If you haven’t heard of the transmedia marketing trend, don’t feel bad. I recently took a transmedia marketing class, and it took me several classes and a few hours of googling before I understood what it was. Transmedia marketing uses the world-building concepts of transmedia storytelling to create awareness campaigns, maintain or spark media buzz, and generate fan involvement. Instead of broadcasting a concise message across multiple advertising mediums, it focuses on creating opportunities for engagement, encouraging fans to interact with it and make it their own.
The simplest way to explain it is through specific examples. For instance, to promote the movie Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Tim Burton joined forces with Marc Jacobs to create a themed fashion line, which was displayed at Saks along with a Snapchat code to unlock a filter that fans could use to create pictures of themselves as Peculiar Children and spread them around social media platforms. Additionally, 20th Century Fox unleashed two fully costumed young cast members on London, where they acted as tourists. These Peculiar Children explored local attractions in character while taking selfies. Londoners then documented the surprising duo, splashing images across their own social media accounts and generating media buzz.
Over the past decade or so, many businesses have struggled to adapt their broadcast style to actively engage consumers. As users, we go to great lengths to prevent businesses from broadcasting their messages, and we are very vocal about our interactions with products and services, leaving reviews for other would-be users to consider. When was the last time you went to a movie or purchased a book without first checking user reviews? It’s a rare moment when I do. I often spend hours poring over reviews for a product or service, looking at their star rating and weighing it against the number of reviews they’ve received, thereby giving reviewers’ voices far more weight in the decision process than the words of advertisements.
This shift has been forcing many industries, publishing included, to think beyond their broadcast models to find new ways to engage with their audiences. Most publishers offer only the most basic levels of engagement. Promotions are often limited to emailed newsletters involving some variation of awareness campaigns, swag giveaways, and tour dates. It’s not that I don’t love swag giveaways, but they don’t generally inspire further interaction. HarperCollins has taken sizable steps toward transmedia marketing. Epic Reads, their dedicated teen and young adult website, creates spreadable content with videos and quizzes and promotes fan communities, but it rarely generates earned media buzz.
There are some obvious limitations to transmedia marketing in book publishing. Having a visual element to latch onto is often key in transmedia storytelling, making this strategy easier for book genres with strong imagery, like science fiction, fantasy, and YA. Even so, there is much we can explore in terms of incorporating transmedia storytelling into marketing plans, and much of it isn’t cost prohibitive, even for the tightest budgets and the smallest presses. You can start social media accounts styled in the voices of the characters and have them banter with each other and interact with fans. You can collect fan art and publish it in future editions or the next book in a series. Or you can make Snapchat filters to generate engagement between fans and the book’s website. If you have the time and creativity to invest, the possibilities are endless.
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