How 2021 will be an era of IP innovations amid curtailed budgets of brands

Restrained budgets and cautious spending amid the pandemic might force some brands to hold back investments in long-term content initiatives and IPs for the next year. However, experts suggest some will also find it beneficial to partner with IPs, be it content or live. finds out what will bring more ROI for brands

Akanksha Nagar
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The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly put a hold on the creation of long-term content initiatives and IPs for brands. But it is also now, more than ever before, that the content IP industry should remain protected and intact.

With people spending more time on the internet, constantly looking for fresh content, it possibly could be the best time for the content IP industry to take advantage and rule.

But there is a hindrance: marketing budgets across brands have either been stalled or have drastically reduced. Although brands are slowly increasing marketing spends, they are being more cautious about making every penny spent accountable and driving ROI. tried to find out to what extent brands will be cautious of content marketing initiatives that are more driven towards long-term brand building, including investing in IP creation, in 2021.

Kumar Deb Sinha

Kumar Deb Sinha, Country Head, Dentsu Storylab, said initiatives that are more driven towards long-term brand building will slow down in the coming years, including content IP creation or investment behind new initiatives.

Rakesh Hinduja

Rakesh Hinduja, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Content Platform, Wondrlab, believes it’s the time for opportunity versus just being conservative.

“Holding back investments in long-term brand-building IPs will certainly be a reality for some businesses,” he said.

This opens up opportunities for new-age categories and some other contextual ones as well; for instance, gaming, health and local businesses. New initiatives by such categories will see an upswing. 

“It will also be the era of new IP innovations. The ones that are structured organically towards a balance of long-term brand building and immediate business building will be the need of the hour. I foresee some innovations in remuneration models and ‘skin in the game’ by IP creators increasing,” he added.

Labani Biswas

Labani Biswas, Head, Planning and Insights, Yellow Bulbs Solutions, said brands that will be most cautious are from segments that have been most disrupted due to the current crisis.

“It's important to recognise; it's not like they don't believe in long-term brand-building investments; just that not all of them are cash-rich businesses and with revenues being hit and projections that don't show exponential growth; it's hard for them to commit to something long term before they stabilise their ship. Once things start rolling in the right direction and even if they remain so for a significant amount of time, I believe there'll still be significant inertia because the trauma of the economic crisis, and we may see businesses being a lot less brave,” she said.

Brands that are largely unaffected and have even seen growth in the past year will definitely invest if the right idea is presented to them.

She added, “The world has changed drastically in the past few months. Some well-established brand characters and personas may not be that relevant in the 'new normal' and intelligent brands would realise that one-of campaigns would not do much to address that.”

Dhruv Sheth

Echoing the same views, Dhruv Sheth, Chief Operating Officer at OML, said, “I don't think long-term IPs are doomed at all.”

He said most IPs have had successful and more consistent and frequent digital sessions that keep the community engaged till they can come back bigger and stronger once it's safe to gather again.

“I think this depends from brand to brand. What we focus on is to keep true to our brand of IPs and serve the fan/audience/final consumer in the best way possible and we are 100% sure that great brands will find it beneficial to partner with such IPs; be it content or live,” he added.

In fact, according to Sheth, lots of brands are investing in long-term content initiatives and looking for newer ways to communicate and grow their messaging.

He said, “I would say wider content pieces are doing great for brands where the brand message is amplified by a vast and varied set of creators.”

Even Diageo India continues to plan for long-term brand-building efforts.

It has renovated two of its brands—McDowell’s No.1 and Royal Challenge—in the past few months, apart from launching campaigns.

Amarpreet Anand

“We all know content marketing adds significantly in embedding our brands in culture. But what works is changing and we need to be in sync with the times. So while we will continue to invest in our existing properties, the goal is to evolve them to make them engaging and relevant for our consumers during these times. Long-standing content IPs that were focused on experiential formats are evolving — considering we can’t drive experiences on-ground at scale because of current challenges. We are in fact being more innovative — both in terms of pushing even more creative ideas to engage with consumers or to deliver the same impact with significantly lower budgets,” said Amarpreet Anand, EVP and Portfolio Head, Diageo India.

Inclination towards innovation with clear mandate of driving ROI directly

Brands are waiting to feel confident about the market to spend again. Also, driving business through established channels and tactical communication is one thing, but maintaining and evolving your brand positioning, voice and character is of course another.

Biswas believes brands will be missing out on a lot if they won’t invest in long-term content initiatives or IPs.

Now, more than ever, the consumer needs to hear from brands and connect emotionally with them. They need to be clear on the value that the brand brings into their lives, and that cannot be just the product, service or discount. Consumers want brands to be more human, more respectful of the environment and the people in their ecosystem, and have an unwavering and unique voice that cuts through the clutter.

“It's a Catch-22 situation if they don’t invest. But in the long run, after the dust settles on the pandemic, brands that have ensured to continually invest in long-term goals are sure to essentially come out as winners,” she said.

More than any other time, according to Sheth, brands have realised the value of brand loyalty now.

“And such loyalty can only be brought in by long-term strategic IP builds. Through the pandemic, we have realised the importance of an engaged community for long-term ROI,” he said.

Biswas said there'll be a clear mandate of making every penny spent accountable and driving ROI directly next year in this space.

Brands are looking for more certainty and confidence from marketers, if not hard-commitment on numbers, they want to see a scientific estimation of what all they can hope to gain with a particular investment.

Most are eyeing digital campaigns that either ensure direct transactions, generate leads or even ones that give them more insights on the consumer journey and behaviour.

“We as agency partners are expected to be even more vigilant and agile with their money and we should advise them to spend real time basis with a constant eye on how the campaigns are performing,” she said.

“While long-term investments will certainly see a change in investors and form, a lot of brands will deviate towards performance-focused initiatives,” added Hinduja.

This, however, will be a good thing.

It will force new, performance-driven IP creations. Spends towards digital and direct selling would also certainly increase. 

With an optimistic view, he believes there will be new IP innovations that will help brands build equity and engagement faster and in a more focused way to its audience.

“I also foresee a lot of experimentation. Brands will invest in new, never-before kind of opportunities, and will possibly try out for short term and then on the basis of performance, learnings, improvisations to make it long term,” he added.

In a nutshell, experts are of the opinion that long-term content initiatives are still very much on and will remain so in 2021, despite the reduced budgets.

IP innovations amid curtailed budgets of brands