscious Gen Z being a large user group marketers are going to need to be increasingly creative in their targeting and approach.

By humanising the digital experience we can connect with new audiences. In most sports people don’t only become engulfed in the game itself, but in the people and personalities behind the game. Think back to our young friend Brandon. Enabled by Xbox technology, he is able to live stream himself practicing providing him with his own subscription revenue model. His fans can even purchase emoji’s and ‘stickers’ for their accounts to proudly share their admiration for the young influencer, displayed as a badge of honour not dissimilar to wearing the jersey of a particular soccer player. Through these micro transactions, users are able to brand themselves and bring their personalities into the virtual world.

Beyond the world of eSports, Megan provided an unlikely example of a category that has been kept alive as a result of retaining the human element of experience. Books are a unique example of a category that one would assume is shrinking, but is actually in growth. Live events such as readings and signings, innovations into new genres (colouring books for adults!) as well as environments to promote browsing, provide the perfect remedy to digital fatigue, again highlighting that it’s not just about the product, but how you experience it.

  1. Collaboration

Partnerships are typically considered to be a method of finding like-minded people and working together towards a common goal, but Megan challenged this notion. Partnering with people or businesses similar to us simply leads to a duplication of capabilities. The message was to collaborate with people who don’t do what you do, or have what you have. They may even look and behave differently, but this should be embraced not resisted.

At Jack Morton, we have been known to partner with other specialists to deliver extraordinary work. We have successfully collaborated with brand agencies, creative technologists and even consultancies to deliver cultural change programs for Telstra through to the Cannes Lions winning Nike Unlimited Stadium.

As experience evolves and the business we work in becomes increasingly blurred, we will need expertise in new territories. In the agency world this is more apparent than ever, with digital agencies becoming creative agencies and vice versa, niches are beginning to blur. But some smart businesses are going further than collaboration. Consultancies such as Accenture are beginning to acquire creative agencies, and they seem to be letting them continue to operate business as usual, respecting their ability to bring something unique to the table. This actually brings us full circle back to our first point – diversify. But don’t diversify by becoming less focused on doing what you do really, really well. Diversify through bespoke collaborations that enable you to offer more value.

Reflecting upon the blurring between our six territories, it is important to remember that this was in fact represented by a seven point star. The seventh point represents future territories, and that sentiment remains true here. As the world continues to blur around us, it will be easy to get caught up in the swell of change. While we may be able to take some guidance in preparing and navigating the next 5 years ultimately, nothing can prepare us for what’s next. Why? Because with the current rate of change, we have absolutely no idea what it is.

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