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I read an article in The Boston Sunday Globe a couple of months ago that has stuck with me. TV Critic Matthew Gilbert discussed the evolution of TV acting in a way that struck me as stunningly similar to the evolution that we’ve seen in marketing in the past several years. I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the evolution of marketing and how to convey to business owners truly how much has changed and why it’s time to learn some new tricks.

In discussing a character from the Netflix show “Orange is the New Black,” Gilbert talks about actors who are “embracing the medium’s great advantages – the wealth of screen time to flesh out a character, the opportunity to earn every inch of a character’s transformation, the synchronicity of having a screenwriter writing specifically for them as the seasons accumulate, the nimbler pace than on movie sets, and the sweet mystery of exactly what stories will be coming down the pike.”

It’s a lot to take in but it has much in common with the transformation of marketing. With the evolution of the web and how people use it to shop and buy, the medium – in our case the web – does, indeed, have great advantages. As businesses, we also have a wealth of screen time to flesh out our company’s personality, offerings and credibility while the buyer makes their way through the purchase process. We can offer website content, educational content, videos, white papers, social media updates. We can engage with them at their computer, on their phone or via their tablet. We can bring our companies to life for those who are asking questions and looking for solutions that our services and products can provide.

In this analogy, we as marketers become that screenwriter and we truly do have the opportunity to write specifically for the types of characters that are interested in our products and solutions. And, we can write for them progressively, as the seasons of our customer acquisition process accumulate. With our content and all the things we can do online, we can accompany our potential customers along their purchase process, including the stages of asking a question, researching a solution, qualifying a provider and, finally, making a purchase.

The web is certainly nimbler than the traditional marketing and advertising methods – on television and in newspapers and magazines.

Audrey Meadows, Jackie Gleason, Art Carney. CBS.

Gilbert says, for decades, TV was considered the poor relation to movie and theater acting – with some validity. He says that it was “rooted in radio soaps and vaudeville, where staying on the surface and directness were critical.”

The same was true with traditional marketing and advertising tactics. They were built for the mass audiences of the mediums they employed and needed to be built with lowest-common-denominator messages to attract as many people as possible.

Gilbert agrees: “Before the cable explosion, the creators of network shows were avoiding subtlety in order to attract as many viewers as possible. The stories and the acting had to be obvious, so as not to confuse the less sensitive or less sophisticated audience members.

By this paragraph in the article, I was practically hooting and hollering because it parallels so closely the evolution of marketing. I posit that the evolution of the mediums brought about the evolution of their usage. Prior to the cable explosion, there were just the main networks to watch. And so, TV shows had to appeal to the broadest possible audience. But now, with not only cable and premium cable and streaming options available, there is a place for different types of shows. We all know the one-note sitcoms still live on today! But now there is a place for people who want to get emotionally involved with their characters. HBO, Showtime, Netflix, Amazon Prime – and so many others, can now provide shows for smaller audiences and, thus, make them more relevant – and binge-worthy.

We can do the same thing with our marketing. Truly. I had a client recently point out the “Journey to $100,000” blog to me, with the claim that she sat and read every single post one evening, after coming across a single post on Twitter. Today, we can create marketing that’s so good and so relevant and so engaging that people will binge on it.

Gilbert calls some of today’s TV performances “particularly TV-esque,” because of their “organic unfolding over time.” There isn’t a better example of marketing built to unfold over time than the Groove HQ blog.

Entertainment Weekly promotional photo. From left to right Kit Harington, Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Peter Dinklage.

I suppose the bottom line is, if you’re a fan of the new kind of TV – from OITNB to “Game of Thrones” to “Mad Men,” and a whole host of others – it’s worth asking yourself if you like how juicy, and real, and engaging they are, how they hold your attention over time. If you do, then it might be worth also asking whether you can apply some of those same loveable traits to marketing your business.

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