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Cat Fyson

What Cult Television Can Teach You About Content Strategy

5th Sep 2013 SEO, Content Marketing, SEO | 19 Comments


Cult TVI am a big fan of cult television shows. With great scripts and compelling characters, they are often completely addictive and I have no shame in admitting that I am prone to becoming well and truly hooked to particular programmes.

Another component that makes these sorts of TV shows such a joy to watch is the emphasis on overriding themes and how they affect the characters and drive the plot forward. Many of these themes can easily be applied to best practice in building your content marketing strategy.

Doctor Who

Doctor Who LogoCelebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the sci-fi phenomenon of Doctor Who needs no introduction. Over the legacies of all 12 Doctors travelling through space and time, the show has introduced countless themes and story arcs (some of which are questionable!), but without a doubt the best thing content marketers can take from the show is the theme of regeneration.

By regenerating your content, you can breathe new life into great ideas and content that has proven its worth. Written a popular article on a particular topic? Regenerate its potential with an infographic. Then regenerate that infographic into a presenation on SlideShare. Regenerating content is not to be mixed with copying it – with any content you create, regenerated or otherwise; you need to give it purpose. Build a strategy around the techniques and the types of content that have worked in the past.

The BBC have also been incredible at using the show to spin off their own content. To celebrate the 50th anniversary this year they have created: A new series, a 3D special in November, a convention, an audio book series, 12 books by different authors (one for each doctor), a making of and a biopic. Not to mention tons of merchandise.

Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad LogoFor every one person who hasn’t seen Breaking Bad, there are probably at least 4 of their friends telling them they should (this is probably why).

Breaking Bad follows the character of Walter White, a chemistry teacher who gets cancer and turns to illegal means to earn money to leave behind for his family. The show is littered with themes – from colour schemes to individual character traits, but the main theme of the show is change. Over the show’s 5 seasons (the final season is currently being shown), the titular character makes a huge but believable transition.

Content marketing is forever changing.  With Google’s algorithm updates sifting out the poor quality content and web users expecting much more from their content nowadays (think videos and interactive microsites); your content strategy needs to embrace change and adaptation.

The marketing around the show itself has even included some inspirational content ideas. For the final season, the AMC network have introduced a Story Sync app which lets viewers interact with the episode as it is shown by including polls and trivia so that viewers can share their reactions in real time, providing the show makers with a truck load of data to share with their fans. If they so wished they could use that data to create some great content.

Game Of Thrones

Game Of Thrones LogoBased on George R.R. Martin’s fantasy book series, Game of Thrones has proven an incredibly popular TV adaptation. With numerous story lines taking place across the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos, there is a strong theme of power – whether amongst the noble houses experiencing a civil war to claim the Iron Throne, or overcoming the rising threat of dangerous mythical creatures.

So what can power do for your content strategy? Firstly, with a well thought out strategy (much like building an army to overtake the Iron Throne), you can have the edge on your industry competitors. Secondly, by creating useful and insightful copy, you can build your brand’s reputation as a thought leader in your field.

In terms of great content generated by the show, this advert in the New York Times generated such a good response people even declared that it “proves print ads aren’t dead”. Best of all, the stories that the dragon covers are all based on the show and fit in to the fictional universe.

The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead LogoAnother adaptation, this time of a popular series of comic books, The Walking Dead follows Sheriff Rick Grimes as he and a band of fellow survivors deal with the zombie apocalypse.

The main theme of the show is the debate as to whether the zombies or the remainder of the human race are the ‘real monsters’, but ultimately the characters of the show are out for survival – and amongst the hordes and hordes of content available to web users, you should be too. Creating fresh, quality and unique content will help you stand out in the crowd and survive the wrath of an algorithm update.

When The Walking Dead made its way to French TV network NT1, they created a brilliant social media campaign to spread the word about the premiere of the show. They created the first ever social media zombie attack.

What was particularly great about the campaign was that they put out warnings specifically telling people not to use #WalkingDeadNT1 on Twitter, not to share WalkingDeadNT1’s updates on Facebook and not to comment on the NT1 Walking Dead site following the spread of the Walker virus that had infected the employees of NT1. Naturally, people ignored these warnings.

Whenever someone used the #WalkingDeadNT1 hashtag, commented or shared a post, they would be contacted by ‘zombies’ with messages such as ‘GRAAAARGH’ and other such zombie-like sounds, effectively becoming ‘infected’ themselves. Each zombie profile set up promoted the date and time of the premiere of the show. Genius. The campaign was a hit, with 550,000 impressions across Facebook and Twitter.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Buffy The Vampire Slayer LogoNothing says teamwork like a small group of friends headed by a vampire slayer going round and destroying monsters hell bent on wreaking havoc on the fictional town of Sunnydale.

Poor Buffy could never destroy these creatures herself (even with her impressive fighting skills), and so we can learn from this that by utilising the strengths and skills of a team, you can create a more robust content strategy. After all, brainstorming ideas with others is a much more creative and useful technique than doing it all by yourself.

What’s also notable about Buffy is that despite ending in 2003 people still talk about it now, remember it fondly and go back to old episodes. It’s a great example of “evergreen content” that sticks in people’s minds. New things are created all the time but truly classic content will last a lot longer.

So having looked at just a selection of brilliant cult television, we can take away some great tips for your content strategy. The fandoms of cult TV shows are incredibly passionate about them, and that’s what you want to aim for from the consumers of your content too.

Have I missed out your favourite cult show? What can it teach us about content strategy? Let me know in the comments below.

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About the author

Cat Fyson

Cat works as a Content Marketing Executive at Koozai. Having studied an NCTJ accredited course at University, she has gained valuable skills in creative copywriting, press communications and research. She is an avid blogger and has a keen interest in popular culture and technologies.

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