Love it or loathe it, there’s no escaping the fact that reality TV is here to stay. It’s become the soap opera of the 21st century with everyone from the Kardashian clan to the Real Housewives vying for our voyeuristic souls.
The strange thing about reality shows is that, even if in general you’re opposed to them, you can find yourself watching out of some kind of morbid fascination – repulsed and yet highly drawn to the petty drama and first world problems being acted out before your eyes.
Take Made in Chelsea, for example, one of the longest standing British reality shows with 13 seasons under its belt – more if you include the seasons that are flimsily disguised excuses for a holiday to New York, Los Angeles, the South of France and various other locales where the very wealthy choose to escape the dull routine of their champagne-drenched lives in London.
From what I’ve seen, Made in Chelsea – or ‘MiC’ as regular viewers call it – seems to be based around a set of posh twenty-somethings (ostensibly called Tiff or Toff), falling out, making up and caustically judging each other with all the self-righteous rage of a middle-aged couple accusing the middle-aged couple next door of stealing their recently replaced council recycling box.
Yet, with episodes from the last series commanding viewing figures of more than 800,000, the show apparently has people hooked. Which begs the question, can a humble content marketer who definitively knows that Nando’s is not a wine bar (an assumption made by one of the MiC cast recently) steal a lesson or two to apply to his practice? Of course he can! Here’s what I’ve ‘learned’:
Consumers want stories
Whether we’re watching someone chucking a drink over someone else – a practice which happens with predictable regularity in Chelsea – or watching a character, who looks like he could be found in the dictionary under ‘cheating scumbag’, reveal his philandering ways to yet another hapless girlfriend, reality TV producers know how to deliver a story that consumers invest in.
Whilst it may seem like the only possible reason behind MiC’s fanbase must be because the public likes to watch people humiliate themselves, a study published by the Journal of Media Psychology suggests that it’s actually empathy that pushes people to watch. Which makes sense, seeing as content performs at its best when it inspires empathy.
As Kevin Spacey pointed out at his Content Marketing World keynote speech, people crave stories and the best ones involve conflict, authenticity and the audience themselves. If you can clearly communicate you understand your audience’s problems and struggles in the way that the reality TV producers use universal romantic dilemmas and domestic rows to appeal to their target audience, you just might be onto a winner.
Consistency is key
Consistency is essential in order to present a reliable experience for your customers and to establish your brand as one in which the customer can trust. For example, inconsistent quality can confuse consumers and make it seem like they are being spoken to/sold to by a number of different people, while an inconsistent posting schedule can prevent your brand staying relevant.
Consistency lies at the core of the MiC story with the same cheating lovers, backstabbing friends and trash-talking rivals repurposed and distributed on repeat throughout the seasons. Reality producers are adept at consistently delivering the characters and storylines consumers crave.
In fact, Research by McKinsey & Company found that a consistent experience across the entire customer journey not only builds trust but increases customer satisfaction and boosts loyalty. The McKinsey article quoted the great Bruce Springsteen, who apparently once inadvertently delivered this gem of content marketing theory: “Sustaining an audience is hard – it demands consistency of thought, of purpose and of action over a long period of time”. MiC is nothing if not consistent. It consistently delivers the same stories – watching Jamie Laing declare his love for Frankie Gaff before going straight out and cheating on her is much the same as watching Sam Thompson do the same to Tiffany Watson, or Spencer Matthews do the same to, well, pretty much everyone.
They sell softly
In 2014, Sony was announced as the first product placement partner for MiC with the Xperia Z1 Compact featured in the series. Using the young stars as brand advocates was certainly a sharp move from Sony, but whilst the modern MiC is filled to bursting with product placement galore, it’s all done in a sneaky way which never disrupts the flow of the story. Whether they’re weaving in their ‘favourite’ products, brand logos, places to eat, drink or shop, MiC sells the dream softly; which is just what your content should be doing.
Different strokes for different folks
When it comes to content, it might take a little experimentation to find your niche – just in the same way as finding the right reality show. From TOWIE girls to Geordie lads, there’s a wide audience out there and an infinite amount of approaches that can be taken. Remember that your approach doesn’t have to resonate with everyone – just the target personas you are aiming for.
For help getting your content strategy nailed, contact us today at M2 Bespoke.