Question: What do Avengers: Endgame and Game of Thrones have in common with great marketing? Answer: a firm grasp on the art of storytelling.
First off, the movie and TV show feature intricately woven stories that have been entertaining their audiences for years. They are based on existing material which many people are already familiar with, and yet they have each managed to surprise and shock people by taking unexpected twists and turns along the way.
They have both been part of the zeitgeist for extended periods of time and neither one has truly disappointed their fans at any turn (maybe a bump here or there, but nothing that couldn’t be overlooked). They have promised grand stories and over-delivered along the way.
One of my favourite examples is insurance. I can’t think of a more boring or mundane category to market, yet some of the funniest ads on TV are for Progressive, Geico and Allstate. Their success comes from the element of surprise matched with creativity and a delivery that breaks through the clutter. They rotate in new stories (lots of parallel campaigns) and keep it fresh like the Avengers franchise, with all of them pointing towards a common endgame (pun intended).
It’s all about how you tap into and evoke emotion. The audience has a sense of emotional investment in the characters or the brand, which translates to the feeling that they are part of the journey with them.
A show like Game of Thrones goes to extremes, killing off some of the most beloved characters to make space for new characters, while established characters continue to grow and evolve — all to further the story.
In the case of marketers, it may be more subtle. To further the story, you can refresh your look, your packaging, etc. You tap into your customers to find out what resonates with them, then turn it around and use those insights to help find new people who might feel the same way. Maybe you reward users for loyalty, or give them unexpected new ways to engage and interact with your brand.
Of course, it takes time to develop the bond with your customers or audience. I remember the first few episodes of GoT were slow, and I wasn’t entirely sure whether I was going to continue to watch the show. It took me four episodes to feel as though I was hooked.
The first of the Marvel movies was Iron Man, and although I was familiar with the character from years of reading comic books, I felt the larger Marvel Universe was the draw that would keep me engaged. Now that we have come to the end, I can’t imagine the journey having started with any other character.
A great brand has to deliver on its promise right away, which may mean the promise you make to your audience is simple and easy enough for you to deliver it. It’s the “crawl, walk, run” theory of starting out easy, delivering, and then going to the next stage. This aligns with Stephen Covey’s ‘Emotional Bank Account’ idea: that you need to make positive deposits early and often to build up enough credit to earn the trust of your audience.
Be patient with your marketing and never forget the emotional tie you are trying to create. You need time to build an emotional attachment with your brand. You can’t simply hammer an audience with a pure benefit message over and over, hoping that they will eventually give it a try.
Frequency, by itself, is not a strategy. Look at humour, helpfulness and other key ideas that can help you tell your story in different ways over time. Patience is a virtue after all, and marketing benefits from it explicitly.
This post was first published by MediaPost.com and is republished with the permission of the author.
Cory Treffiletti is chief marketing officer at Voicera. He has been a thought leader, executive and business driver in the digital media landscape since 1994. In addition to authoring a weekly column on digital media, advertising and marketing since 2000 for Mediapost‘s Online Spin, Treffiletti has been a successful executive, media expert and/or founding team member for a number of companies and published a book, Internet Ad Pioneers, in 2012.
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