L’Oréal’s new seven-episode series, “Run Le Hair Show,” is the latest example of a major brand jumping on the content-commerce bandwagon in an attempt to leverage the global streaming content boom. Created by beauty giant’s Professional Products division, “Run Le Hair Show” sees fashion journalist Peggy Frey joined by designer Charlie le Mindu and hairdresser Min Kim as the three discuss hair care trends, interview industry guests, and present styling “master classes.” After releasing the first season on a dedicated site and through its YouTube channel, L’Oréal is reportedly looking for the next season of “Run Le Hair Show” to be picked up by a major streamer like Netflix or Amazon Prime.
While branded programming is far from new, the rise (and increasing dominance) of streaming services means there are far more conduits for brands to get their content into millions of homes, while camouflaging their involvement behind a polished, high-quality, and — perhaps most importantly — entertaining veneer.
Multinationals are now investing more than ever in branded high-quality content, whether created in-house or in partnership with studios, and this comes as consumers are spending more time on commercial-free streaming services. Nike (which has its own production house, Waffle Iron Entertainment) partnered with the more established Imagine Documentaries to produce The Day Sports Stood Still, on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The end product, which streamed on HBO, is “infused with Nike’s ethos but carries none of the traditional branding audiences are used to seeing,” according to the New York Times. Pepsi, a relatively fast mover in this space, launched its in-house “Creators League” production studio five years ago to develop entertaining content, most recently a reality dating show in partnership with ViacomCBS.
While brand-funded reality shows and documentaries have been mostly favored by consumer and sports brands, they are also increasingly becoming an important part of the marketing mix for premium and luxury brands. After years of enlisting A-list directors for short brand films, more brands are now developing long-form content aimed at a wider (and paying) audience. Dior’s feature-length perfume documentary, Nose, premiered at the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival before being made available for rent or purchase on Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, and Google Play, a notable shift for branded content, which is typically given away for free. Japanese skincare brand SK-II is also strengthening its in-house approach with its new production studio, which will release multiple brand spots and longer-form films over the course of the year.
We’ve also started to see the emergence of an inverse trend, with production houses creating their consumer brands to piggyback off the success of their television programs and films. In the most notable recent example, A24, creator of the HBO hit Euphoria, recently hinted at plans to launch its own brand, Rules Beauty, which makes sense considering that the series was named the most influential show shaping British beauty trends. We’ve seen media brands from Martha Stewart to Buzzfeed successful build product lines from content in the past, and the move from content to commerce is one we’re likely to see much more often in the years ahead, as producers look to tap the spending power of their (often fervent and young) audiences to create goods that draw on powerful IP and by popular characters for inspiration.