By Valentina Grigoletto. Cover image: Alessandro Corradini, Foggy day, 3D digital artwork.
More and more social media, podcasts, TV series, contests, and video games: fashion companies have realised that to engage potential consumers, you have to entertain them first. Are we still capable of experiencing boredom? A new book investigates the issue
Who doesn’t love fun and entertainment? In today’s digital age, we spend every hour, minute and second scrolling through content on our smartphones, PCs, and tablets. But what truly grabs our attention and keeps us engaged? Even fashion and luxury companies have realised this: to attract and engage potential consumers, you must entertain them first.
This is why brands are looking for channels and strategies where they can use dynamic videos and images, but also irony, preferably with an increasingly active participation of users.
Video games, contests, reposts, quizzes, exploring the metaverse and artificial intelligence, each brand must “test” which strategy can be more engaging, aiming to retain customers and acquire new ones.
Anna Zinola, PhD in Research Methodology, marketing expert and lecturer at Istituto Marangoni Firenze, explains this very well in her latest book La dittatura dell’entertainment: Perché dobbiamo sempre divertirci (The Dictatorship of Entertainment: Why we must stay entertained).
In this interview, she shares some secrets, strategies and fun facts, which you can learn more about by reading her book on how fashion and luxury brands are prioritising and investing in entertainment to engage their target audience.
The book is entitled ‘The Dictatorship of Entertainment’. Can you explain what this title means?
The idea behind the book, which I try to demonstrate, is that, in recent years, we have become accustomed to being entertained and amused. It doesn’t matter whether it is social media, podcasts, TV series, or video games. The important thing is to keep ourselves engaged with enjoyable content. This is what I mean when I say we live in a dictatorship of entertainment: a dictatorship, not a literal dictatorship, but rather a situation we have created ourselves. The question I ask myself – and I ask readers – is: can we still tolerate boredom and deal with free time – even limited time – or do we feel compelled to fill it up with any content regardless of its quality?
How do companies use entertainment?
Entertainment is an effective tool to attract and engage consumers. It is a tool to tell one’s story, one’s world. There are many examples in fashion and beyond. They range from Louis Vuitton, which created a video game to celebrate its founder, to McDonald’s, which started a podcast to explain what happened to Szechuan sauce. But entertainment is also a way to sell, to get us to buy something we didn’t even know we wanted.
Can you give us some examples?
In fashion, the romantic Netflix series ‘Emily in Paris’ comes to mind. The clothes and accessories worn by Lily Collins on the set – such as Marc Jacobs’ Snapshot jelly bag or Kate Spade Nicole handbag – boomed in sales. But there are also ‘Stranger Things’, which supported the 80s revival, and ‘Money Heist’, which inspired countless capsule collections dedicated to fans of the series.
Which categories make the most use of entertainment?
Definitely fashion and beauty. This is because these sectors need and lend themselves to storytelling. The ‘lexicon’ of a car or a yoghurt is quite different from that of a dress or lipstick. Moreover, these areas are open to experimentation and innovation. Just think of the marriage between fashion and gaming, developed by Balenciaga, among others.
What is the result of this ‘dictatorship’?
We are increasingly used to being entertained and less aware of how we spend our time and money. So we spend hours scrolling through our Instagram feed, watching TikTok videos or buying a dress we will never wear after seeing it on the star of the series of the moment.
In the book, you also refer to how entertainment affects the way we consume information. Can you explain what that means?
The habit of being entertained means we expect the same language even in different contexts. When dealing with complicated issues – such as the climate crisis or market concentration processes – we tend to favour forms and sources of information replicating the entertainment model. The risk is an oversimplification, as it is difficult, if not impossible, to translate such complex issues into an infographic or a 40-second video.
In this context, what can we do? Is there a way to oppose the dictatorship of entertainment?
I do not think that entertainment is a bad thing in itself. It becomes so when it becomes pervasive and is experienced compulsively, without awareness. From my point of view, it is not about eliminating entertainment from our daily lives but about becoming aware of its role and impact on our choices. Ultimately, we should be the ones enjoying entertainment, not the other way around.
Anna Zinola, PhD in Research Methodology, marketing expert and lecturer at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.
Alessandro Corradini is a Postgraduate student in Master Digital Arts at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.