Transmedia Branding E-book from USC Professor Delivers Excellent Primer

USC professor Burghardt Tenderich e-book Trans media branding

“Branding is in a state of disruption and re-invention. Recent advances in Internet and consumer technologies have put professional branding tools in the hands of consumers. Everyday people – as individuals and as communities – are appropriating, remixing and recirculating brand icons beyond the control of those who have historically shepherded the brand.”

So states the Transmedia Branding e-book penned by Burghardt Tenderich, associate professor at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

As belies his experience as a communications practitioner in the real world – Siebel Systems, Applied Communications and Bite Communications – Tenderich’s e-book is more than an academic treatise for the tweed jacket set. His narrative blends the theoretical with examples ranging from Intel to Old Spice to President Obama.

Tenderich defines transmedia branding as “a communication process in which information about a brand is packaged into an integrated narrative, which is dispersed across multiple media channels for the purpose of creating an interactive and engaging brand experience.” While most associate transmedia branding with the consumer world and Hollywood – think Spider-Man in your kid’s Happy Meal and selling Buicks – Tenderich’s definition works for the B2B world as well, though the interactive component might be a stretch.

The e-book pays homage to one of the best-known example of transmedia branding, the Old Spice campaign in which a standard 30-second commercial morphs into YouTube videos featuring Isaiah Mustafa as the “Old Spice Guy” answering questions from the “audience.”

My favorite is Mustafa responding to a Kevin Rose (founder of Digg and now a partner at Google Ventures) tweet on being sick.

“Can you imagine if your smart brain could team up with my strong muscle body and wildly handsome face parts … no, you can’t.”

Yes, levity has a place in transmedia branding as it does in all forms of business storytelling.

On this topic, I’ve discussed in previous posts the value of atomizing content earmarked for journalists, an approach that underlies transmedia storytelling:

“… the pieces of content are dispersed in unique bits and collectively make up a narrative. It’s not that you tell the same story again and again, just in a different medium. It’s that you tell a story a bit at a time in each medium, and, taken together, they create a full story.”

Does the book show you how to create a campaign for an enterprise storage company that will have Mattel knocking on your door wanting to create an action figure called the Storage Stooge?

Of course not (and that’s a good thing).

It’s fair to say that developing storytelling for multiple channels/platforms that also delivers an interactive experience lends itself to the consumer world. Still, the overarching concept has relevance to B2B companies if for nothing else than to find touch points with their target audience where they don’t share the stage with competitors (like in trade publications).

All in all, Tenderich’s e-book on transmedia branding serves as the perfect starting point for anyone coming up the curve on the topic. You can access the e-book  for free here.

As someone who has railed against the logo jockeys holding the keys to the branding kingdom, I believe that transmedia branding offers yet another opportunity for communication professionals to expand their playing field.

As long as communication professionals recognize that going down this path requires experimentation.

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