Kiel Berry Joins Viacom Labs to Help Find a Way to Find Millennials

Brooke Alexander
Kiel Berry

Kiel Berry, who restructured Linkin Park's proprietary company Machine Shop to leverage the band’s social media fans and expanded it to include a venture capital fund, is changing channels. 

Berry has joined new incubator Viacom Labs, where alongside co-director Susan Claxton he plans to focus on elevating fan engagement across the conglomerate’s brands including MTV, VH1 Comedy Central and Nickelodeon.

Although it may seem Berry is crossing a new divide, he sees common ground between leveraging fandom around a rock band leveraging it for television.

"With Linkin Park, success was enabling the band to express themselves creatively in all types of different industries, including music." he tells Billboard. "Just like music artists had to find a way to talk to their fans outside of just the recorded music, TV is now in a place where there is a broadening in the definition of what the TV business is."

For MTV’s VMAs this past August, Viacom Labs partnered with messaging company Giphy to enable fans to create gifs of award show moments, and search for and share them in real time during and after the live show. Within the first four days of launch there were 300 million views of the gifs created, Berry says.

Similarly, for the the 20th anniversary of Comedy Central's "South Park" this summer, Viacom Labs opened a similar call for fans to create gifs around content from the series. During the first two weeks 85,000 gifs were created and 400 million people viewed them.

"The trend among millennials and Gen Z fans is that messaging is a way they communicate with each other. We're saying, How do we become part of that conversation in a meaningful way?" Berry says, echoing the desire of every modern marketer. "Whether it be Linkin Park or SpongeBob, the commonality is that these are strong brands fans identify with, and messaging is the actual trend."