With vast amounts of content flooding the market, audiences are overwhelmed with noise. So how do you reach your audience with greater effectiveness and engagement?
Roger Schank, a psychology professor from Yale University, said, “Humans are not ideally set up to understand logic; they are ideally set up to understand stories.”
Forward-thinking brands are using episodic content, leveraging storytelling to connect with their customers and keep them returning for more.
Netflix discovered that 61% of its subscribers binge-watch shows at least every few weeks. They can’t wait for that next episode. If the content is done well, it will capture viewers’ attention and forces them to come back for more as quickly as you release it.
Brands delivering episodic
One of the earliest examples of episodic is 1995 series “The Spot”. Likened to the “Melrose Place” of the Web. The characters, called “spotmates,” kept online diaries (like blogs), responded to emails and posted images of their current activities.
“The Spot” engaged its audience by inviting them to become part of the storyline and give advice to the characters, which sometimes changed the story. K-Swiss and Toyota noticed and sponsored the series. Eventually, brands moved from sponsoring to creating it episodic themselves.
Coca Cola produced their “Crossroads” series, focusing on teen challenges and has teens choosing kindness and compassion over cruelty. The content tells a story to a specific audience, develops relatable characters, and drives brand awareness and engagement.
Another is “Appetite for Life”, created by Toyota, which makes an unexpected connection between cars and food. Each episode features celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern, who educates and entertains with recent culinary trends. They also partnered with the non-profit Feeding America to encourage online donations from viewers.
And my final example is “The Beauty Inside”, created by Toshiba and Intel. Each day the main character, Alex, wakes up in a different body. Viewers connect with Alex through social media. They also have a chance to audition to play Alex. The show is distributed across a microsite, Facebook, and a YouTube channel. This concept performed so well that it was nominated for a Webby award.
5 Tips for success through episodic content
1. Storyline focused
Ernest Hemingway said, “When writing a novel, a writer should create living people; people, not characters. A character is a caricature.” Customers don’t want to spend time viewing ads, which is why episodic content should feel different. Create compelling characters and a plot that resonates deeply with your audience. Once your storyline and characters are developed, plan and map out each piece of content. Decide the number of episodes and what each episode will include.
2. Create cliff-hangers
Steven Spielberg said, “People have forgotten how to tell a story. Stories don’t have a middle or an end anymore. They usually have a beginning that never stops beginning.” Unanswered questions drive viewers nuts (which is why we go on Netflix binges). Neuroscientists at Georgetown University Medical Center found that there is a scientific reason why people respond this way, finding that anticipation is directly related to action.
An excellent example of creating incredible cliff-hangers is the podcast “Serial,” which quickly drew millions of listeners. Each season has a single story, but there is a nail-biting cliff-hanger at the end of each episode. Listeners must tune in next week. Brands can take a page from the “Serial” playbook, creating the same suspense in their episodic content.
3. Design call-to-actions
Designing a call-to-action can be tricky because the content shouldn’t look like an ad. The call-to-action must be subtle. For example, Kate Spade created a video series called “Miss Adventure.” The goal was to start an online conversation with the company’s audience. During each episode, something goes terribly wrong for the main character. The storyline is interesting and doesn’t resemble an ad. The actress is wearing Kate Spade attire from head to toe, and at the end of the video, viewers are invited to shop the featured items online.
4. Share strategically
It’s important to share each episode strategically. For example, Toshiba and Intel invite viewers to share their favourite food pairings on Instagram and connect through social media, like Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. Keep your audience engaged by offering a variety of options for interaction with each episode.
5. Timing is critical
When designing the release schedule for your episodic content, timing is critical. If you wait too long, your audience will get distracted and forget. But if you release the content too fast, you’ll lose some of the anticipation. “Serial” releases a new podcast weekly. At Kaptura, we recommend starting with a seven-day release schedule and measure your results.
Start today. Let’s help you brainstorm.
Marketing thought-leaders are predicting that episodic content will become increasingly popular this year. And if you create excellent episodic content with cliff-hangers and unanswered questions, viewers will become hooked on your content. But for brands to be successful, they must be more than brands. They must become storytellers.
We’re fortunate to have partnered with Brett Hardy, an accomplished international film and TV producer with more than 20 years of experience in narrative design. Brett creates story-driven programming for US TV platforms such as Discovery Channel, A&E and Amazon Prime on a daily basis. Kaptura and Brett have teamed up together to provide highly engaging yet affordable episodic video content for the Australian market.
Instead of worrying about what to blog about next or what to post on social today, start building episodic video content with us. Strategically remove yourselves from the content rat race with competitors and create an “original series” around your buyer personas’ core interests instead. By entertaining your personas, you build attention, likability, and trust — helping you gain permission to give more education throughout their buying journey with your brand.
Kaptura helps brands build their own episodic shows to get ahead of the competition in quality, frequency, and amplification.