May the OTT brand wars commence!

 

First things first.. let’s do this quick ‘eye test’

Which of the below are current logos of two leading streaming companies?

Netflix branding, Amazon branding

This test was just among two brands. Now imagine doing the same for over 30 brands from the same industry. Fun for those Quiz Junkies amongst us; but mind-boggling as an OTT consumer, isn’t it?

 An App Annie study classifies India’s 33 OTT players into:

·        Broadcasters (eg. Hotstar from Star, Sony LIV from Sony, Zee5 from Zee)

·        Independents (eg. ALT Balaji, Eros Now, TVF Play)

·        International players (eg. Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Apple+)

·        Telcos (eg. Jio, Airtel TV, Vodafone Play)

33 players = Dozens of content genres, Hundreds of content pieces, Chaotic mix of original & curated content, Varying age of brands.

 In the resulting mayhem, would OTT viewers take sides?

Arguably, viewers follow content, not OTT brands. Yet, offerings overlap, given that there are over 2 dozen brands. So how can OTT brands create preference for their offering?

Entertainment brands are meant to attract both, viewers and content creators. They are also meant to distinguish between content they produce and produce+distribute. Hence, they need clear brand identities catering to content creators, distributors and viewers alike… not make people stumble along, as you possibly did, among the logos above.

A clear brand identity does 2 essential jobs for the OTT marketer:

·      Creates ‘ask’ for the brand. In a cluttered and noisy marketplace like OTT, it helps brand messaging stand out. For instance,viewers seek out a Netflix as against say, an MX Player.

·      Ties the core offering (content, genres,characters) tightly, to the OTT brand that owns the offering. For instance,Netflix is perceived to offer a certain kind of content-mix; as against say a Disney.

·      Enables a gradual shift from advertising revenue model to subscription revenue model. The value-centric Indian consumer will pay for content he cannot do without, on OTT brands that offer it exclusively. For instance, Hotstar drew its initial paid subscription audience from exclusive IPL streaming rights.

 
Re-imagining identities of 3 OTT brands

For simplicity sake, we picked 3 leading OTT brands, to discuss how they could possibly leverage their brand identities: the first-mover Netflix, the distribution powerhouse Amazon Prime Video and the niche master Disney+.

 NETFLIX

A brand’s identity is formed by a complex mix of functional and emotional signifiers. For instance, the Netflix branding is basic, yet iconic. Its 'cinemascope' curve cues the large-screen experience. As explained in Netflix’s official brand guidelines, the solitary ‘N’ represents a “never-ending stream of stories” to viewers. Simple and iconic, the logo instantly sparks brand recognition and association with cinema.

But then, there’s Netflix Originals and a whole host of genres – documentaries, travel shows, talk shows, performance shows et al. Which is a whole different offering, residing within the same umbrella brand. So does Netflix promise Cinema-like experiences or fresh, new TV-like entertainment?

Some would argue that in the crowded Indian market, Netflix branding would struggle to string together a coherent and engaging narrative that runs throughout all experiences on offer. Also, the branding might be missing an ‘Emotional aura’... strong emotions that a rich, exciting viewing experience stirs up. Perhaps then, Netflix is best suited to own the ‘early mover of cinema streaming’ as its central brand hook?

AMAZON PRIME VIDEO

From ‘Amazon Instant Video’ to ‘Amazon Prime Instant Video’to ‘Prime Video’, Amazon changed its OTT branding thrice, in the past decade alone. Safe to comment that Prime Video’s hyperactive history leaves its brand identity most vulnerable.

How will viewers perceive the brand now? Is it a retailer of long-tail content available at on-demand prices? Or is it a creator of content? Or a large-scale distributor of Regional content?

In India, Prime Video launched with a huge price advantage over Netflix – annual subscription at INR 499 to Netflix’s monthly subscription at INR 500. In that sense, it differentiated itself as a for-the-masses OTT brand. As a bonus, it also catered to the evolving, TV-averse audience, through Amazon Originals.

Observers believe Prime Video could be missing out on the ‘Amazon’ mother brand rub-off effect; considering the latter’s booming Retail presence in India. In terms of brand recall, however it could be argued that distancing from the mother brand might actually do Prime Video a whole lot of good. By itself, Prime Video is better off not being perceived as yet another offering from within the e-tail behemoth’s wide suite.

Thus, Prime Video’s first task is to differentiate itself from various Amazon past and current brands:

·        Amazon (1990’s), the online retailer.

·        Amazon Prime (early 2000’s), a subscription service with 2-day free shipping and streaming video+audio access.

·        Amazon Studios (early 2010’s), producing original films and TV shows, made available on Amazon Prime Video.

·        Amazon Movies, the film division of Amazon Studios.

·        Amazon Prime Pantry, grocery delivery

·        Amazon Prime Air, instant delivery via drones

·        Prime Now, one-hour non-drone delivery

DISNEY+

Coming to Disney+, the newest from the iconic and versatile Disney's table, the “home for people of all ages to watch movies and TV shows across all of Disney’s brands”. Sounds like a theme park of Content, really… one including content from Pixar, Marvel, NatGeo and many other Broadcast TV brands.

Most popular associations with Disney possibly emerge from its Pixar and Marvel properties. The mother brand’s legacy in Animation serves it well, in the OTT business. OTT is widely perceived as a unique, Tech-led phenomenon. Great content available cheap and uninterrupted, has shifted Entertainment consumption from in-home to on-the-go.

Disney can boast of over 90 years of animated and live-action content; including movies, shows, classics, superhero franchises etc. A significant part of this content is targeted to kids.

The challenge is positioning for the consumer vs the end-viewer. While device-usage has become more and more decontrolled, TV/Content viewing is still a heavily negotiated habit in the parent-child equation. In case of Disney+, the consumer will be the parent, but the end-viewer the child.

Yet, Disney+ will certainly enjoy the perks of being a‘pester power’ brand – kids will get parents to subscribe. A 3-year lock-in Disney+ subscription ensures that end-viewers are sufficiently hooked,to keep renewing. Thus, Disney+ will have to walk a delicate balance of adults’need to control and kids’ content needs; in carving its identity.

As 2020 rolls out, observers keenly watch the branding story unfold for OTT brands; in a market competing fiercely for eyeball-share.

Ushma Kapadia

Researcher by training, B2B Content Writer & Producer by occupation, aspiring Social Entrepreneur, Coffee-fanatic, forever learning.

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