FRIENDS has been such a successful sitcom, still enjoyable to watch even 20 years after the first episode aired. Why is this series still so loved? What is the recipe for its success? Are there some lessons that marketers can take from it?
Here are 5 reasons why you should think of your content strategy more like the TV series FRIENDS and get your audience to ‘always be there for you’.
1) The episode break down
When you watch an episode of FRIENDS you get a lot out of it, but if you watch a number of episodes, you get the bigger picture. In the same way, brands should have a consistent narrative throughout the content they share, yet allow each piece to stand on its own and engage.
Content Marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. It offers a way to build brand loyalty with your audience (fans) and customers by reeling them in with one of your posts (episodes) and if they get caught and charmed, they’re likely to read both your next and previous posts. An easy way for building customer loyalty towards your brand is to create repeated themes that they will learn to expect to see. Themes add structure to your plan and fuel creativity. But remember to make sure that each post within a theme stands on its own feet.
A nice example of a themed section out there in the blogosphere is Etsy’s ‘How-Tuesday’, which features DIY projects for their readers. Adding a specific day to this section helps the audience to express greater engagement in anticipation of a new set of tips each week.
Tip: To create an effective brand story, every piece of content should stand alone, but also fit together as part of a wider storyline.
2) Choosing the right characters
One of the main ingredients in the success of FRIENDS is the ingenious grouping of the 6 main characters. Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler and Ross have very distinct personalities. Each character’s lines orchestrate perfectly to form the story arc of an episode. But can you imagine Chandler saying: “Chandler doesn’t share food”?!
Coming back to your content marketing strategy, think of all the different characters in your team. What is their expertise? Leverage their knowledge; give them a voice and the space to be influential in their field.
For example, on the Outbrain blog there are several folks posting their own views around content. Working on the customer acquisition side, Will recently posted an article about ‘Choosing the Right Keywords for your Content Strategy’ while our senior designer, Erika, shared her thoughts on the reasons ‘Why Typography is so important to Content Marketing’.
Tip: Use the expertise, knowledge or hobbies of each individual on your team to create an editorial calendar that can cover all the different aspects of your core messaging.
3) Exploring the unexpected
Did you know that Ross and Rachel weren’t meant to be the central romance of the series? Their storyline was developed because of the chemistry that arose between David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston’s characters. Fans loved the couple’s ups and downs so the writers created more of those across the seasons.
If Ross is Rachel’s ‘lobster’ a brand’s ‘lobster’ is the content that ‘speaks to the heart’ of its audience. Find out what challenges your fans face in their daily lives, what do they want to find out more about? Serve that in a simple and useful way.
Have you ever wondered why the tire manufacturer Michelin publishes an annual guidebook that awards stars for excellence to restaurants? The story goes back more than 100 years ago, when the guide used to target motorists featuring maps, lists of hotels and petrol stations aiming to boost the demand for cars and thus for car tires. This was until the Michelin brothers recognised the growing popularity of the restaurant section of their guide and invested further efforts on inspecting restaurants and awarding stars. Today, the acquisition or loss of a star can have a dramatic affect on the success or failure of a restaurant!
Tip: Listen to your fans’ wishes. Then use this insight to execute the best branded content experience, tailored to their needs.
4) Giving space for interaction
Back to FRIENDS… Did you hate the constant ‘fake laughs’ as much as I did? Yet, they offered us space to react, a pause to laugh before the next line hit.
How does your audience express its reactions to your content? They share or like it. So give them the space to do so. Make it easy for them to attribute a great line back to the source. Design your blog or content hub to be social – inclusion of a sharing bar is the least you can do. Take it one step further, ensuring that when your fans share your content, their post includes your twitter handle and that the author’s twitter profile is visible for an easier personal attribution.
Example of a social content hub from the Buffer app
Tip: Give your audience the chance to express their feelings towards your content by offering several interaction points with easy to use social buttons.
5) Being timely, yet evergreen
How many times have you seen the same episode of FRIENDS repeated? For me it is at least 8 (no joke!). It’s been exactly 20 years since the first episode was aired in September 1994. Yet, this episode is still as enjoyable as it was on its debut. Ok, hairstyles and clothing may be a little bit outdated…!
Friends cast in the first season. Source: Wikipedia
The series has very successfully peppered ‘special’ episodes across the seasons with an impressive list of guest star appearances from the likes of Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt and stories focusing on Thanksgiving and summer holidays.
Likewise, we try to take advantage of each season’s trends and have leveraged our data to provide some insights for content creation around Fashion Week, The ice Bucket Challenge and even golf for the 40th Ryder Cup! Alternatively, if you are looking to create evergreen content to add to your editorial calendar, ‘how to’ guides, tutorials, testimonials, FAQs and glossaries will do the trick.
Tip: Don’t loose an opportunity to offer content that addresses ‘what’s hot right now’, but also touch on topics that can be consumed at any time.
These are just some of the reasons why I believe the FRIENDS TV series has been so successful and how marketers can apply some of its magic to their content strategy. Can you think of more? Share it with us!