Making Brands Binge-Worthy

The “binge watch” is a cultural phenomenon that streaming services like Netflix have made possible. And marketers can learn a lot from the shows consumers choose to binge on, because they all have one thing in common-they tell stories through conflict. And consumers are suckers for both. Brands are storytellers too, and can learn a lot from the shows that make it impossible to resist clicking “play next episode.”

For every show we binge on, there’s a conflict. A conflict so intense and exciting that we can’t stop watching after one episode (or two, or three…). Take recent binge watching phenomenon, Making a Murderer. Why did keep watching? Because no single episode ended with a resolution. So we kept watching and watching…wondering if we would ever know what really happened.

Of course binge watching doesn’t have to be so heavy. I recently binge watched The Office, and I just couldn’t stop until the romantic tension between Jim and Pam was finally solved. I didn’t really start “binging” again until a new conflict was presented. No matter what your show is, the conflict is what hooks us. This idea is incredibly valuable for brands.

Imagine what would happen if after a commercial or online video, brands had consumers asking, “What’s next?” There are some brands that already get it, and tell their stories with consistent tension running throughout. And they have definitely been able to keep us engaged. Take for example, ESPN. Their Sports Center commercials always create tension by featuring an athlete inside the sports center offices, ending in a topical punch lines that makes you want to watch more. I once watched a 20 minute YouTube video featuring every Sports Center commercial ever made…by choice. Another classic example is Geico. Everyone now knows that in 15 minutes or more, you can save up to 15% on car insurance. Pretty dull information…but not when it’s presented alongside fun, engaging metaphors with tension and humor. I often look up especially great Geico commercials to watch on my own! And the really clever brands know they can use multiple story lines to connect different consumers with a brand’s story. Take Nike, for example. Their story is always about the triumph of the human spirit – but they know there are many ways to tell it. In one of its most famous commercials there’s an overweight kid running down the road, being encouraged to “find greatness.” And then there’s the Nike commercials that show the blood, sweat and tears of accomplished champions like Lebron James and Mia Hamm. Same overarching story. Different story line.

And what if brands could use today’s technology, combined with the culturally accept behavior of clicking “play next”, to keep them engaged and get them to share. That would be beyond powerful.

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