From the outside, CAMP stores might resemble ordinary toy stores, with brightly colored storefronts and shelves stocked with educational games, toys and stuffed animals. But the company is revolutionizing retail by also offering family experiences inside their shops. During CAMP’s “family experiences,” kids and parents can enjoy a 30 to 45-minute multimedia adventure hosted by a “CAMP Counselor,” which includes a thematic story, video, music, dance, and hands-on activities such as going down a slide and throwing strawberries at a wall.
“With a mix of play, product, and rotating shows, we help families answer the question, ‘What should we do today?’” says Nikki Kaufman, the cofounder and chief people officer of CAMP. “In just a few years, CAMP has become a destination for young families.” Launched in December 2018 and in spite of needing to shut down retail stores, experiences and birthday parties during the Covid pandemic in 2020, CAMP already operates nine retail locations and sells children’s products on its website.Currently at the 5th Ave Store, CAMP has created a themed experience in collaboration with Disney called Mickey & Friends: An Extra Big Adventure. The Brooklyn location is currently offering a Star Trek experience. People living in NYC can attend an event in Domino Park on Thursday, August 11 hosted by CAMP together with Walgreens. In addition, CAMP has partnered with Urban Dessert Lab, the beloved oat milk ice cream company that went viral on TikTok, to create exclusive flavors for the 5th Avenue location.“I actually do not have any formal HR degree or training, but learned it all by doing,” says Kaufman, who is also the mother of three children. “I’m so thankful I get to learn every day from the inspiring team around me at CAMP.”
Kaufman says that she particularly enjoys growing CAMP’s team and culture. “One of the things that makes the CAMP experience so unique is the role that Counselors play. These extraordinary individuals are the face of CAMP. They perform, teach, inspire, play and have fun in our stores every day! This not only creates a strong corporate culture, but also builds brand loyalty and real connection and community within our stores. There is not a day that goes by where we don’t receive very specific customer feedback of the impact a Counselor had on a family’s visit to a CAMP store.” The prevalence of brand-funded content and entertainment is noticeably on the rise. A decentralized media landscape means there is more for consumers to watch than ever before – and brands have been effortfully throwing their hats in the ring, vying for viewer screen time. And while the emergence of new streaming services, FAST channels, and social media series means more opportunity for brands, it also makes for more confusion around the predictability of where the brand storytelling space will be in one, five, or ten years. Specialty events like Tribeca X explore the brand storytelling landscape of the present and the future by bringing together creators and brands who share a love of connecting with consumers through storytelling. This unique day-long event within the larger Tribeca Film Festival includes conversations with industry leaders in the brand storytelling space and a chance to see new brand storytellers gain festival recognition as they compete for the Tribeca X Award. This year’s Tribeca X Award Jury is comprised of a dozen industry leaders in the brand storytelling space. In advance of Tribeca X 2023, we asked these industry leaders to provide their expert opinions on what they anticipate the future holds for brand-funded content and entertainment. Here’s what they had to say:
“The future of brand storytelling will be brands collaborating with world class creators from diverse backgrounds to make compelling, high quality content that’s good enough to sit on streaming platforms with no discernible difference to regular programming. Hopefully with inspiring stories about sustainability and social impact! That’s what we are working on.” - Afdhel Aziz, Co-Founder and Chief Purpose Officer, Conspiracy of Love
“Brands will be on stage accepting Oscars, Emmys, and Grammys in the next few years.” - Adam Puchalsky, Global Head of Content & Creativity, Wavemaker
“The future of brand-funded entertainment is as bright as ever. Brands have a chance to step up as credible participants in the entertainment ecosystem, and have a role in helping develop, co-finance and produce entertainment content, developing content that drives their brand’s vision and values as well as their business goals. Audiences have proven to be open for authentic, compelling content coming from brands, what they are tired of is lazy, annoying advertising.” - Bruno Cunha, Head of Strategy, Observatory
“As we’ve already seen from this year’s Sundance and Tribeca film fest, brand content is increasingly becoming more sophisticated, more audience-first, and much less obviously ‘branded.’ Audiences are there already. They don’t care how a piece of entertainment or a story is made, as long as it entertains or informs in a meaningful way. It will be up to the industries — advertising, entertainment, distribution — to stop relying on the old models and create new ways of funding and sharing films that don’t neatly fit in the traditional buckets of advertising vs content.” - Angela Matusik, Founder and CEO, A.M. Stories
“The future for brand-funded content is strong. Brand-funded content also enables the stories of the underserved to be told. For brands it enables them to build emotional connections with consumers that can then lead to securing a larger share of wallet.”- Sarah Squiers, Executive Vice President of Business Development, Univision Communications, Inc.
“I think we'll continue to see more and more brands focused on making a meaningful impact in the world through storytelling. Taking on big issues like water scarcity, equity and inclusion and other deeply meaningful and necessary human-interest topics in a way we haven't seen before, as brands look to connect more deeply with consumers and showcase their values and company purpose.” - Shawn Brain, Co-Founder, Story+Strategy
“As media consumption habits continue their ever-fragmenting path, brands need to be comfortable playing a smaller role in a bigger story. Your product isn’t the star. It’s a supporting character that organically fits into the scene in a way that resonates with the audience. People shouldn’t feel like they are being advertised to, even if that’s the reality. In short, the future requires more entertainment, less sell.” - Adrian Flores, VP, Creative, The SpringHill Company
“Looking ahead, it is key to remember, the most successful examples of Branded Entertainment, in terms of awareness, engagement and return, are always those that stay rooted in an authentic balance between audience wants and brand needs. More than diving into the latest technology, distribution, or talent. If you try to force connections, it will be obvious to everyone and could even potentially set you back, instead of moving you toward positive outcomes.” - Marissa Nance, Founder and CEO, Native Tongue Communications
“As the media and entertainment landscape consolidates, there are increased opportunities for brands to expand their relationships. Brands tend to think of media owners as companies they just buy media from, but media owners are now also becoming studios, production companies, distributors and more. The brands that will win are working with partners that can have the buy and sell conversation concurrently as part of the brand’s total relationship with the media company and can help the brand create the kind of content it wants to develop, create, and distribute.” - Brendan Gaul, Global Chief Content Officer, IPG Mediabrands
“In our content-rich landscape, where consumers have become more ad-adverse, more brands are committing a portion of marketing budgets to create purpose-driven content that communicates sentiment and values over product. How brands measure the impact of this high value content varies greatly and in the new landscape of brand storytelling, we are finding that qualitative ROI metrics reflect effectiveness more than traditional quantitative ones.” - Marcus Peterzell, Founder and CEO, Passion Point Collective
“As our societal values shift from price-driven aspiration to value-driven aspiration, branded content has never been more essential. Regardless of the form, platform or technology, branded content necessitates an approach around earning people's attention versus paying to get something in front of them, whether they asked for it or not. Content can give a product or brand societal or cultural capital, which in today's value-driven society is more aspirational than price-driven luxury. For example, Netflix's ‘Drive To Survive’ fueled the growth of F1 ESPN viewers because it provided insider knowledge and cultural capital around its fandom - not because of its exclusivity or luxury brands. Today, content is what drives product value, not its price or exclusivity.” - Stacey Kawahata, Brand/Content/Creative Strategy & Consumer Research
“The traditionally thick walls separating advertisers and programming will continue to erode, particularly in streaming television. Advertisers are storytellers, which is the heart of entertainment, thus it is a mutually beneficial situation for brands to be more involved in the creation of content. How do we ENGAGE with viewers instead of always talking at them? Traditional commercials will always have a major place in the strategy but hopefully we are starting to see advertisers use their spend to ensure the content they are associating with is effective, interesting and reaching the right audience. Brands have earned the right to participate in the process of creating entertainment, the challenge is creating the right economic environment for it grow, evolve, and thrive.” - Brian Toombs, Head of Content, Roku
Tribeca X will take place on Wed, June 14, 2023 at Tribeca Festival Hub at Spring Studios. Learn more about how you can gain access to panel conversations, the Tribeca X Award Ceremony, and the festival lounge here.