Turning Customers into Super Fans: Q&A with MOCEAN CCO Greg Harrison

Jordan P. Kelley, Content Director, Brand Storytelling

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Turning customers into super fans is no small feat. Tapping into the key tenets of what boosts brand affinity for the casual consumer calls for the delicate integration of data into creative that then moves, educates, and/or inspires. Doing so demands know-how on both sides of the brain, and, most importantly, the ability for the two to work together. Of course this applies to the generation of branded content and entertainment itself, but before one can even get that far, the same powerful combo of information and artistry needs to be deployed from the earliest moments of connecting with and launching a project with a brand. MOCEAN, the west coast integrated entertainment and brand agency, is using both sides of the brain to create brand lift for brands in fashion, film, and more. Brand Storytelling caught up with Greg Harrison, Chief Creative Officer at MOCEAN, to learn more about how the full service agency creates fans and builds community by boosting brand affinity:


What is the great benefit of brands who are open to making brand films?


It’s creating brand love by genuinely entertaining or educating your audience with content that’s meaningful to them, such that they seek it out and want to share it with others.


While there’s ample evidence audiences can be allergic to overt marketing and advertising tactics, those same audiences welcome branded content if it’s authentic, entertaining, and most importantly, relevant to their world.


What are some of the pitfalls that plague brands looking to make really good branded content?


Creating good branded content is different from creating good advertising or marketing, and the pitfalls are often rooted in trying to apply the tenets of the latter to the former.


Effective branded content’s impact is measured in conversation, shares, and sentiment, not in typical ad KPI’s and quarterly sales results. It’s important for brands to be realistic about how branded content is a longer-term play to build a meaningful relationship with your audiences and fans.


Patience and perseverance is key – focus on what your brand has to say and then say it consistently and honestly over time.


Do you typically bring brands story ideas, or do brands bring the ideas to you?


For us it’s worked both ways, but it’s best when it’s a 2-way conversation, discussing both the brand’s mission and voice as well as specific ideas and concepts.


Often, we’ll receive a log line or a content category a brand is interested in exploring and we’ll engage our strategy and creative teams to expand these into creative platforms, then treatments, scripts, digital series bibles and ultimately production plans. For clients we have a history with, knowing their audience, voice and mission often leads to ideas we pitch back to them for new content.


A good example of this back-and-forth is the branded content we’ve created for our long-time client Focus Features. They came to us wanting to rethink the typical interview-based content they were producing for their digital channels. We knew their audiences were cinefiles that love the art and craft of film. They liked the idea of doing something with the locations of their films, which led us to pitching the digital series Reel Destinations, a hosted, film-focused travelog series, which is now on its 14th episode and has spawned two other spinoff series.

How do you get the brands themselves to think differently about their approach to content?


MOCEAN’s unique approach to content stems from our long history working in the entertainment space with major studios and streaming brands. In entertainment, we speak to fandoms via cinematic storytelling and production values, with a focus on characters and emotion. We’ve found this is an effective way to communicate with audiences of brands outside of entertainment as well.


Seeing customers as fans and your brand or product as an entertainment experience can be a great way to start thinking differently about how to communicate, especially for entertainment-adjacent brands in music, gaming, fashion and lifestyle. We’ve even applied this thinking to one of our restaurant brand AORs to great effect.


What can one do to get more rigorous or thoughtful briefs from brands? How do you impact the creative desires of brands on your end?

While we can apply our art and craft of entertainment storytelling to a brand’s mission, it’s only successful if what it’s trying to communicate is clear and resonant; Getting to know the values and core story of the brand is key.


Brands can’t afford to be agnostic in the culture anymore. Why is the brand doing what they’re doing for their audience or customers? What do they stand for, what messages in the culture do they stand by, and what’s their point of view in the world at large? Answering these questions are the cornerstone to more thoughtful briefs and creative in the branded content space.


For our part, MOCEAN combines our deep-dive into a brand’s story with our own research around their audiences to generate a clear strategy of what to say, how to say it, and where to say it to have the most impact. Our goal is to reflect back our insights about our client’s brand and audiences to inspire them to see what kind of creative is possible.


This strategy becomes the fuel for our creative teams, who have a long history of transforming a brand’s mission, values and voice into compelling stories, emotions and visuals, bringing to bear our decades of expertise in entertainment storytelling.


What examples can you share from Mocean of great branded entertainment?


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Downton Kitchen Digital Series