Do you remember when everyone was talking about Game of Thrones and how it was so addicting to watch? What about Breaking Bad or Lost? What made them so good and addicting? Was it their high production value or stellar cast? Those helped, but no. It was their serialization storyline that took episodes and seasons to explain. Those shows kept us on the edge of our seats not just because of the drama, but because we were invested in the storyline. We cared about the fictional characters that we spent so much time watching.
For me, I have to tip my hat to one of my personal favorite shows that inspired hundreds of serialized shows that came after it- Star Trek, Deep Space Nine. Starting in 1993, the show (appropriately abbreviated DS9) was the successor to the extremely popular Star Trek, The Next Generation, which was a reboot to the original Star Trek series with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy.
DS9 was met with a lot of hate and disappointment for many reasons, but the biggest was the controversy with it being a serialized show. Star Trek, The Original Series and The Next Generation, were very traditional and self contained. People (aka Trekkies) loved that they could just flip on the TV and watch an episode without any context. So when Deep Space Nine came along, if you missed an episode, the next episode didn’t make much sense.
Why was serialization a controversy for Deep Space Nine?
Because in 1993, TV was all about standalone episodes that didn’t require much context for a first-time viewer. The main reason for this was for syndication. The studios wanted to make as much money as they could! That meant getting as many people to watch as many episodes as possible. But it’s hard to get people invested in a show while they flip through channels (you know, what we did before streaming), if they have no idea what’s going on in the episode.
In hindsight, making a show serialized will only increase it’s cult following, as it’s so easy to fall in love with a well developed cast of characters. We’ve seen this with those shows like Game of Throne, Breaking Bad, Lost, and so many others. Yes, there are non-serial hit shows like Friends, The Office, and Parks & Recreation that have cult followings as well, but those come few and far between. In DS9’s case, being the first major serialized show, they had a tough road ahead of them as they made each season. But now as serial television has become the norm, and binge watching online is accessible to just about anyone, DS9 has become a classic in it’s own respect.
Adapting Serialization to Your Business
It’s easy to write off that this idea of serialization and story arcs are only for Hollywood and TV. How could your business possibly develop any sort of story arc to hook your customers into buying from you? Well I can confidently say that you don’t need to make a TV show about your company with fleshed out characters and drama.
What could you do? Take to social media! Your consumers are already there, watching other video content, so they may as well watch yours! So to do that, the first thing you want to do is introduce your employees! Make an Instagram story or TikTok video of each employee. Set the stage so that we, the viewers, know who we’re watching. Then, document!
Documenting Your Business
Once your characters (employees) are established, then it’s time to document what happens throughout the day. You don’t need a full time film crew (although that’d be interesting). All you need is your phone, and something that is interesting or exciting.
Here’s an Example
Let’s say you work in the marketing department of a financial firm, and the news just dropped that Microsoft bought Activision. The stock price of Sony starts dropping rapidly, headlines are coming out about Microsoft’s Play Pass that will surely make them king of gaming consoles. All of your firm’s analysts start rushing to analyze the data and adjust their portfolios.
How You’d do It
What would happen if you started filming some of that moment? What would the viewers see? Something that we won’t know the outcome of. And then you, as the sudo director, start pointing the camera at your lead analyst who is trying to protect their client’s portfolio. They explain on camera that they are trying to balance out the Sony shares with another stock to keep the portfolio protected.
Of course we won’t know the outcome just from one day, since that’s not how the stock market works. So now we, as viewers, have to wait to find out what happens. We are rooting for the lead analyst who is trying to beat this shift in the market. What will happen when the lead analyst prevails and makes his client even more money, despite the crises? They just earned a good reputation for beating the market. And since you, the marketing sudo film director, captured and posted the journey of this crisis every step of the way (a seriali, the people who have watched since day 1, are fully confident that your firm can and will make them money.
If this example was a little dramatic or exaggerated, that’s because it was. But the idea of showing your employees problem-solving the task in front of them creates a lot of interest, engagement, trust, and respect.
Wrap Up (or maybe a cliffhanger…)
Jokes aside, there is no cliffhanger to this post. The idea of serializing a story to create interest for your business is an advanced concept. It may sound simple on paper, but to put it in practice could be more difficult. So just remember to keep it simple, introduce your employees on camera, show the problems they need to solve, and leave a little mystery at the end 😉
Let me know if this sounds like a good idea to you, or if you think this is a waste of time. I’m interested to hear your take on it!
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