Are you developing or evolving a piece of Entertainment IP?
Whether you are from the Martin Scorsese school of thought who think that Entertainment IP extension is “brutal and inhospitable to art” or a marvel super fan with a Spiderman logo tattooed on your cheek, just looking at our streaming services, movie theatres, book & comic shops (yes they still exist!), toy shops, gaming consoles & platforms, shows an era awash with IP extension, evolution and reincarnation.
From traditional sequels to refreshes and reboots within a media format, to jumping from movie/tv to game; from print to movie; from toy to movie or any other combination, direction or mash up, they all play an integral role in all of our entertainment landscapes.
The rationale is clear. Leaning into a powerful existing Entertainment IP ensures that risk is limited in the creative endeavour and a level of commercial success assured. However, the ‘quality’ of an extension or evolution within a format (or reincarnation in a different format) is incredibly variable. For every Avengers End Game there is a Catwoman (2004), every Mandalorian there is The Book of Boba Fett, or every Mission Impossible 7 there is a Guardians of Galaxy 3.
Through modern entertainment history there have been extensions and sequels that have been more commercially successful and just as (if not more so) creatively powerful than an original. We only have to think about The Last of Us 2 which creatively went to new places yet somehow stayed true to the underlying IP, reflect on the reboot of God Of War in 2018 that saved a great franchise that had stalled, or think back to the incredible sequels to the French Connection and the Godfather in the 1970s to see evidence of this… all are arguably as creatively brilliant as the original and equally as commercially successful.
I know, who am I to argue with Martin Scorsese, but...
Personally, and with due respect, I do feel Mr S. may have got it wrong. In a world where the business of entertainment has a duty to its shareholders to ensure commercial success, there is an undeniable need to lean into IP extension, evolution or reincarnation and it is clear it doesn’t have to be at the cost of great creativity. Indeed, I would argue to truly and powerfully extend an important IP and ensure its great success it needs to be better than merely producing more of the same.
So how do we mitigate risk whilst extending, evolving or reincarnating IPs so that they’re even more potent, become part of the fabric of our entertainment and cultural environment, and therefore optimise their commercial success?
It's all about Soul... (this is where it gets deep – or pretentious – depending on your predilection)
Scary word Soul. Even in Western thought it was a concept knocking around way before Christianity (Pythagoras of triangle fame was a great proponent) and the idea has been around way before that further East too. For me, soul is a vital word for us as humans. Across cultures historically we have consistently reflected upon it. In the world dominated by Data, AI and all sorts of beautiful and wonderful technology, we seem to be ignoring the thing that makes us so human. Our souls help us navigate the world, connect and engage with it. Soul is where our conscious and unconscious minds meet our physiological stasis and its where things truly, deeply and powerfully connect. It’s where the most powerful entertainment IPs deeply engage us.
Yet Soul is an incredibly difficult thing to get a handle on and even talk about in the hard hatted world of the modern entertainment business. But just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try because if we are in any way successful, we can understand how an IP really touches humans and can thus super power creativity and commercial success.
Over many years of working with IP across formats, whether this be sequels or jumping media, I have come to realise we can indeed get close to understanding how IP’s can touch the souls of its audience. Thus, facilitating successful creative extension and revolution. This is through the power of Human Values, how our audiences live their lives and engage in the world around us.
Here, rather than following the traditional route of starting with an IP’s DNA, its physical features, even its tonality and emotions, we look at the audiences first and how their souls guide them through life.
AND THEN through the power of understanding their human values and how they turn up in the world, we can look at the IP and its DNA. We can understand how the IP engages with them as a human soul, which values it switches on and off, which it plays with and challenges and which it nurtures and how it does this. By doing this we can understand what makes an IP different on a deeply Human level; what are the tangible elements and emotional energies an IP must keep within its extension, evolution or reincarnation. Going beyond (but not ignoring) the what of an IP, looking at the how and why it is connecting with humans on the deepest possible level, enables the development of super powerful and flexible creative platforms that stay true to the soul of the IP yet enable it to move on, remain fresh and beautiful for its historic audiences and also new ones. Thus, ensuring its future success!
We’re into the Soul Connection...
Here at One Minute to Midnight we have evolved a famous Human Values model to really get at the soul connection between an IPs (both for brand new and established IPs) and their audiences. This helps the IP evolve, extend and reincarnate in creatively powerful ways, ensuring their cultural legacy and commercial success because ultimately in the words of Sean Love Combs “it’s all about the Benjamins”. If you’re currently working on an Entertainment IP why not reach out and find out how understanding the Soul connection can ensure the success of your evolution, extension or reincarnation.