There is an art to enticing hardcore enthusiasts to engage with your programming. But if done well, the results are -- for everyone from audiences to advertisers -- absolutely enormous. This was the core thought I took away from a conversation last week with Jim Hoffman, Executive Vice President, Program Partnerships and National Offices, and Christian Murphy, Head of Enthusiast Brands, both of A+E Networks.
Murphy, freshly returned from Design & Construction Week (IBS, The International Builders Show and KBIS, Kitchen Bath Industry Show), was explaining what A+E's presence meant for Home.Made., the network's marquis hub of all things DIY, home improvement and home décor. "IBS isn't open to the general public," reflected Murphy. "But what happens there is of tremendous interest to people who care passionately about this topic. We take our audience behind closed doors and shine a light on product innovations, new trends and styles, and what their favorite brands have planned for the upcoming year."
Attendance at major trade shows is a core tactic for A+E enthusiast brands, which include not only Home.Made., but also Drive, a programming platform for auto enthusiasts, and Outdoors, a content block catering to the interests of the hardcore adventurer who loves the outdoors. "These events give us the opportunity to really dig deeply into the up-to-the-minute and comprehensive content that enthusiasts want," Murphy said. "Some of it may be a little much for general audiences, but we're creating content for our most dedicated viewers ... and they love it."
The centerpiece of Murphy and the team's presence at industry events like IBS and KBIS is "All You Need to Know," a one-hour program covering the most interesting and relevant information uncovered at the expos. But that is just the start. A short-form library made up of multiple content pieces is also in the works for this franchise, each piece highlighting other fascinating insights or tidbits that don't make it into the core program.
"We're able to use these unique short-form pieces throughout our programming blocks, ensuring we always have new information and fresh material to keep our audiences engaged," Murphy said. "And because our programming is catered to audiences, and not just to individual shows, these short pieces are not dependent on any given program. If you are watching Home.Made., the chances are very high you will find this trade show-inspired content compelling, whichever program in the block you are watching."
"This material is a natural extension to our strategy of creating enthusiast programming," added Hoffman. "Our goal has been to build a destination for enthusiast audiences, not just a couple of shows for them. By creating blocks of high-quality, relevant programming, we become an important source of both information and entertainment for them, even as the individual programs change. And it's working. All of our data shows we are attracting the right audiences -- the influencers and the spenders. They are spending significant time with us, and they are engaging with our advertisers."
And they are doing so in rapidly increasing numbers. In its first year, Home.Made. saw significant increases in viewer engagement (as measured in time spent viewing). The quality of the audiences is rising along with the viewership. Home.Made., for instance, has seen a major lift in the household income of their average viewer, a key metric for home improvement audiences.
This leads to a self-reinforcing, virtuous circle -- the right content strategy drives the right programming, which in turn attracts and captivates the desired audiences. Ultimately, this leads to increasingly powerful opportunities for advertisers. "We can work with our partners -- Ikea, Lumber Liquidators, Zillow, whomever -- and begin to create content withthem by using their content or co-producing segments. The short-form pieces work really well here, too. These segments, done well, allow us to work together to create content that is useful, insightful and well-produced. These clips don't push products, as much as create an opportunity for audiences to interact with them."
A recent Home.Made. partnership with Sherwin-Williams shows the magnitude of what this type of partnership can accomplish. Providing content that users perceived as valuable, the campaign was able to generate significant brand interaction. Over two-thirds of viewers who watched the segment reported the intention of using the Sherwin-Williams Color Snap Visualizer to preview how paint colors would look in their own homes. Almost as many intended to visit Sherwin-Williams' website and nearly 3-in-4 (74%) feel Sherwin-Williams inspires them to take on paint projects*.
"This is what you get when you have a high level of engagement," Murphy concluded. "This is why it is fun to be at events like IBS and KBIS, and this is why it works so well for our viewers. Passionate audiences want the details. They want the backstories on their favorite designers and products. They want to see what trends are bubbling up. They care that we observed that the latest in kitchen trends is towards bolder colors, and that contemporary styles are replacing traditional styles in that room. They want to see how house design is shifting and are fascinated to see how indoor and outdoor living trends are coming together, with giant rooms, giant doors and windows and a tendency towards the most seamless possible transition between environments. They want to be aware of the issues we're seeing, too, so they can take advantage of them. This includes things like the shortage of skilled laborers that was a hot topic of conversation, or how best to manage, repair or upgrade the massive amounts of technology being placed in homes after the builders have left."
Ultimately, the idea of engaging passionate and dedicated audiences is not new, and the desire to do so is at least as old as cable TV. But what stands out about A+E Networks' approach is how they are, as if working from a blueprint picked up from Design & Construction Week, perfecting this approach and demonstrating how it can be done effectively and precisely, to the benefit of both their viewers and their advertisers.
* Source: A&E Access Panel Study, 10/9/18-10/31/18. Survey responses captured following exposure to partnership videos. Base: A&E Viewers 18+ who have watched any of A&E's home-focused programming n = 101. 2017 Key Metrics: A&E Access Panel Study, 10/3/17-10/22/17. Base: A&E Viewers 18+ who have watched any of A&E's home-focused programming n=122.
Photos at top courtesy of A+E Networks.
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