6 minutes

Quantifying the Power of Interests in Entertainment and Media

Turning viewers into fans

Entertainment and Media companies need a new playbook to activate their potential audiences — to turn viewers to fans and turn fans into zealots. We expect our campaigns to help audiences to connect to storylines, yes, but also to connect to wider available resources. Specifically, actors and actresses can hold a powerful influence that transcends movie-going “tribes”, and that influence can be leveraged to extend the impact of media and entertainment brands.

Fan devotion is critical. An audience of casual or infrequent viewers does not provide the sort of power that Entertainment and Media companies need to thrive. Today’s fans inspire and recruit tomorrow’s fans. Accordingly, the companies that embrace an audience-centric mentality, one geared toward organizationally understanding their fanbases, will emerge as leaders in tomorrow’s market. The deeper and more direct your company’s insight into the behaviours of its fanbase, the better positioned your brands will be to connect with them with future products.

There are two very direct paths to this kind of insight: first-party data that explores this kind of behaviour, and social* media that exhibits it inherently.

* not all social. Consider reelgood or spotify: excellent behavioural insights. First and third party datasets go a long way in providing the insights needed to understand a fanbase.

The most successful entertainment brands’ audiences often have something in common: they are made up of many discernable segments, or clusters. It rarely makes sense to think of fans of Star Wars, for example, as Science Fiction fans — while this may have been the most identifiable cluster of the audience at one time, the franchise has since propelled itself to a diverse audience of mainstream and niche segments that span many different ages, backgrounds, interests and behaviours. Most sports teams have long since discovered this — you don’t have to look much further than the wide variety of fan appreciation nights at almost any ballpark in a given month (heck, most teams even have a Star Wars night). A common interest in your brand is only the first clue to understanding these clusters; anything from social data to surveys to third-party insights helps build the rest of the picture.

Behaviours and affinities can take many shapes, depending on the data and cluster you’re looking into. While a brand’s audience is made up of may sorts of behaviours (from the sort of words they use to describe themselves, to their preferred airline, to how generally social they are among their peers), in the Media and Entertainment space, nothing comes close to the influence of the on-screen actors and actresses that a film or tv show uses to tell its stories.

Relevance in Comic Movie Franchises

At Affinio, one of our principal aims is to measure the concept of “relevance” that an interest has for an audience, as well as for each of its distinct segments. We are able to attribute dynamic and contextual scores against individual assets — an actor or actress, a tv show, an airline — and more recently, we’ve been able to score related groups of interests together as an ensemble. We call them Benchmark Groups.

We consider something relevant to a given audience when it is observed by a significant portion of that audience (saturation) and over-indexes for that audience when compared to a similar population (affinity). For a pretty obvious example, we can see how influential Marvel Studios is for fans of The Avengers:

But, while it can be useful to know when one interest is particularly influential for a given audience, the real power comes when a segmentation analysis is performed on the audience and relevance is measured among its influencers at this increased level of granularity.

I’d like to point us to the audience of the Netflix show “Orange is the New Black” (OITNB). This is one of my favourite entertainment assets to talk about, among other reasons, because of the diversity of the audience clusters. We’ve identified 248,000 followers of Orange is the New Black on Twitter that self-identify as living in the United States. We’re able to perform unsupervised segmentation against the audience (we do this by looking at their connections to one another and the strength of edge connections between them), and the clusters point in many directions; some demographically-based (“Moms”, “Teens”), but many more based on their behaviours (“Politics”, “Youtubers”, “Comic Book Fans”, “Hip hop”). The seed common interest here is Orange is the New Black, but the range of distinct interests goes very wide from cluster to cluster. We measure interest uniqueness to help give context to these clusters, as well — Sports Fans and College Students have the most distinct interests (about 45% of each of their interests aren’t shared by the other Orange is the New Black clusters).

As an experiment, I’ve set up several different Benchmark Groups of recent Superhero movies and TV shows — a genre that doesn’t necessarily have direct crossover appeal with OITNB, but I think as you’ll see, provides for an interesting comparison between media assets.

– Game of thrones hits the Comic Book Fans cluster hard

– Black Panther does too, with a second cluster over-represented: black entertainment, whose other entertainment interest include Empire, Scandal, and BET Music.

– Spiderman: Homecoming has a cast that I think is remarkably diverse in that its cast his many different clusters. There’s a steady presence in OITNB’s “Comic Book Fans” cluster, as you might expect from a movie based upon a comic book, but observer some of the nuance here:

  • Robert Downey Jr. has more than three times the klout as any of his costars in the Comic Book Fans cluster, a fact that more than aligns with his steady pedigree in superhero movies since Ironman more than a decade ago
  • Zendaya is wildly popular among Millenials/Students and Rap Culture
  • Donald Glover has heavy representation in the Comedy cluster (owing perhaps to his role on the show Community) and in the Hip Hop Fans cluster (owing to Childish Gambino, his most active music persona)
  • Gwyneth Paltrow and Marisa Tomei find themselves heavily over-indexed in the Moms cluster
  • Finally, the star actor of the movie, Tom Holland, has appeal among several of the clusters that indicate younger demographics: Students, Teen Pop Culture, Youtubers.

The varied niches of the starring cast of Spiderman: Homecoming certainly doesn’t appear to be accidental. In trying to market a historically narrow brand like a comic book into mainstream success, a media & entertainment company has to leverage existing mainstream audiences and determine their other passions and interests, and that certainly seems to have been the case here. The actors and actresses mentioned demonstrate pathways that help send signals to different clusters that this movie could appeal to their particular tribe. When successful, these clusters convert into more than just casual viewers: they become fans.