The term “media” in the marketing sense used to mean only a handful of things, mainly: television, radio and print. Yes, there were other means to reach an audience, but those three dominated the options that brands had to pursue. But after the advent of the internet, these “traditional media” methods became only an option, rather than the option. We no longer sit down on our couches at 7pm to watch the evening news or walk out to the porch in the morning to pick up the newspaper. But that’s not a new revelation, nor does that fact surprise anyone. The real question for brands is “how do I communicate and maintain my message across all the available, fragmented channels?” And even more difficult to answer is “how do I turn that into a great brand experience?” The answer is not a simple one, nor is it the same for every business, but today we’ll examine how Hulu, the online video service, manages to answer both these questions.
Hulu’s Early Years
Founded in 2007, Hulu is a collaboration between major networks such as Fox, NBC, Disney-ABC, and others. The name itself has an interesting meaning, and as explained on their blog:
“In Mandarin, Hulu has two interesting meanings, each highly relevant to our mission. The primary meaning interested us because it is used in an ancient Chinese proverb that describes the Hulu as the holder of precious things. It literally translates to “gourd,” and in ancient times, the Hulu was hollowed out and used to hold precious things. The secondary meaning is “interactive recording.” We saw both definitions as appropriate bookends and highly relevant to the mission of Hulu.”
While the “interactive recording” meaning certainly is the most relatable, I find the “gourd” analogy most interesting to the core of why Hulu has become so popular. Hulu started off housing episodes of popular TV shows online, available to stream on your personal computer. Though the idea wasn’t completely novel at the time, they certainly brought it mainstream attention and had the resources and content to back it up.
Almost six years later, Hulu has continued to be the “gourd” standard for video content on the web. A large part of their success though, should be attributed to their evolution from simply streaming shows on your desktop, to creating an integrated experience across many of the devices we use today.
In late 2010, Hulu launched a subscription based service called Hulu Plus, which enables users to view content from practically anywhere, across a huge variety of supported devices. Everything from your mobile phone, tablet, gaming console, blu-ray player, internet capable TV, media players and, of course, your computer, are included. Also included with your subscription is a larger selection of shows and movies, and shorter advertising breaks (yes they still have some advertisements). But it’s the connectivity options that are truly responsible for the great brand experience.
The living room is probably the most commonly associated place with viewing broadcast television, and for good reason. Not long ago, your TV and cable subscription was the only place you could watch shows. Fast-forward to today and the majority of viewing still happens in your living room, though that cable subscription isn’t an integral part anymore. As mentioned, Hulu is supported on a handful of “smart” TVs, blu-ray players, gaming consoles and media players. Meaning you can still use your big screen TV to watch your favorite shows. This was probably the biggest and most important move for Hulu. Though their original model was built on shifting the broadcast paradigm to personal computers, they knew that the much larger audience was still viewing on their TVs and were actually helping to further evolve how people watch shows. Their brand could now be associated with a new “traditional” experience where families gather on the couch to watch their favorite sitcoms.
On The Go
As mentioned in the introduction, the fragmented media channels now available to people typically represent a problem for companies. However, Hulu turned it into an advantage by integrating them into a cohesive experience. Yes, their logo, font, color palette and other brand assets stayed consistent across platforms. But the brand is more deeply integrated than that. Say you start to watch an episode at home but don’t have time to watch the whole thing. Conveniently, Hulu will keep your spot for you so you can quickly resume from where you left off when you get back. Can’t wait to get back home and finish? Just download the Hulu Plus app on your phone or tablet and you can pick up right where you left off on the go!
As we’ve written about before, creating a great brand experience is not an easy task, without a replicable set of directions to get there. That certainly doesn’t mean that it’s not unreachable for your business though. For Hulu, it is attained through a fluid connectivity between the devices we use every day that changed the way we watch TV. It shows the importance of carefully thinking through every touchpoint, and potential touchpoint that your customers might have with your brand. Is there a piece of technology you’re not utilizing that may make your brand experience better? Is there a way that you can save information for your customers in case they move from a computer to a tablet while using your product? Or maybe it’s as simple as making sure your website is optimized for all the different devices people use. Whatever it is, if you continually look for ways to improve your customer’s interaction with your product or service, you’ll have created a great brand experience before you know it!