How often have you said the words “Just one more” at the end of an episode of your favourite show? Even after promising ourselves that we will watch just one instalment, we regularly keep watching, episode after episode. What is the secret of how these series grab our attention? And what can marketers, who have such a hard time finding and retaining an audience for their stories, learn from their success?
Our media are highly fragmented. People consume content throughout the day in bits and pieces, on different channels and devices. In a field of noisy content, it is hard to win people’s attention. Many marketers are just adding to the noise – but there is a way to get your consumer’s attention, so that they are eager to consume your content, piece after piece. It is what I call ‘binge marketing’.
Binge marketing is a sustainable marketing strategy that allows you to build a long-term relationship with your audience through the use of serial content, based on the shared interests of your audience and your brand. It earns you the trust of your audience and allows you to lay the foundations for achieving your marketing goals.
The idea is simple: imagine your brand is a television series. Every piece of content is an episode of the series, bringing to life a strong and consistent storyline which exceeds one episode. Rather than trying to push everything you want to get across into just one piece of content, scheduled at the time you have budget, binge marketing creates engaging stories and a database of episodes that people can consume at a time that works for them. Consider these five elements to get started.
1 Audience development
Start with a small but important change in mindset. In binge marketing, we don’t talk about target groups, but rather audiences. You want to convey your story in text, image or sound; to do that, you need readers, viewers or listeners – in short, an audience. And an audience manages itself. Unlike a target group, an audience decides for itself whether or not it wants to be your audience. You may be a target group to many, but you are an audience to only a few.
2 Create content
Create content in series, instead of separate pieces or recurring campaigns. If you only have one piece of content per story you won’t be able to build a loyal, returning audience. And give people the opportunity to consume the next episode, or the previous one, if possible.
Marketing directors need to act like the showrunner of their brand. In TV, showrunners are responsible for the main storyline: they lead the team of writers and producers that create the episodes and they are responsible for the numbers. They have to think about what their show is about, their audience, how many loyal viewers they want in season one, and how that can be achieved. They also make decisions about the show’s synopsis and plot summary.
3 Create a plot summary
A plot summary tells us what a series is about. There are four key ingredients. First, who are your main characters? Who can tell your story best? Second, what is your arena? That is, the place, time and circumstances of the story. Third, what are the themes your brand will address in its episodes? Pick three to five. And fourth, what genre is best to get the story across?
Binge marketing is a methodology that works for every industry where the goal is to create or grow a brand, especially where the brand has a large or more complicated story to tell.
Take Triodos Bank as an example – a bank with the goal of banking sustainably, ethically and transparently. Its main characters could be the ‘game changers’, people who are doing things differently for a better world. The arena could be households, but it may also be ‘the moment they started to add to a better world’. Themes include motivations, setbacks and ‘how-to’ information. Useful genres for this story might be ‘real life’ or ‘human interest’.
When it is used as a brief to all the agencies that a brand works with, including internationally, a plot summary can help create a strong brand with a consistent story.
4 Create seasons and episodes
Binge marketing is defined as a sustainable marketing strategy. You are in it for the long run. A long-lasting storyline fits the brand’s DNA and focuses on the brand goals: so, building on the plot summary, you need to think about the seasons and episodes needed to achieve those goals. For those still thinking in old habits, you may compare a season of episodes to a campaign. Every season takes a big theme, with episodes taking their own subject within that theme, delivered through any medium – be it video, podcast, text or so on. That builds a database of content that is relevant at different stages of the audience journey.
5 Use recaps, cliff hangers and trailers
TV shows with a big storyline always start with a small recap. This technique can be used very efficiently by marketers, along with cliff-hanger endings to an episode, and preludes to the next one. Your audience will be seduced to consume another episode, and your story can be extended.
When the media we consume is so fragmented, a consistent and compelling story is indispensable for winning a loyal and committed audience. It’s time to start thinking like a showrunner.