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Brands will not just be Media, they will be Entertainment

I have been arguing for some time now (following Tom Asacker's logic) that radio, TV, print, ad agencies – the whole conglomeration of media interests, each one viewing its silo as unique and distinct from every other silo – are increasingly reflections of a larger entity called "media," where the distinctions are irrelevant and the ideas are paramount.

I have argued that people today are media and that digital platforms enable brands themselves to be their own media (and when you are media you don't need to advertise on as much media).

But now I'm going to take the argument even further.

Because I think brands are going to move beyond media.  Brands are going to be entertainment.

I'm not talking about brands spending ad dollars on entertainment events or hosting entertaining promotions or wrapping their logo around an entertaining website.  I'm not talking about brands dabbling in the entertainment business.  I'm saying that brands are increasingly going to be entertainment.

Take Starbucks for example.  The recent news about their free WiFi obscured the more significant move they're making – to become entertainment:

Schultz also unveiled plans for a new in-store service called the Starbucks Digital Network, slated to come online this fall. Teaming up with Yahoo, Starbucks will offer customers free and unrestricted access to different paid sites and services. Content partners will include, iTunes, The New York Times, Patch, USA Today, Yahoo, and Zagat. Additionally, Schultz said the new network will provide exclusive content, free downloads, and local community news.

Starbucks will, in other words, be entertainment – at least some of which is exclusive.  Each Starbucks outlet will become a digital hub where coffee products are purchased as part of an entertainment experience.  This has more in common with Disneyland than it does with Dunkin' Donuts.

And speaking of Disney, yesterday the company announced the opening of their completely redesigned Disney store.  It's a high-tech makeover that includes…

…the first-ever Disney-Pixar CARS-branded RIDEMAKERZ experience which sets the stage for kids of all ages to build 1:18 scale toy custom cars inside of Disney Store. Disney Store executives, stars from the upcoming Disney Channel Original Movie "Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam" and characters from Disney-Pixar's blockbuster film franchise Toy Story joined the festivities and greeted hundreds of Disney fans who waited excitedly for the opportunity to experience the innovative new store. The 4,800-plus square foot store's floor-to-ceiling remodel now features multimedia technology, interactive storytelling and Disney Store exclusive merchandise that bring Disney's most beloved characters to life for families in the local community.  "As part of Disney, we're committed to the value of entertainment and exclusive experiences," said Jim Fielding, president of Disney Stores Worldwide. "Disney is setting a new standard for the specialty retail category by integrating robust technology and creative store planning to make each visit customizable and that much more memorable. This is truly an immersive, one-of-a-kind retail experience for children and families that only Disney could deliver."

This is not just entertaining shopping, this is entertainment as shopping.  Focused on technology, experience, entertainment, and customization.

It's not a great leap from here to a point where Coke or Ford or Hallmark have their own radio or video products to compete with yours.

For your audience.

Where the entire experience is draped around their brand, rather than having their brand draped around somebody else's experience.

This process is already well underway, and its trajectory is certain.

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