Getting a tattoo is usually a decision that takes months of planning, agonizing over the design and placement, and then time blocked off in your schedule to actually get the indelible ink.
But when you're at a party for HBO Max's DMZ, surrounded by South by Southwest attendees — all clamoring to look at who has made this permanent decision — maybe it turns into a more impulsive decision. And, while you may be wondering, "Did you really want this tattoo?" the fact that you have no problem showing your loyalty to HBO Max and its programming makes it a sound decision — well, at least in your mind.
Not that I'm speaking from experience.
That's exactly what streaming companies like HBO Max hope for when they create real-world experiences tied to their shows and movies. Still, with so many services out there, it can be competitive to ensure customers stay subscribed. While HBO Max added 13 million customers in 2021, it still ranks third among all streaming platforms when it comes to the number of customers. That's what makes getting in front of tastemakers during cultural moments even more important, especially after the world has been cooped up for so long during the pandemic.
"We have some of the best content in the world on our platform," Naivasha Dean, vice president of editorial curates, explained. "And what I'm really focused on is making sure that fans can discover that content. There's something for everybody on HBO Max."
If you've ever opened HBO Max and found exactly what you want to watch right away, that's thanks to Dean and her team. They write copy and work with the design team at the company to create the in-app experience. With franchises ranging from DC Comics to Harry Potter, she's got plenty of material to draw people in with.
"We have some of the best IP in the world," she said. "Putting that together for a tactical experience that people can interact with, I think is a great approach."
At South by Southwest 2022, WarnerMedia brought some of its top properties to life. Festivalgoers could check out the Batmobile from The Batman as well as costumes worn by the actors in the hit movie. The company also celebrated Tweety's 80th birthday and, as mentioned earlier, hosted a party for the new dystopian series DMZ, based on the comic book series by Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli.
Besides having attendees remember your brand in a positive light, the marketing win comes from the social media posts that live on much longer than the activation. Other people ask about where you took the picture or video — as well as the television series or movies tied to it.
It wasn't only WarnerMedia taking a hands-on approach. Disney+ hosted outdoor screenings for its family-friendly movies in Austin, while Paramount+ programmed drones to show off popular Halo characters. The sky display ended with a QR code, which lead to the Halo The Series trailer. NBCUniversal created a playground for adults, complete with seesaws, merry-go-rounds, and mini-golf.
These pop-ups can also bring attention to upcoming projects. Prime Video showcased The Boys and its new series Lizzo's Here Come the Big Grrrls in Austin. Part of its carnival-like event included a Vought-A-Burger stand, a play on words referring to the corporation Vought International from The Boys and the Texas chain Whataburger. It also held soirees with free hair and nail makeovers. Lizzo hyped up her Big Grrls for a spectacular nighttime performance, and Prime Video let the Big Grrrls be their true selves, radiating good vibes. The cast was always around to interact with the public.
"(The show is) about us bonding and just going through experiences together, and learning more about ourselves and getting to know others," explained Big Grrrls cast member Ashley Williams. "And, just becoming comfortable in our bodies and just growing as individuals and women in this community on this Earth, as big women. It's also about showing positivity and showing bigger girls in a positive light because we need to be seen. The revolution is being televised."
The most important thing is to serve your fanbase, whether that's the die-hards or people who are learning about your products for the first time. And, then the viewers will stay subscribed.
"Fandoms of all kinds are really, really important to what we do, and we want to super-serve them in everything that we do," HBO Max's Dean said.