Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben’s, Mrs. Butterworth’s To Update Brand Identity Over Racist Origins

Quaker Oats Co., a unit of PepsiCo, announced that it will retire the image and name of its 131-year-old Aunt Jemima brand due to its racist origins. The decision is part of a larger movement underway among corporate brands to reevaluate their role in perpetuating systemic racism after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and ensuing Black Lives Matter protests.

The Aunt Jemima logo traces back to 1893, when Nancy Green, a black woman who was born into enslavement, was hired to portray the character when it was introduced at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

“We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype. While work has been done over the years to update the brand in a manner intended to be appropriate and respectful, we realize those changes are not enough,” said Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer, Quaker Foods North America.

Quaker Oats will roll out the changed Aunt Jemima packaging in Q4, followed by a name change.

In addition to changing the Aunt Jemima name and image, Quaker Oats is donating $5 million over the next five years to support the black community, on behalf of the Aunt Jemima brand.

Prior to the Aunt Jemima announcement, PepsiCo announced a more than $400 million set of racial equality initiatives over five years.

Mars, parent company of the Uncle Ben’s brand, which features an older black man, quickly followed suit, saying it would review the visual brand identity.

B&G Foods, owner of Cream of Wheat, and Conagra Brands, owner of Mrs. Butterworth’s, also both initiated a review of their respective black corporate mascots.

Read This If You Want People To Remember Your Brand Better

Originally published at AW360 by Katie Lundin.

Article Takeaways:

  • Defining brand consistency
  • How consistent branding builds customer relationships
  • Giving your brand messaging time to work

You’ve probably heard by now that consistent branding is important. Everyone says so–it’s one of those common business truisms that, for many, goes in one ear and out the other.

Your company’s logo design, your business website, your mobile app, your store signage, your marketing and customer support messaging… they must all be instantly recognizable as your brand.

There are multiple reasons why consistent branding is so powerful–and inconsistent branding is so harmful. So, let’s take a deeper look at the whys and hows of branding consistency.

What is brand consistency?

Brand consistency occurs when a business presents the same visual face, values, personality, and brand messaging across every customer touchpoint.

This can be challenging to accomplish if you don’t fully understand your own brand. And, that’s why getting to know–really know–your brand is the first step in any brand consistency effort.

Why is brand consistency so important?

The goal of any brand is to provide a recognizable, positive brand identity people will remember.

Without a consistent brand presentation, you cannot achieve that goal.

Here’s why…

Consistent branding improves brand recognition.

A phenomenon known as context-dependent memory states that people remember information best when they are in the original context in which they encountered that information. However, brand messages usually occur in a wide variety of places (online ads, business cards, outdoor signage, product packaging, emails, etc.).

This means that your brand messages often lack the necessary context that would make it easiest for people to remember them.

So, consistent presentation becomes necessary to bridge the gap and reinforce your brand recognition.

This is especially true for new and younger businesses. As we emphasized in our guide on how to start a business,

A strong brand identity is the most effective way your new business can gain a competitive edge in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

Consistent branding communicates to the world that you know who you are.

Brands that can’t settle on a consistent presentation or voice project their confusion to the world.

Consistent branding shows that you stand behind, and live, the identity that you’ve shared with the world.

People trust businesses that practice what they preach.

If your brand consistently delivers on promises, presents itself in the same way, and acts in accordance with the identity it presents, it proves the authenticity of your brand.

People value and trust authentic interactions.

Consistent branding builds customer relationships.

Like any relationship in life, it takes time to build strong relationships with your customers.

Consistent branding allows your business to be perceived as the same business they met the last time they heard from you. After enough consistent exposures to a brand, customers begin to feel as though they know you – and the relationship begins to grow.

As we explained previously,

The more customers are exposed to something–a product, a service, or your brand–the more inclined they are to like it.

This is a psychological phenomenon known as “mere exposure.”

So, the science indicates that the more frequently customers: 1) interact with your brand, and 2) recognize it due to consistent presentation, the stronger your brand/customer relationship will grow.

How do you build brand consistency?

It’s impossible to faithfully repeat something if you don’t know what you did in the first place.

And, that’s the challenge so many businesses encounter when they try to present a consistent brand.

If you haven’t given any deep thought to your brand–your values, your inherent and projected brand personality, your unique selling proposition, and how those elements will manifest visually–then you simply cannot expect to achieve a consistent brand presentation.

If you don’t really know your brand, yet, how could anyone else?

So, start by self-reflecting. Determine the values that drive your business and the traits that define it and make it unique.

Then work with talented designers to develop a visual design that embodies that brand. This will be the foundation for all of the visual elements that customers and potential customers will associate with your brand.

If you already have a logo and visual branding elements, conduct an inventory. Ask yourself if these elements properly represent your brand. If not, it may be time for a logo refresh or a complete visual rebranding.

If you’re not sure if a rebrand is appropriate for your business, check out this article on how to rebrand your business.

Create a style guide.

A style guide is the one source of truth for your visual brand. This document outlines a set of rules to follow any time a member of your organization wants to publish, present or promote content for your brand.

As we previously explained,

If your brand isn’t captured in a style guide, it can quickly drift into an inconsistent experience for your customers and employees.

This includes visual information such as fonts, brand colors, logo, signage specifications, typography style, and any other commonly used branded graphic elements. It should also cover less tangible items like ideal voice and tone, your branding mission and company philosophy.

So, once you’ve clearly defined your brand and developed visuals to support it, make them official in a style guide you can share with every member of your team.

Give brand messaging time to work.

As we mentioned earlier, relationships of any kind take time to build.

And, it’s estimated that it takes between 5 and 11 interactions (depending on the source) before a customer is ready to make a purchase.

So, when executing any branding strategy, plan to give it enough time to really sink into the public consciousness.

Your business name and logo should remain the same for as long as possible. And, if changes are made, they should be clearly related to the originals to maintain your valuable brand equity.

Your brand position may change over time as the business landscape evolves. But, it should still have a life cycle of years–not weeks or months.

This is just one area where authentic branding has a distinct advantage over contrived branding. An authentic brand is far more likely to have longer staying power since it is grounded in the reality of the business from the foundation up–making it easier to implement and most likely to still be relevant years from now.

If you don’t immediately get the reaction to your brand that you had hoped, don’t give up too quickly and try something new. Every brand needs time and repeated exposure to truly make a lasting impact.

Deliver a consistent multi-channel experience.

Businesses today share their marketing and branding messages in many, many places.

From social media to your website, email marketing to roadside billboards, and mobile apps to your customer support team, people are interacting with your brand all over the place.

And, they should be. It’s in your best interest to be in all of the places that your customers frequent. This makes you easy to find and keeps your business top-of-mind.

But, being in all the right places isn’t enough. It’s crucial to present a consistent brand across all of these locations if you want people to recognize your brand and remember you.

This is especially important when you lead customers on a journey from one point to another. For example, if you send an email with a discount link, the landing page the customers land on should share the same brand messaging and appearance as the original email.

Customers should experience your brand in the same way whether they’re on social media, a mobile app, your website or in your store.

Brand from the inside out.

Your employees are the guardians of your brand.

Employees need to be as well-educated and passionate about your brand as you are. Without their understanding and buy-in, a consistent branding effort is doomed to fail. This is one of the reasons why the best brands happen from the inside out.

Authentic brand values that evolve naturally from your company culture will be easiest for your employees to embrace and enact.

But don’t assume that because your brand values are genuine, that your employees will know how to–or that they will–articulate them. Provide brand education for all employees so that they understand their role in presenting a consistent brand identity for your company.

Consistent = Reliable = Valued

In our personal lives, we value those who are always there for us when we need them. It’s reassuring to know that we can rely on someone.

The same is true for a consistent brand. When people find a brand that not only meets their needs but does so reliably in a familiar way–that breeds loyalty.

Embrace these consistent branding tactics for your business and, in time, you’ll leave your competition in the dust.

Pandora’s Mobile App, Brand Identity Get A Makeover

As part of a comprehensive update, Pandora revamped its mobile experience with a focus on enhanced discovery, better personalization and more on-demand music and podcasts. The redesigned mobile experience is now available to users across all tiers of service, including free/ad-supported, Pandora Plus and Pandora Premium. This follows the streaming service introducing the enhanced experience to select users in October.

Pandora is also launching a multichannel national campaign featuring the brand’s new visual identity via television, out-of-home (OOH) and digital as well as large-scale experiential events.

Pandora’s new mobile experience gives users access to an updated discovery feed that serves custom-curated music and podcast recommendations to each user throughout the day. Additionally, the company introduced a station customization feature called “Pandora Modes,” which grants users more control over the kinds of songs played on their stations. Lastly, the app’s simplified navigation interface allows for better user experience. 

Examples of new content that users can look forward to include an exclusive custom playlist from LeBron James, a comprehensive year in review of a user’s playlist and a playlist with the most thumbed up songs from 2010-2019.

Pandora will unveil interactive street murals in key markets and is set to host a live-streamed concert with Halsey, a massive silent disco in New York’s Times Square. Pandora says more immersive experiences with top-tier artists are in the works across the US.

OOH ads for Pandora’s campaign incorporate cheeky copy that tells listeners to, “Play exactly what song you want (for real),” and “You look nothing like you did 10 years ago (yeah, us too).” Old and new images and songs from artists like H.E.R. drive the brand’s fresh points home. The campaign’s television spots, which include songs by Normani and Tones and I, also display another new tagline, “The All-New Pandora: Be You. We’ll Be Your Music.”

In March, eMarketer reported that Pandora will have 72.4 million US listeners this year. With the growth of smart speakers and mobile devices, however, Spotify is expected to surpass Pandora in terms of users by 2021, one year sooner than eMarketer predicted last year. By 2021, it’s predicted that Spotify will have 73.7 million users.

13 Important Branding Lessons From The Top Four Ecommerce Giants

Originally published at AW360 by Katie Lundin.

Simply showing up online with a business website isn’t enough to guarantee success.

Ecommerce giants Apple, eBay, Craigslist and Etsy seem to have cracked the code. Together, they brought in total revenues of over $275 billion in 2018. They are successful businesses and successful brands.

You may notice some notable companies missing from our list. We recently wrote about 19 important branding lessons from the top five U.S. retailers, including Amazon and Walmart.

The most successful ecommerce businesses know that their brand identity and brand is everything.

We’ve studied what these four ecommerce brands are doing right and cultivated a list of 13 actionable branding lessons that can help your business.


eBay

Evolve to stay relevant.

In today’s fast-paced digital world, technologies and trends often become obsolete before we’ve even had a chance to understand them. Online businesses that stand the test of time are relatively rare. And, this makes eBay a bit of an ecommerce unicorn.

When eBay was founded, it was one of the first businesses to take advantage of one of the internet’s greatest strengths–connecting people with similar interests across vast distances. The ecommerce auction platform allowed people with niche interests to find other people with the same interests–and buy their stuff.

No longer just an auction site, eBay introduced the “Buy it No” option in 2000. And, as the years passed, sellers started opening eBay shops that were truly dedicated to ecommerce instead of simply unloading a few unwanted items.

Today, eBay is taking steps to elevate their overall user experience.

They’ve introduced guaranteed shipping times, personalized homepages, price match guarantees, instant selling and a line of shipping supplies for sellers.

By evolving to provide a more competitive user experience, eBay’s brand has managed to stay relevant and thrive.

What You Can Do:

  • Collect feedback from your customers and prospects to learn what elements of your brand are misaligned or lacking. Prioritize improving these elements as your business grows.
  • Keep an eye on your competition–are they offering a bigger, better, or different experience than you? Step up your game to remain relevant – don’t be afraid to take your own unique direction.
  • Develop a brand that allows you to evolve. Company names like “Just Tables” or “Headphone Hut” will limit your ability to evolve and grow as new opportunities arise. For more on this, read Why And How To Rename Your Business.

Craigslist

If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

As impressive as eBay’s longevity has proven to be, Craigslist’s epic success is even more remarkable.

The most striking aspect of the Craigslist brand? The online classified site’s interface has remained mostly unchanged since it debuted in 1995. No one could call Craigslist a beautifully designed website –even in 1995. But, it is functional and user-friendly.

The Craigslist brand is defined by simplicity and user-friendly interface. This is not an accident. As Craigslist founder Craig Newmark explains, “The design of Craigslist originated in my observation that people want something that is functional, effective, simple and fast. That design philosophy has been maintained throughout.”

And so, Craigslist continues to thrive–in defiance of the common wisdom that sleek design is best.

What You Can Do:

  • Stick to your brand identity–consistency gives your audience time to get to know and like your business. As we strongly advised in our comprehensive guide on how to start a business, be sure your brand identity is consistent everywhere you show it visually, including on your website and in your marketing materials.
  • Identify the elements of your brand that resonate most positively with your audience. Those are the elements to hold onto as your brand evolves.
  • Work to create a strong brand identity when you start your business and strive to constantly improve it. When you develop your brand identity, be sure you get a custom logo for your business and not a template-based logo or generic design. You don’t want your business brand to look like thousands of other, unappealing businesses.

Etsy

Human connection has value.

Consumers know of Etsy as a marketplace for hand-crafted goods. Etsy products are sought after because they’re made with a human touch in the midst of an impersonal, machine-dominated society.

Product uniqueness alone can’t account for Etsy’s appeal. It’s the story behind the product – the human connection to the product that makes each hand-made item sold on Etsy truly special.

What You Can Do:


Apple

Embrace your tribe.

People who use Apple products tend to be incredibly devoted. When new Apple products debut, they garner huge amounts of speculation and press. And, YouTube explodes with new unboxing videos.

But, what drives this rabid devotion?

Apple creates great products to be sure. But Apple has also successfully established its brand as a status symbol. The Apple logo doesn’t only indicate that you use a particular product. It also communicates that you’re a member of the Apple community.

As Shaun Morgan, a branding writer at Bynder points out:

“The air of premium exclusivity that Apple employs when promoting new product releases, and the meticulous attention to the aesthetics of its products, has enabled the Apple brand to be associated with luxury in the eyes of its followers. And that is what many of its consumers are paying a premium for: a symbol of status that is driven by emotion, not practicality.

Creating a loyal tribe of customers means tapping into their hearts, not just their wallets.

What You Can Do:

  • Appeal to your audience’s emotions to help your brand resonate.
  • Take a genuine, unique and authentic stance that will attract your best audience.
  • Remain true to your vision and brand-defining characteristics to avoid alienating loyal customers.
  • Reward customers for their loyalty with high-quality products, service, and support that support your brand vision.

If you follow in the footsteps of these ecommerce success stories, you’ll know you’re headed in the right direction.

Campari’s ‘The Legend Of Red Hand’ Continues Its Branded Short Film Series

With “The Legend of Red Hand,” Italian aperitif brand Campari continues a tradition of short-film activations starring high-profile stars.

“Red Hand,” directed by Stefano Sollima (Gomorrah), tells the story of a photographer Mia Perc—played by Zoe Saldana (Guardians of the Galaxy)—who is determined to reveal the true identity of renowned bartender known only as Red Hand, so named for the red gloves he wears while preparing Campari cocktails.

Saldana’s character believes she has finally captured his image before escaping with the help of bar employee Davide (Adriano Giannini). Inspired by new revelations, she follows clues across Milan, New York, Buenos Aires, Rio De Janeiro, Berlin and London.

The release is the second in a series called “Red Diaries,” based on the idea that “every cocktail tells a story.” Last year, the company released its first short called “Killer in Red” about a bartender, played by Clive Owen, who can create cocktails predicting the future.

Both films prominently feature the color red to symbolize Campari’s trademark hue and celebrates the talent of bartenders. “The Legend of Red Hand” features six real-life bartenders from around the world who have created their own Campari cocktails—with recipes posted on Campari’s website.

Campari unveiled the film at a red carpet premiere Tuesday in its home city of Milan, with the director and cast on hand to answer audience questions. The video has been posted on Campari’s official YouTube page and garnered 50,000 views within its first 12 hours. The campaign has also gained traction on social channels, thanks to Saldana’s personal posts.

Prior to the Red Diaries campaign, Campari enlisted the help of celebrities Penelope Cruz, Uma Thurman and Kate Hudson to create themed calendars for years 2013-2016. The brand says the short film series is “an evolution” of that calendar campaign.

Spirits and film marketing have proven to be fruitful partners for decades—think Stoli in Atomic Blonde and Johnnie Walker in Blade Runner 2049although Campari stands apart by creating its own content.

Other brands are inviting guests to write and direct original short films on their behalf. It has become a tradition for fashion house Kenzo to partner with entertainment industry professionals to craft independent films. Kenzo’s Fall/Winter collection was ushered in during New York Fashion week with a film called “Cabiria, Charity, Chastity” starring Maya Rudolph (Brides Maids) and written/directed by Natasha Lyonne (Orange Is the New Black).

GrubMarket’s Branded Mobile Game Offers Real Food

Keeping with its brand slogan, “The farm has never been closer,” grocery ecommerce site GrubMarket just released an iOS game with real product rewards to teach users about farming.

GrubBox FarmBox, the online organic produce’s branded mobile offering, has players manage a virtual farm and get rewarded with points as they advance through the game and bring food to harvest. These points can be spent inside the game to purchase virtual goods and farm tools, or they can be spent at GrubMarket for the purchase of real groceries. Social gameplay will be added in the future, according to the company, that will allow friends to compete for the most points.

According to GrubMarket CEO Mike Xu, the purpose of FarmBox is to educate consumers and their children about real steps and processes involved in managing a farm, from different soils and weather systems to seeds and animals.

While FarmBox may have missed the Farmville craze by a few years, offering real food is a unique twist, and branded games have become a popular—and often effective—means of reaching consumers.

Other food brands, like Chipotle, GrubHub, Jack in the Box and Kraft, have developed games to educate or otherwise engage potential customers through mobile, web browsers and Snapchat ads. Carnival has developed a series of mobile games called PlayOcean for its cruise passengers not to sell games, but to encourage interaction. To spread awareness for the grand opening of its new hotel in Seattle, W Hotels released a free mobile game called Belle the Bear

While these branded mobile games are free and without microtransactions, the mobile gaming sector is currently experiencing a boom. Mobile accounts for over a third of global game market revenue at 34 percent last year, and will grow to 41 percent of the market by 2020 according to Newzoo.

Sundance Film Festival Activations Highlight Inclusion, Change And Escape

In addition to the usual glitz from the star-studded event, brands running activations at this year’s Sundance Film Festival are focusing on supporting women and longstanding social issues.

Events Putting Women In Focus

This is a pivotal time for women in the entertainment industry, who are banding together against sexual misconduct and gender discrimination. Inclusion, solidarity and change are driving conversations at Sundance, and several activations have female empowerment as a main theme:

  • #HereWeAre Brunch, specifically brought women and men together to celebrate women and underrepresented filmmakers, storytellers, artists and advocates. The invite-only event was hosted by Ava DuVernay’s ARRAY and Twitter. 
  • ICM Politics and YouTube partnered to celebrate female filmmakers the night before the Respect Rally, which returned to Sundance for a second year in the spirit of the National Women’s Marches.
  • The Safe Movement launched its first Safe Space activation—a private lounge with panel discussions, luncheons, private cocktail parties and an exclusive After Hours Lounge featuring DJs and intimate performances so that attendees can discuss issues affecting women. Events were presented by Global Citizen, Teen Vogue, will.i.am’s i.am.angel foundation, the CNN Freedom Project, Interscope Records, Electronic Music Awards, The Respect Rally, the Alliance for Women Directors and “YES Means TEST” by the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA).

Spotlighting LGBTQ And Social Justice

GLAAD and The LOVELOUD partnered with HBO and LiveNation to host The LoveLounge in recognition of artists and filmmakers who are “accelerating equality and acceptance for LGBTQ people everywhere.” The event coincided with the premiere of HBO’s documentary Believer, which also discusses artists and filmmakers of LGBTQ-inclusive films.

KIA Supper Suite hosted three days of premier events, including presenting Nancy starring Steve Buscemi, Ann Dowd, John Leguizamo and Andrea Riseborough; Creative Coalition’s Spotlight Awards Dinner Gala; and A Dinner for Change Celebrating: Masters of the Sun, an event hosted by will.i.am, Black Eyed Peas and Rosario Dawson to shed light on social injustice.

A Look At The Lounges

Shifting away from activations with any political relevance: this marks the first year Lyft is being featured as the official ride sharing partner for the Sundance Film Festival. The Lyft Lounge features snacks, hot drinks, phone charging stations and conversations between film showings. The brand is also offering The Driver’s Hub, offering ride share drivers virtual reality and catering by Impossible Foods.

Other lounge highlights:

  • AT&T’s DIRECTV lodge is presenting pop-up dining experiences from Los Angeles restaurant Craig’s, along with viewing parties and celebrity hosts.
  • Music Lodge returns to Sundance for its 14th year to entertain stars as a hospitality suite. Outdoor sports brand Spyder is hosting a hot chocolate bar there while gifting its ski apparel.
  • Rock & Reilly’s Daytime Lounge—presented by J.Crew, Nylon and Roku—features brand activations such as the “Denim by You” customization bar, where guests can curate J.Crew denim looks. Roku is giving away media streaming devices and hot drinks in the “Hygge Lounge,” and visitors can have their hair, nails and makeup done by beGlammed.

Activations With An Element Of Action

For those not just lounging:

  • TAO Group marked its tenth year at the event with three days of pop-up events, featuring DJs Mel DeBarge, the Deux Twins, Vice and DJ Politik; Tequila brand Don Julio returned to serve Don Julio 1942 for the third year in a row.
  • California-based “semi-private” airline, JetSuiteX, has an on-site check-in counter that prints ticket vouchers good for Burbank, San Jose, Oakland, Las Vegas and Mammoth while a flight attendant serves coffee, wine and Essentia Water to guests from a drink trolley. 
  • SundanceTV’s highest rated show, Hap and Leonard, is promoting its third season premiere with an escape room experience at the SundanceTV HQ. The space transports participants to 1989 Grovetown, Texas, where Hap and Leonard were mysteriously “swallowed up” on a mission to rescue their friend. Attendees are challenged with finding clues to their whereabouts—before they end up vanishing in Grovetown, too.

‘Jumanji’ Marketing Leverages Success Of Escape Rooms

The concept of Jumanji is that you don’t play the game, it plays you—drawing unwitting players into real-life adventures that require skill and teamwork to survive. It just so happens that escape rooms and scavenger hunts offer a similar premise—so marketing for the film Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle invites fans to do the same with escape rooms, scavenger hunts and virtual reality.

In partnership with Sony Pictures Entertainment, a Jumanji escape room has been added to 60out Escape Rooms in Los Angeles. Groups of four to eight people “sneak” into their friend’s room, but he isn’t there. Participants then solve a series of puzzles before being immersed in a jungle environment from the Jumanji game. There, each person embodies a role and must use his or her unique strengths to “survive” within the given time limit. Other rooms based on the franchise are planned to roll out across the US.

“The Jumanji films have always been about puzzle-solving and using your wits to survive,” Jamie Stevens, executive vice president of global licensing at Sony Pictures Consumer Products told Forbes. “In that way, the franchise is a perfect mix for escape rooms.”

Popular in Europe, the US market for escape rooms has grown a staggering 8,800 percent in the past three years. Jumanji marks the first time Sony Pictures Entertainment has partnered for an escape room of its own.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is also the first film to get its own 360-degree VR experience with Facebook. The experience is an interactive scavenger hunt for six items that will lift a curse. Inside a tree house, users must look in all directions across three areas to find each item. Doing so unlocks rewards such as clips from the movie, trailers and behind-the-scenes videos. Users can also explore each character’s profile, including special skills and weaknesses.

The team at Facebook Creative worked closely with Sony to review the script early on and develop interactive ideas.

“We captured the treehouse on set—a key element of the narrative and a location that bridges both the first Jumanji film and this next part of the story—in 360-degree video, giving us an authentic experience from the film that we could share with audiences in never-before-seen ways,” Facebook Creative Shop’s North America head of entertainment, Jen Louis Barrett said in an Oculus blog post.

Jumanji: The VR Adventure, meanwhile, has users play a virtual table-top game with Oculus Rift and Touch devices. Together with characters from the movie, users must reshape elements of a 3D jungle to lift a curse before time runs out. The experience is also being distributed by VRX Networks, whose VR kiosks can be found in shopping centers and movie theaters across the US and UK. Jumanji: The VR Adventure, along with other Sony VR film-based content, will eventually be released for PlayStation VR (PSVR).

“We look to create aspirational moments for audiences,” Jake Zim, SVP of virtual reality at Sony Pictures Entertainment told AListDaily. “When, where and how these immersive experiences take place is dependent on the experience itself, but we believe they can exist in parallel with the movie.”

Amazon Prime members were offered an early screening of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle two weeks ahead of its official release, grossing close to $2 million according to estimates. The film’s opening weekend may fetch as high as $60 million.

‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Marketing Brings The Galaxy Far, Far Closer

Star Wars: The Last Jedi blasts into theaters this weekend, fueled by nostalgia and galaxy-sized marketing efforts from Disney and its brand partners. With video game tie-ins to virtual reality (VR), 2017 has become the year of interactive Star Wars marketing.

For generations, Star Wars fans have dreamed of becoming a part of its vast world—flying through space, aiding (or impeding) the Rebellion and duking it out with lightsabers. No longer limited to our imaginations, VR makes it possible to embark on these adventures without leaving the safety of Earth.

Star Wars: Droid Repair Bay: Astro-Mechanic for the Resistance is a VR experience for HTC Vive and Samsung Gear. Sponsored by Nissan, the game challenges players to repair droids like BB-8 aboard General Leia’s ship. For those without a VR headset, a 360-degree, non-interactive version is available for iOS and Android devices.

Nissan also helped promote Star Wars: The Last Jedi by hosting an interactive tournament on Twitch. The livestreamed challenge featured two popular Twitch broadcasters competing against one another behind the wheel of a Nissan Leaf. Driving on a real-life course, the competitors navigated the “galaxy” while overcoming challenges along the way. Fans on Twitch chat helped determine the outcome by choosing a side, then deploying mechanics to either help their team or hinder the opponent.

Car dealerships across the US will also feature a ‘See The Unseen’ AR experience that has Star Wars characters such as C-3P0 explain safety features on the Nissan Rogue, Maxima or Titan vehicle models.

“While the competition is focused on Santa Claus and red bows this holiday season, we are filling our dealerships with stormtroopers, virtual reality and the new augmented reality experience—making the Nissan shopping experience much more fun, engaging and educational,” said Jeremy Tucker, vice president of marketing for Nissan North America in a statement.

Partnering with the Star Wars brand as it did for The Force Awakens appears to be serving Nissan well. According to an analysis by Amobee, 37 percent of all digital content engagement around the Nissan Maxima, 33 percent around Nissan Rogue, eight percent of Nissan Altima and 6 percent around Nissan Titan have been Star Wars-related.

Those with a Google Pixel phone can superimpose stormtroopers, droids and other characters from Star Wars onto real-world surroundings with AR stickers.

Lucasfilm, ILMxLAB and The Void collaborated to bring a new multiplayer hyper-reality arcade experience, Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire, to Void Experience Centers at Disney World for the holiday season.

Having worked on Ghostbusters: Dimensions, the team at Void learned that people are looking for wish fulfillment when they step into a movie universe.

“It’s important that a VR experience delivers on those dreams and desires people have from those properties and the worlds they love so much,” The Void co-founder and chief creative officer Curtis Hickman told AListDaily. “We also learned about flow and experimenting with space and we’re applying all of those things to Star Wars.”

No Disney marketing campaign would be complete without merchandise galore. App-enabled droids, droid inventor kits and augmented reality toys are a common theme this year for Star Wars merchandise.

Jedi Challenges, for example, works with iOS and Android devices and trains users on the art of battle with a lightsaber. It features a smartphone-powered Lenovo Mirage AR headset, tracking beacon and lightsaber controller.

In honor of Force Friday II—the massive unveiling of Star Wars: The Last Jedi merchandise on September 1—the official Star Wars app placed AR characters and creatures around participating retail locations. Users could collect them all and each day, unlocking new characters to encourage repeat visits.

EA’s Star Wars: Battlefront II is hosting The Last Jedi Season—free downloadable add-ons that include maps from the film, new characters and community challenges.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi has already earned over $45 million in Thursday night screenings alone, per early estimates and may reach $200 million by the end of the weekend.

‘The Grand Tour’ Courts Twitch Audience With Exploding Cars

Michael Benson, head of marketing at Amazon Prime Video

Promotion for the season two premiere of Amazon Prime Video’s car-themed show The Grand Tour has literally become explosive.

Following the success of its first season premiere last year, which became one of the digital entertainment service’s most watched episodes, Amazon is appealing to the Twitch audience for the first time by having influencers blow up cars in an interactive Battleship-style live game event called “Battle Cars Live.”

“We were looking for a way to get young adults to sample The Grand Tour,” Michael Benson, head of marketing at Amazon Prime Video, told AListDaily. “We knew that gamers on Twitch love live gaming, and [hosts] Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May love to execute incredible stunts with vehicles of all kinds on their show. So, we wondered if we could combine live gaming with car stunts on a global scale.”

Broadcasting across two days the weekend before the show’s second season premiere, “Battle Cars Live” was inspired by a scene in episode five of The Grand Tour, where May and Hammond compete to drop small cars packed with explosives onto larger cars placed on a grid.

On Twitch—which is owned by Amazon—things were kicked up a notch using popular personalities who played against each other using cars and trucks that were rigged to explode at the push of a vintage-style dynamite plunger. Whenever a player scores a hit, the loser spun a wheel of defeat to receive penalties—such as being slapped with a fish or eating an especially stinky cheese. Viewers could also get involved by voting on grid points, but there was no penalty for being wrong.

“It was a clever way to bring the show and the audience together with an engaging activity that provided a great marketing opportunity for both Twitch and Prime Video,” said Benson.

Although this isn’t the first time Amazon Prime Video has teamed up with Twitch, it is the first of its scale. Previous cross-promotions involving shows such as Jack Ryan, Lore, The Man in the High Castle, The Tick and others usually involved influencers doing on-air stunts such as using Amazon Echo devices to break out of an escape room.

Benson believes Twitch’s core audience of 18-to-34-year-olds who consume most, if not all, of their entertainment online is the perfect fit for shows such as The Grand Tour—and like the hosts of the show, Amazon Prime Video looks to create fitting activations to engage with them in spectacular ways.

He also said that Amazon Prime Video would continue to partner with Twitch on other show campaigns in ways that can best leverage the livestreaming platform to bring value to its users.

“Twitch users often like to be together with friends when watching compelling events, so they can share in the moment,” Benson explained. “Twitch’s live video and real-time chat enable the creation of a room with unlimited users who could collectively interact and share in real-time on a global scale. It also provides a platform that allows us to bring video from the show directly to an audience who is interested in what The Grand Tour has to offer.”

“Battle Cars Live” was mainly promoted on Twitch, through social media and via traditional press outreach. Influencers encouraged their followers to play from their personal Twitch channels in the days leading up to the event.

Hosts Kelly Link and Rachel “Seltzer” Quirico talked about the show while playing clips and trailers during the event. Two episodes of The Grand Tour are also available for non-Prime members to watch on Twitch.

The show premiered on Friday with a fiery stunt-gone-wrong lighting up social media. Co-host Richard Hammond crashed a £2 million supercar at 120mph and was caught inside the blazing wreck. But even though the spectacle left many fans stunned, Hammond survived the stunt with just a fractured knee.