Big brands are beefing up their storytelling methods for the sake of content creativity and engaging consumers, and car companies are in pole position in driving that trend forward.
With native ads and content marketing increasingly becoming more of an alternative and preferred advertising method each day, marketers from BMW to Burberry are assembling teams to make long-form videos to build deeper connections through content with luxury consumers. With 70 percent of marketers planning to increase budgets this year, branded stories are a trend that likely will speed through 2017.
Currently in its eighth year, L/Studio is the Lexus-owned digital content channel that produces a collection of passion projects and programming in art, fashion, science, architecture and beyond designed to engage audiences outside of the traditional automotive encounter.
Whether it’s a mockumentary featuring Colin Quinn and Jerry Seinfeld with their live-action series Cop Show, a docuseries about the LGBT community like It Got Better, or partnering with Comedy Central for the eight-episode digital scripted series Junketeers, L/Studio’s long-form videos offer an eclectic collection that appeals to a broad demographic.
And it’s not only Lexus enjoying the wonders that long-form content does to brand affinity. Marketers from brands like Starbucks, Cap’n Crunch, Nutella, Geico and Chipotle are increasingly using branded content in favor of traditional ads—which typically have a limited shelf life—to improve recall, brand perception and intent/consideration.
Original branded content generates an average of 86 percent brand recall among consumers—a much higher number than the 65 percent with pre-roll advertising—according to a July study from Television News Daily, and brand recall is 59 percentage points higher for branded content, per a joint study from IPG MediaLab, Forbes and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School. The September report also noted that consumers are 14 percent more likely to seek out more content from the brands after a single exposure to branded content.
Lexus, however, is uniquely positioning L/Studio to “forget the call-to-action.” So don’t be surprised when the Lexus Sport Yacht, or any of their line of cars, for that matter, are nowhere near sight next time you catch their content.
How has the strategy of L/Studio evolved since it first debuted as an experimental creative forum in 2008?
While L/Studio still serves as a creative platform for some of Hollywood’s top talent, it’s evolved into a partnered distribution forum and to house content from a broader definition of content creators—people who are influential outside of the traditional Hollywood circuit. We plan to continue to evolve L/Studio and partner with likeminded platforms on the distribution of content, such as the satirical comedy Junketeers that was co-distributed with Comedy Central.
How did Lexus choose the five verticals for L/Studio? Were psychometric insights used to determine which ones were the best match for Lexus?
Over the years, we’ve honed the platform’s content categories based on what’s performed well, appeals to the desired audience and based on what is relevant in culture. Our research at the time identified the current five verticals.
How does Lexus naturally integrate the brand into creative projects like this?
L/Studio is unique in that we purposefully do not incorporate Lexus vehicles into any of the channel’s content, unless it is the producer’s choice to do so. Lexus originally conceptualized L/Studio as a way to engage consumers outside of the traditional automotive encounter, featuring unique lifestyle and entertainment pieces rather than commercials. We wanted to create an evolving studio space that offers topics in line with our brand philosophy without being a long-form car commercial.
What is Lexus Short Films designed to accomplish for the brand?
Lexus is committed to nurturing all forms of art and design, and Lexus Short Films is another example of our dedication to supporting emerging artists and giving them a chance to showcase their talents. These aspiring directors and writers have received a unique opportunity, supported by Lexus, to collaborate with the acclaimed film studio The Weinstein Company to produce and showcase their work on an international stage.
Do consumers have an appetite for branded content and entertainment? Have you noticed an uplift in brand retention and equity?
L/Studio was created as a platform for creative passion projects rather than a branded entertainment channel. The objective of L/Studio is to gain a shift in brand perception. Research has shown that viewers are positively influenced by our featured content, which helps position Lexus as an innovative, brave and thoughtful brand.
How do you amplify and distribute the film content?
Partnering with The Weinstein Company allowed us to attract top filmmaking talent as well as increase our distribution reach. We were also pleased to share our finalists’ work at last year’s Napa Valley Film Festival, which expanded our audience for this project and showcased all four films together for the first time.
Has Lexus done any influencer marketing in the past to promote these endeavors? What were the goals? Was it successful?
We frequently partner with the co-creators of our programming as well as the shows’ stars in order to help promote new content on L/Studio, via social media, public relations and more. We’ve found this helps amplify our reach and engages a broad, diverse audience.
Luc Besson and Lexus recently co-piloted the design on the Valerian Spacecraft, where unique fan experiences are to follow for the sci-fi film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. What kind of a role does Lexus want to play in movies and film going forward?
Lexus is always looking for unique ways to tap into pop culture. The Valerian SkyJet partnership allowed us to incorporate some of our innovations in design and technology into a highly anticipated film project, and we’ll continue to look at collaborations with movies, TV shows and other forms of entertainment in the future that align with the Lexus brand.
Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan