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October 31, 2019

Becoming a Binge-Worthy Brand

Paul Collins

Author @Sterling

October 31, 2019

Becoming a Binge-Worthy Brand

Big Little Lies. Game of Thrones. Mad Men. Stranger Things. Breaking Bad.

In an age of waning attention spans, these hit shows have captured the sustained attention of millions around the world.

And in today’s crowded marketplace, where industry lines are blurring and barriers to entry are falling, a brand’s share of sustained attention has become one of the last real sources of advantage.

So what’s a brand to do? Today’s hit shows point to 5 factors that can help brands everywhere win the war for attention.

1. They create relatable, aspirational characters.
The iconic characters are those in whom we see aspects of ourselves. And more often than not, those we aspire to be more like – at least in part. These characters capture our self-aggrandizing imaginations, providing a glimpse into what we could achieve if only we embraced our best, boldest, or baddest selves.

Implications for your brand:

  • Align your brand with your target customer’s aspirational self. What kind of person do they hope to become? How can your brand help them get there? At the same time, how can your brand demonstrate their aspirational characteristics (e.g., courage, empathy, humor, etc.) in its actions?
  • Celebrate the layered fabric of your brand DNA. Just as the most intriguing characters are delightfully complex, the best brands are multi-dimensional. Simply put, they “read the room”, flexing their personalities and the experiences they deliver as they respond to unique customer needs and the changing world around them.

2. They tell fundamentally human stories.
The most engaging stories reflect the highs and lows of life. They demonstrate the potential in all of us – how against all odds, we can achieve something meaningful. In doing so, they explore the complexities of the human condition, compelling us to look inside ourselves, observe those around us, and think.

Implications for your brand:

  • Center your brand around a human story. What conflict, big or small, are you tackling? What are you fighting for? By doing so, how are you improving your customers’ lives?
  • Authentically communicate your successes. What odds has your brand faced, and how has it overcome them in service of your customers? Everyone loves a comeback story.

3. They offer an escape.
While not all hit shows are set in Utopia USA, they nevertheless give us a break from our daily realities. They provide excitement in the midst of the mundane; they offer comfort during moments of distress; and they allow us to experience other parts of life, in other areas of the world, vicariously.

Implications for your brand:

  • Create experiences that offer a moment of escape, no matter how brief. Whether it’s an immersive retail experience, entertaining digital content, or just a clever line of copy, how can you give your audiences a break from the mundane?
  • Create a setting for your brand story that engages the imagination. Is there something special about where your brand comes from or how it’s made? Can you spotlight your unique company culture? Can you elevate the role your brand plays in culture or society, the inherently relevant setting of our lives?

4. They bring the drama.
The biggest hits consistently reproduce the “OMG! Effect”, offering moments of shock and surprise as their main currency. They challenge our intellectual prowess as we aim to keep up, and they deliver the thrill of an elevated heart rate. They ignite the power of the human senses to entice and reward ongoing viewership.

Implications for your brand:

  • Create twists and turns in your brand’s story that keep your customers engaged. Treat the brand like a character, and chronicle its journey (through communications, content, partnerships, experiences, and more) as it aims to fulfill its purpose.
  • Embrace the brand stunt. While marketing stunts typically aim to sell, brand stunts are built to serve – in the most buzzworthy way possible. Whether it’s a pop up, unexpected partnership, or limited-edition offering, brand stunts solve real customer problems in talk-worthy ways that enhance the energy of your brand.

5. They make you yearn for what’s next.
Winning stories are those that unveil themselves over time. They’re a journey in their own right, where each episode uncovers as many questions as it does answers. In doing so, they spur predictions about what is and what could be, and they rise to the top of water cooler conversations everywhere.

Implications for your brand:

  • Tease around what might come next from your brand to create an ongoing and open-ended story that ignites curiosity and invites conversation.
  • Manage your brand as if it’s always in beta. While staying true to your core, push the limits of what your positioning can mean for your expression and experience to leapfrog your competition and drive growth and relevance into the future.

At Sterling, we believe every brand is a story. Build yours to capture sustained attention, and you’ll be on your way to a box office hit.

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