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Passion for Characters Over Studios

How entertainment franchises can leverage NFTs to create tailored fan loyalty experiences.

Key takeaways

  • Success hinges on deep fan engagement.

  • Loyalty programs should center around characters.

  • NFT technology enables seamless cross-platform loyalty experiences.

  • Character-first loyalty schemes personalize fan interactions.

  • Continuous fan retention is crucial in a competitive market.

As our access to quality content keeps increasing, the hits will get bigger, and the tail will get longer. We discussed this in a previous piece. The most successful entertainment franchises of the future will be those that double down on fandom.

Doubling down on fandom means cultivating relationships with fans that go beyond single pieces of content. Fan passion is not time or format-constrained, and the way franchises harness fan relationships shouldn't be either.

It also means connecting different fan touchpoints across platforms into one singular fan experience.

And, it should happen via the vector where the fan passion is the deepest: the characters and their stories.

Here's an exploration of what it could look like:

Character-First Loyalty

The power of enduring entertainment franchises is the characters and the stories we connect with. We love to see them return and learn more about their stories.

So, when entertainment franchises want to get serious about nurturing fandom and creating "loyalty programs," those should be from the perspective of characters.

Let's take the Trolls franchise as an example, which recently released its third installment; people generally don't care that the studio behind the franchise is DreamWorks.

People care about the Trolls universe. And more specifically, people will typically have a favorite character in that universe.

It's from this perspective we should design the loyalty schemes.

Not a DreamWorks content loyalty program.

Not a Trolls loyalty program.

But a Poppy (main character) loyalty program.

And a Cooper (another character) loyalty program.

These loyalty experiences must also evolve and adapt to each fan's engagement and actions.

So it's not one Poppy loyalty experience but thousands of dynamic such experiences. Each for one fan that selected Poppy as their fave.

And those loyalty experiences should expand from character to franchise to studio level. From characters and outward.

An Example

Barring current technical obstacles (and there are many), here's a hypothetical example of how such a loyalty program could play out:

You go to the movies to see the latest Trolls movie.

Later, you're invited to use the ticket to redeem a digital "Poppy Club card" that serves both as a loyalty marker and memorabilia from the movie event.

This Poppy collectible allows you access to a specific area of the Trolltopia Roblox experience. You get to open a loot box with Poppy hair for your avatar. It also contains a discount voucher for a Poppy plush toy.

All these engagements and touchpoints are recorded to your "club card" and evolve with more unlocks.

Like access to a secret Poppy-special-ending to the movie when it hits streaming services. Only accessible for club members.

So far, the interactions and rewards are character-based. From there, it can expand outward: discounts to theme parks, skip the line for Trolls specific rides, etc.

And, naturally, you get invited to a special pre-screening for the (inevitable?) fourth Trolls movie. Exclusive to friends of Poppy, of course.

Where NFTs Come In

The biggest practical challenge with executing something like the above is the technicalities of tying together engagement and access across different formats and platforms.

This is a perfect problem for NFT technology to be the solution.

The Poppy collectible club card would serve as a loyalty marker and identifier across different platforms and contexts.

Leveraging the inherent openness, accessibility, and interoperability of blockchain-based tokens.

Interestingly, Disney is already experimenting with digital collectibles in partnership with Cryptoys. So far, they don't have any utility or connection to the broader Disney ecosystem. But, in the future, they could.

As the competition for consumer attention intensifies, there's no doubt that entertainment franchises have to move from considering fandom an afterthought to considering it a core part of the franchise itself.

It's shifting to think more about continuous fan retention.

And it should start by honing in on the atomic units of the franchises that people care about the most: the characters.

(This essay was first published October 26th, 2023 on in-transit.xyz)


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